The stress hormone cortisol is something called a glucocorticoid. As its name suggests, in times of stress, it maintains the body’s function by breaking down protein to raise blood glucose. It is the “fight or flight” hormone which means if you are running from a lion, this is the hormone you will need to help your body in this stress situation.
The problem is that in modern times, too many people have stress that continues for long period of time. This causes a few problems: The stress hormone cortisol raises your blood sugar, increases belly fat, decreases your immune system and lowers many of your hormone levels including the thyroid. The result is that you have higher sugar leading to diabetes, weight gain, are more prone to infections and just overall sluggish.
The problem becomes more complex when you have produced so much stress hormone, it begins to diminish production. Although too much cortisol is a real problem as outlined above, too little cortisol is potentially worse and this is called Adrenal Fatigue. Your body needs cortisol to live and cope with every situation, both on a physiological and psychological standpoint.
When these levels are low you may notice the following symptoms:
- Tired for no reason?
- Having trouble getting up in the morning?
- Depending on coffee or colas to keep you going?
- Feeling run down and stressed?
- Dragging through each day?
- Craving salty or sweet snacks?
- Struggling to keep up with life’s daily demands?
- Unable to bounce back from stress or illness?
- Not having fun anymore?
- Experienced decreased sex drive?
- Simply too tired to enjoy life?
This condition can be mild to truly debilitating. The fact is that we often cannot remove all our stressors in life to help recharge our adrenals, but there are natural ways to help battle this condition. The first step is to recognize you have the condition. With your functional medicine physician, the symptoms plus an abnormal cortisol curve is an indication of adrenal fatigue. Natural breathing, tai chi, yoga, meditation, mindfulness can be very helpful. Some common nutrients that help support the adrenals include: Vitamins C, B12, B5, E.
There are some pro-hormones that should be used only by used with the guidance of a physician such as DHEA and Pregnenolone. Adaptogenic herbs include products such as licorice, ashwagandha, ginseng and others. These herbs are also not recommended unless you are under the care of a physician. Adrenal extracts are very effective in boosting adrenal activity.
Adrenal fatigue is a real and very common condition in our stressful world. It is important we recognize these problems and treat them because it truly affects your quality of life and your overall health.
Q: Is stress eating a part of this condition?
Yes! Your body begins to crave foods because of your low energy level. Caffeine and sugar cravings are very common.
Q: What if I cannot change my stressful life?
Your body’s response to stress is very important on your ability to cope with stress. There are strategies and natural remedies to help you cope with your stressors, even if your circumstances don’t change.
Q: Can my exhaustion be improved?
Yes, often adrenal support can be achieved with natural products, hormones and nutrition, lifestyle adaptations. It takes time, but after all, it takes a long time to get to a point where one has adrenal fatigue, so reversing the process will take time and patience.