Cortisol is a hormone made by the two adrenal glands; there’s one atop of each kidney. This hormone is important in activating the immune system and processing carbohydrates. High amounts of cortisol are released in moments of stress — thus, the nickname “the stress hormone” — but unhealthy lifestyle habits, like alcohol consumption, too little sleep, and a high glycemic diet, are some of the other primary drivers of harmfully high cortisol levels.
When you have too much cortisol in your body over a long period, a disorder called Cushing’s syndrome can occur.
On the other hand, when the adrenal glands aren’t making enough cortisol and other hormones, people can develop adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease.