I was reading a post on social media yesterday. Someone was selling a supplement that supposedly suppresses the production of cortisol. The person went as far as calling cortisol “the death hormone” stating that cortisol causes “belly fat” and “adrenal fatigue.”

But research tells us otherwise. Research tells us that “cortisol’s main function is to restore homeostasis following exposure to stress.” Homeostasis means “creating balance in the body.” And if cortisol’s job is to respond to stress to immediately bring the body back into balance, wouldn’t the smart thing to do be to find out the root cause of stress and not try to suppress its production?

By suppressing the production of cortisol, we may cause more damage to our adrenals. Cortisol plays an important role in our circadian rhythm (or internal clock). Cortisol levels are very low at nighttime and build overnight, peaking first thing in the morning which helps us wake up. In fact, people who don’t produce cortisol or have very low levels of cortisol, are diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency.

We are so used to the mentality of treating symptoms, that we forget that our body is working for us. And if something isn’t working right, then our job is not to suppress the production of an essential hormone, but instead, figure out exactly what is causing our stress. Is it external? Can it be managed? Or is it internal? Could it be an unknown infection, an injury or something else?

If your concern is that you have gained too much weight or that you have too much belly fat the problem might not be cortisol. It could be that your body is producing too much estrogen or not enough testosterone. But instead of guessing where the imbalance is and trying to supplement without truly knowing, it may be best to seek the help of a professional (such as a functional health practitioner), who can run some lab tests with you and check where those imbalances are and not trust the recommendation of someone on social media who is trying to sell you a product.

Like my functional health mentor always told me “test, don’t guess.”

Originally published at medium.com