This “stress hormone” is essential for energy and health, but when it’s out of balance, you are, too. Learn how to manage cortisol to keep inflammation, cravings, and belly fat at bay. Cortisol has a bad reputation. Commonly known as the “stress hormone,” it’s produced, in part, by the adrenal glands when we’re under pressure and perceive a threat. The pituitary gland determines how much hormone the adrenals should release to help us fight or flee.