In Part A we discussed what things your body perceives as stress and how your body responds to produce more cortisol and insulin. Prolonged stress or glandular mal-adaptation to stress result in prolonged elevation of cortisol and eventual exhaustion of the adrenal glands. Knowing the levels of cortisol throughout the day will help you make adjustments to help your body reset its hormonal balance.

Excessive Cortisol

We discussed in Part A the fact that elevated cortisol stimulates the excretion of insulin. If insulin levels stay elevated beyond levels your cells need, then you go into a fat storage mode. Prolonged elevations in insulin result in insulin resistance and impaired sugar metabolism and sugar absorption by cells. This causes episodes of low blood sugar crashes called hypoglycemia and reactive hypoglycemia, fatigue, exhaustion and sugar and carbohydrate cravings.

Anyone with elevated cortisol must pay attention to what time of day their cortisol values are elevated. You need to avoid taking stimulants during that time of day as they will push your cortisol values higher, such as coffee, sodas, alcohol. Your latte habit alone can make you fat because it could be driving your cortisol levels up! You also need to watch the amount of carbohydrates you eat during high cortisol times. Excess carbohydrates and sugars, such as sodas, chips, cookies, pastry, mocha’s and such load the body with too much sugar. Between the sugar and the insulin spike from elevated cortisol you are more likely to gain weight during times of high cortisol!

During periods of elevated cortisol, eat more protein and do not let yourself go without eating three meals a day and two protein snacks in the day. Eating enough protein is essential to keeping your blood sugar from dropping and feeling exhausted after a cortisol surge. Eating enough protein will also prevent the insatiable hunger some people feel when their cortisol levels are high. This results from elevated levels of insulin. Therefore, knowing your cortisol values is essential to help you modify your lifestyle and diet.

During times of cortisol peaks in the day you should avoid taking B vitamins, and herbs such as ginseng. The stimulating effects of supplements and some herbs will elevate cortisol and can be the cause for excessive cortisol peaks.

Avoid strenuous exercise during cortisol peaks as this will exhaust the adrenals over time and also be the cause of elevated cortisol levels. Avoid stressful situations during cortisol peaks if possible. Just knowing that at certain times of the day you are more prone to have elevated cortisol will allow you to look at your lifestyle and determine what stressors are pushing your body into that stress mode. With some it’s a stressful work situation; with others it’s a stressful home environment and how it is structured. Plan and make adjustments to defer some of what your body perceives as stressful to other times of the days and you will be more productive and energetic.

Lecithin granules are a good food to be taken at the time of cortisol peaks. The phosphotidylserine is essential for the body to detoxify cortisol. One tablespoon taken during peak cortisol times will help the body detoxify the excessive cortisol.

Deficiency in Cortisol

If at some point in the day your saliva cortisol values are below normal, then it’s highly likely that your adrenals have entered a phase of mal-adaptation, fatigue or exhaustion. A person can have high cortisol values when they wake up and then by noon they can crash below normal and stay that way until bedtime. Low cortisol values mean that you will have problems with your sugar metabolism. You will feel tired, dragging, where rest never gives you the energy recharge you so crave. Eating sugary snacks for quick energy makes you feel tired in about an hour, and you seek stimulants like soda and coffee for the pick up.

Sugars and caffeine deplete weak adrenal glands and you need to take in protein snacks in the form of a piece of chicken, turkey, skim cheese, egg, cottage cheese, or protein smoothie that you make so that you can limit the sugars in the smoothie. Take the protein snack about an hour before your lowest cortisol level. It will help prevent hypoglycemia, and help to strengthen your adrenal glands. The most sugar you should consume during low cortisol values would be an apple and in many cases that can be too much carbohydrate at that time to safely digest.

Low cortisol values need the added assistance of a trained medical professional who will do more than put you on cortisol. If you take cortisol, it hinders your body from making it. You will feel better in the short term but you will not have strengthened your adrenals to normalize cortisol levels on their own. Some herbal formulas are extremely effective in helping the adrenals normalize cortisol function but they need to be prescribed and dosed by a trained medical professional.

There is an added problem with those suffering from chronic inflammation. The immune system can become sensitized to cortisol or its metabolites. This is similar to having an autoimmune reaction to one’s cortisol. It makes taking cortisol ineffective or symptomatic and it prevents your body from using the cortisol that it makes effectively. Immune Matrix tests and de-sensitizes those patients having immune sensitivities to cortisol metabolites or cortisol so that they can optimize the benefit from taking herbs that boost adrenal function without added inflammation or side effects.

If you have a chronic inflammatory condition such as allergies, irritable bowel, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia, asthma, persistent headaches, migraine, arthritis, Hashimotos’s disease, lyme disease, chronic viral infections such as Epstein Bar, cytomeg, coxsackie, HHV, RMSF, MS, recurring colds or strep infections, then other factors that fuel your condition can elevate cortisol in addition to lifestyle. You will need to work with an experienced medical practitioner. There is much that you can do however with these lifestyle suggestions to prevent your lifestyle and diet from pushing your cortisol over the edge and creating a hormonal rhythm that promotes fat storage!

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