Your Cortisol Rhythm

Your cortisol rhythm is crucial to know if you are the least bit concerned about your energy when you wake up, after lunch, mid-afternoon, early evening or at bedtime. You might be saying to yourself, ‘that’s the entire day!’ This is true and it goes to show how important one’s cortisol levels are in determining the quality and functionality of many biological functions of the day.

Your cortisol directly affects:

  1. Your energy when you wake up

  2. Your ability to have proper blood sugar in response to breakfast

  3. Whether you enter your noon hour with low blood sugar

  4. Whether you become fatigued after a meal, especially lunch

  5. Whether you have sugar cravings

  6. Whether your brain can’t focus and is tired

  7. Whether you are unable to sleep at night, being tired and wired

  8. Whether you get hungry before bed

  9. Whether your menstrual cycles are regular

  10. Whether your thyroid begins to slow down in function

  11. Whether you begin to have trouble remembering things

  12. Whether your insulin levels are going up

  13. Whether you gain weight easier than before and around the middle, that muffin top

  14. Whether you experience ravenous hunger

  15. Whether you are unable to fight off chronic infections, bacterial, fungal, such as candida infections, or Lyme disease

  16. Whether you are able to fight off chronic viral infections such as herpes and the silent virus..Epstein Bar.

  17. Whether your skin conditions get worse at night

  18. Whether you suffer low grade fevers at night

  19. whether your sex hormone levels are off

  20. Whether your blood pressure is becoming elevated

These are some of the associations that imbalances in cortisol can impact and make resolving other conditions impossible unless and until optimal cortisol biorhythms are established.

Chronic Fatigue And Cortisol, The Cart Or The Horse?

Your adrenal glands are a pair of endocrine glands located on the top of your kidneys. They produce cortisol and DHEA most crucial here for this discussion.

The levels of cortisol secreted throughout the day follow a specific rhythm which can become thrown off by insomnia, stress, chronic infection, inflammation and other hormonal imbalances. At the same time, imbalances in cortisol can in turn cause and accentuate these very same conditions! This is why cortisol can be the cart and the horse depending upon its level at specific times of the day.

Proper levels of cortisol at key times of the day are essential to maintain key metabolic functions, such as:

  • protein metabolism

  • sugar metabolism

  • blood sugar control

  • fat metabolism

  • maintenance of muscle tissues

  • heart function

How Sensitive is Our Cortisol Biorhythm to Stress?

Stress from an adrenal gland’s point of view is anything that taxes or pushes the body. It can be acute stress, like running to catch a bus or plane, or fighting a cold or flu. It can be chronic stress such as:

∙ occupational stress of dealing with the stressful situations in a job, their people and deadlines

∙ having to make regular long commutes to one’s job

∙ being a care giver

∙ having difficult personal relationships

∙ keeping up at school with tests, projects and study assignments

∙ pushing one’s body in extreme exercise, triathalons, bike rides of 50, 100 or 150 miles or more on weekends, training for a sporting event

∙ suffering from a chronic viral, bacterial, fungal infection

∙ suffering from any chronic inflammatory condition

∙ failing to get a minimum of 6 hours of sleep a day

∙ regularly indulging in stimulants: drugs, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, chocolate, high carbohydrate meals and snacks, high glycemic fruits

In an otherwise healthy body, any one of the above alone should not chronically alter one’s cortisol rhythm. However, tip the scale to add these individual factors such as lack of sleep, relationship and/or job stress, long commutes, infection, bad diet and toxic exposures of everyday living and your adrenal glands may start to alter their optimum biorhythm as they succumb to the cumulative pressures you demand of your body.

It is often said in medicine that STRESS INCREASES INFLAMMATION. One of the reasons for this is that stress increases one’s cortisol output which in turn increases insulin output. This helps you access the sugars your body needs to react to acute stressful situations (that fight or flight response).

Increases in cortisol also marshal your immune system to come into action to seek and defend your body from acute pathogen attack. This is all well and good when it’s an acute situation that is not prolonged.

In effect, cortisol acts in many ways as the bugel call, calling aspects of the body into function. However, cry wolf too many times or cease to stop that bugel call and you will over time exhaust your adrenal glands.

Some of us are adrenaline junkies, living on the fast pace, high drama of life. Many of us can sustain that pace but sooner or later the adrenal glands will exhaust themselves.

What happens when stress elevates cortisol levels?   Prolonged stress can cause impaired cortisol receptor sensitivity because just as being around a person that nags you, you tend to tune them out. Our cells do the same thing and tune out the call to action that cortisol seeks to activate.

This can lead to blood sugar irregularities such as insulin sensitivity, syndrome X, and slow non-symptomatic brain damage (permanent death to the cells in your hippocampus leading to premature dementia in your 50s.). Elevated cortisol levels over time lead to adrenal gland exhaustion.

