We must beware of misinformation about cortisol on social media

Don't rely on the internet to determine the cause of high cortisol levels

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by Jessica Bracy |

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As social media has grown over the years, more users have started working as influencers — people who build a following based on their purported level of knowledge and expertise in a specific field. This includes health.

Phrases like “weight loss supplements,” “balance your hormones,” and even “lower your cortisol” circulate around social media platforms on a daily basis, with influencers providing advice regarding real health concerns. This can be extremely problematic, as many health influencers do not have medical degrees and are not qualified to offer medical advice.

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Honing in on cortisol in social media

One topic I often see on social media is cortisol, with many posts describing in detail the symptoms associated with high cortisol levels. Commenters ask how to treat it, and oftentimes, influencers suggest herbal supplements or lifestyle changes, such as stress management, as natural ways to lower cortisol levels.

The problem is that, while stress may be a contributing factor, high cortisol levels can be caused by a number of issues, many of which require medical intervention. One possible cause is a tumor that triggers the excessive production of adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH, which causes the body to produce and release more cortisol. These tumors may form on the pituitary gland (causing Cushing’s disease), the adrenal glands, or elsewhere in the body.

These posts come across my feed almost daily and have so much potential to cause harm. For example, they could prolong the diagnostic and treatment process for those who might actually have Cushing’s.

There’s not much we can do to stop health influencers from spreading misinformation regarding the causes and treatment of high cortisol levels. Members of my support group and I have attempted to educate them and explain how their content could be harmful — typically to no avail.

Regardless, I highly encourage everyone not to take everything on social media at face value. Critical thinking skills are necessary when sifting through content and determining what might be legitimate.

If you think something is going on with your cortisol levels, the best course of action is to talk with an endocrinologist, especially one who specializes in diagnosing and treating Cushing’s disease.

Lastly, if something is wrong, Cushing’s disease or not, advocate for yourself. Ask questions. Do your own research. No one knows your body better than you do. If you meet a doctor who doesn’t feel like a good fit, find another one. It might take time, but that’s OK. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.


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