What puts some people at a higher risk of severe COVID infection than others?  

Even though millions are being spent to find answers, it's a question that we don’t yet fully understand.  

A study published in the August issue of Lancet found that higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol were a marker of more severe illness from COVID-19.  

That does NOT mean stress causes COVID!!!!  

Before jumping to conclusions too quickly, let’s be clear about what this study showed. Patients were tested for cortisol levels when they were admitted to one of 3 large teaching hospitals in London with suspected COVID-19.  

That means they were already sick when they were tested (more on this in a minute).   But here was the shocking result…  

Patients who had cortisol levels lower than 744 nmol/L when they arrived at the hospital survived a median of 36 days, but those with cortisol higher than 744 nmol/L survived a median of only 15 days.  

To give you a point of reference, cortisol levels in healthy people hover around 100-200 nmol/L during the day.  

So, the study found:  

·         Patients with COVID had increased cortisol levels

·         Patients with the highest cortisol levels had more severe illness  

Here are some things you should know:  

·         Cortisol is the hormone our bodies release in response to stress

·         We release cortisol in response to emotional stress but also physical

·         It’s normal for cortisol to spike during an acute illness

·         The APPROPRIATE release of cortisol (every day and when we get sick) is what keeps us alive, healthy, and energetic

·         The INAPPROPRIATE release of cortisol (too much or too little) is cause for concern  

Nobody can predict how YOUR body might respond if you were to contract COVID-19.  

But it never hurts to be proactive—today—to strengthen your body’s resilience to stress. 

Studies suggest that chiropractic adjustments help the body become more resilient to stress by affecting how the brain processes pain and stress reactions and can also help to lower cortisol levels.

To read a previous blog post with additional strategies including turning stress from an enemy to a friend and my favorite breathing exercise, click here.  

These are stressful times. Schedule an adjustment. Get outside to exercise. Follow routines. Sleep well. Eat well. Enjoy the company of others. Do yourself a favor and find ways to de-stress.


Tan T, Khoo B, Mills EG et al. Association between high serum total cortisol concentrations and mortality from COVID-19. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2020; 8: 659-660. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7302794/  

Ogura, Takeshi and Manabu Tashiro, Mehedi,Shoichi Watanuki, Katsuhiko Shibuya, Keiichiro Yamaguchi, Masatoshi Itoh, Hiroshi Fukuda, Kazuhiko Yanai. Cerebral metabolic changes in men after chiropractic spinal manipulation for neck pain. Alternative Therapies. 2011, November/December; 17 (6): 12-17.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22314714/

Dr. Jane Baxley

Dr. Jane Baxley


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