Chronic stress also throws off the feedback function between the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. This can elevate cortisol levels until the adrenal glands go into fatigue and then exhaustion.

Elevated cortisol levels especially in the morning and before bed at night contribute to depression. A study performed in 1992 found approximately 60% of Schizophrenics with abnormal cortisol rhythm. (Neuropsychobiol 1992:25:1-7)

Symptoms Of Elevated Cortisol

Elevated cortisol can make a person feel hungry all the time or only late at night. You can feel wired and tired, unable to rest. Headaches become more common as well as elevated blood pressure.

Anxiety can increase as can cravings for alcohol or smoking to calm the nervous system.

Weight gain around the stomach can be seen. That muffin top. 1282752158qoxbrW

Aggressive behavior, increased frustration, short temper, and irritability are common.

Increased risk of heart attack, especially on Mondays, myocardial hypertrophy and atherosclerosis are all driven by increased inflammation.

Thyroid function can become suppressed.

Insulin resistance and syndrome X can develop.

Low progesterone and certain estrogens in menstruating women can also result from elevated cortisol’s effect upon accelerated consumption of progesterone.

Elevated cortisol also is a key factor in causing osteoporosis! It contributes to calcium mal-absorption.

Over-secretion of cortisol in response to stress or infection commonly create symptoms of:

  • fatigue and exhaustion

  • depression

  • low blood pressure

  • weight loss

  • reactive hypoglycemia

  • low buffer for stress

What Are Low Cortisol Symptoms?

Low cortisol function can result in feeling weak, tired especially after meals, or simply exhaustion. Exercise typically can make the person feel more tired instead of energized.

There may be low grade nausea and lack of appetite in the morning. Constipation, or slow bowels, abdominal pains, diarrhea, or irritable bowel can be experienced.

Cravings for salt are common as well as sugars especially during mid-afternoon when adrenal function first begins to become low.

Postural dizziness may be accompanied by feelings of low blood sugar.

Thinning of the hair and hyper-pigmentation of the skin can result when cortisol levels stay chronically low.

Insomnia, and excessive dreams or nightmares can result with prolonged REM stage sleep the result of low cortisol levels.

When chronic fatigue patients are tested, their salivary cortisol levels are often LOW, indicating mal-adaption phase, adrenal fatigue, or a stage of adrenal exhaustion.

Persistent low cortisol levels significantly impairs immune system function such that many chronic fatigue patients show elevated immune titers to viral antigens such as :

  • Epstein Barr

  • cytomeg

  • echo virus

  • rocky mountain spotted fever

  • coxsackie virus

Does adrenal exhaustion cause chronic fatigue?

The clinical picture for many patients suffering persistent exhaustion lasting six months or longer is one of increased extra cellular toxic retention,impaired detoxification pathway function, impaired cell membrane repair, chronic viral titers and intestinal dysbiosis.

Chronic toxic retention and infection wear the body down and wear down the adrenal glands. In fact, it is often common among the non-secretors and those with chronic toxic retention to have their adrenal glands test positive for toxic retention according to the trademarked Immune Reset® Protocol and testing performed at Immune Matrix clinics. If these patients do not receive help specific to improving detoxification of their adrenal glands, their cortisol biorhythms will never normalize despite all the herbal formulas, acupuncture treatments, or adrenal promoting supplements.

By the time a chronic fatigue patient suffers symptoms of sugar sensitivity, fatigue (especially after eating a meal with carbohydrates) will be due to low cortisol output.  A vicious cycle begins and low cortisol from exhausted adrenal function then results in lowered immune function. The patient continues to deteriorate in energy, sugar metabolism, immune system function, digestion and hormone metabolism.

Simply giving such a patient cortisol can make the patient feel better for a SHORT time only.

Some patients given cortisol will feel worse almost immediately. This is due to their immune system’s response to cortisol. Whenever the immune system is hyper-vigilant, it will develop a recognition to something.

The development of immune recognition to one’s own cortisol is very common. One can also develop an immune recognition to metabolites that are involved in the synthesis of cortisol. Therefore, if one is then given additional cortisol to increase low cortisol levels, this can trigger an immune system activation and increase inflammation in the body, triggering more fatigue, body pains, low grade fevers and digestive symptoms.

The other down side to taking cortisol is that it makes the body dependent upon receiving cortisol rather than making its own. Lastly, taking cortisol supplementation at the wrong time of day can actually make your cortisol levels more imbalanced!

In order to help the adrenals to manufacture cortisol, the underlying cause of adrenal exhaustion must be addressed. This means that titers for viral infection must be reduced.

Western medicine uses drugs to suppress viral action in the body. This does not eliminate the virus from the body. However, serial dilution homeopathics from a trained medical practitioner are very effective in helping the body eliminate virus. It can take 3-6 months but it addresses the cause of the problem.

Eliminating chronic low grade bacterial infection in the digestive track such as clostridium, staph and all forms of strep are also essential. Eliminating candida and fungal strains in the digestive tract are also necessary.

During the phase of pathogen elimination, one may need to take cortisol as a “crutch” per se to boost one’s immune system function but only if one’s inflammation markers are carefully monitored. As the digestion of the patient improves, the patient will be able to take herbs that help the adrenals synthesize cortisol and assist in re-setting the glucocorticoid receptors in the brain and body. The patient should have their salivary cortisol levels re-tested every 60 days to make sure the therapy is effective and to prevent low cortisol levels from becoming elevated!

What You Can Do Now

The first step is to determine your cortisol rhythm. A salivary cortisol test is essential and preferred over a blood test for cortisol. Saliva tests the unbound free form bio-available cortisol and tests it to the biorhythm of the day. Knowing what your cortisol level is at specific times of day is crucial to understanding when your blood sugar regulation is more at risk, why you are likely to feel fatigue, or hunger, and when to take adrenal supporting supplements!

You can do this test in your own home and mail the results out. A graph showing your cortisol rhythm will be prepared in two weeks by Diagnos-Techs. available here. The cost of the lab includes a consultation with a Anna Manayan, the medical health care practitioner from Immune Matrix. For a limited time, individuals purchasing Anna Manayan’s new book Escaping Your Low Energy Trap, Uncommon Answers Your Doctor Never Told You About, will receive a 50% discount on the lab consultation fee, order herebook1

The second step is to obtain information about the degree of dysbiosis from your digestive tract. This test will identify and quantify the good probiotics, the pathogenic bacteria, candida, yeast and fungi living in your digestive tract and test them for resistance to prescription and non-prescriptive agents to eliminate them. Immune Matrix calls this your gut report card.  Please order this lab here.

Immune Matrix is making these tests available online because of the depth of information it tells the patient and because many patients do not know a practitioner that can make such tests available to their patients.

The third step is to meet with your medical health care provider to have blood tests run for immune titers for suspected viral infections. Future articles will discuss what patients can do on their own to support proper immune function specifically addressed to fighting chronic viral infections.

Armed with the knowledge of what your cortisol values are throughout the day, the fourth step is to begin a course of therapy to strengthen your adrenals. Working with an experienced medical practitioner in this regard is essential. However, there is much you can do in your lifestyle to support improved adrenal function.

If you have low cortisol:

  • do not eat carbohydrates or high glycemic foods on an empty stomach

  • add a sugar digestive enzyme to your meals to improve your sugar metabolism

  • add BenaGene to each meal to improve insulin resistance

  • eat protein with each meal, and snack

  • do not skip breakfast, and include protein at breakfast

  • Walking is the best exercise. If you are able to do more aerobic exercise, watch your fatigue level after your workout. If your fatigue does not resolve within 2 hours after a workout, then you have done too much and are at risk of weakening your adrenals from too strenuous exercise.

  • Go to bed at a regular time, no later than midnight.

  • Do not engage in mentally stimulating work an hour before bed. This means no internet surfing, video games, stressful tv shows, news etc before bed.

  • Have a small protein snack 2 hrs before bed to help maintain your blood sugar|while you sleep.

  • Sleep in an entirely dark room, no night lights, no lights from alarm clock. This will help your body optimize melatonin, growth hormone and other essential hormone synthesis.

  • Manage your stress and remove yourself from stress for brief periods when you can, to preserve your cortisol levels.

  • When you feel yourself become fatigued, take a 15 minute timed break. Lay down on the floor with feet propped up on the chair. Close your eyes but do not let yourself rest longer than 15 minutes. This will help refresh your adrenals as if you had an extra hour of sleep in the day. Doing this when your cortisol function is the lowest in the day will help to regenerate them.

If you have elevated cortisol, you need to pay attention to what time of day the cortisol is elevated.

  • avoid eating carbohydrates during the elevated cortisol times of day and watch the amount of carbohydrates you are consuming, keeping it to the size of the palm of your hand

  • avoid stimulants like coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol, during high cortisol times

  • monitor your stressors during that time of day when your cortisol is elevated to become aware of what is driving your cortisol

  • phosphotidylserine helps to detoxify excess cortisol, so taking it as a supplement at the time of day when your cortisol is elevated will help to bring it down, but only if you find the source of why your cortisol is elevated

  • at least one hour before bedtime avoid overstimulation by TV, family stress or exercise

  • 2 hours before bedtime have a small protein snack

You can coach your adrenals back into balance. When done properly it rarely takes more than three months. The more chronic your condition, the longer it can take to optimize adrenal function. However, knowing your cortisol biorhythm is the essential start. For more in depth answers about why your energy may not be what it could and should be pick up a copy of Escaping Your Low Energy Trap now! here.

Please note:
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

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Anna Manayan

Anna Manayan