The notorious stress hormone, Part 1: Learn the basics in 3 minutes

Henna Haapanen
Inme Health
Published in
3 min readMar 9, 2018


Let’s talk about our good old friend called cortisol. In other words: the stress hormone.

Whether you like it or not, you are dealing with this hormone every day. We all have it in our bodies, and we need it to live. The ideal amount of cortisol keeps you going, but if it becomes a roller coaster instead of a healthy curve, you will face problems.

Luckily, with some knowledge and tools, we can shake hands with stress and avoid the negative side effects. So let’s take a quick dive into the world of this little hormone that works so hard for us every day.

What, where, why?

Cortisol is best-known for the evolutionary-based fight or flight response that it helps to create, once our brain perceives a stressful situation. Cortisol production is controlled by hormones released by the brain, and it is made in the adrenal glands above our kidneys.

Cortisol prepares our body to handle a stressful situation by increasing our heartbeat, rising up the blood pressure, tensing our muscles and making us alert. Basically, it makes you ready to fight or run for your life (which is extremely useful if you’re really in danger!).

However, unlike for our ancestors, encountering a wild animal and fleeing away is fairly rare for us these days. Our stressors are quite different, yet the physical and mental responses remain the same.

Sounds great, so why the fuss

You’d think that in a modern life where our basic needs are quite often satisfied, and we’re living in a fairly safe environment, we’d therefore have fewer stress responses in our daily lives. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

After the stressful situation is over, your brain should cool down the response, including the production of cortisol. But here’s the trap: if you rarely relax and don’t let go of stress, you don’t give your body a chance to recover from the fight or flight response. Consequently, your brain keeps pumping up the stress hormones, leaving you in a constant state of a small emergency.

Imagine a kid with too much energy, playing for too long until he’s so tired that he gets frustrated and cries. That analogy – stretched for a longer period of time – describes an adult life with “the stress button” constantly on. If you don’t pause it, the system gets overheated. Then you’ll have to deal with bigger issues.

Awareness leads to better choices

By learning more about our health, we empower ourselves to take better care of our vitality. Once we start to measure our cortisol levels at home, it will take us to a whole new level of expertise on our journey towards better well-being.

Check out the part 2, where we’ll have a look at the optimal levels of cortisol during different times of the day.

Most interestingly, soon we’ll be able to measure that ourselves.

INME is the next level well-being tracking service that empowers people to track core hormones, like cortisol (stress) and testosterone (vitality) in simpler and cheaper way than ever before. The salivary based INME stress measurement solution and mobile app are designed to provide health information at a molecular level and help people to be the healthiest and most energetic versions of themselves. Our simple in-home hormone monitoring product is currently in testing stage. We’re looking to launch INME during 2018.

INME is a result of over 20 years’ research in the Department of Molecular Biotechnology and Diagnostics at the University of Turku, Finland.

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Henna Haapanen
Inme Health

Passionate about health, wellness, and stress management. MScBA, Freelance Content Writer, Yoga Teacher, and a traveler.