Sick from stress -The cortisol connection

by admin on June 27, 2012

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Natural News
by Craig Stellpflug

Have you ever been so stressed out you can’t think straight? Crunch time, trying to make a rational decision and you can’t even clearly see the problem? This happens when there is too much cortisol in the brain. There is point where the brain cannot properly make and store new thoughts and memories because it is overwhelmed by cortisol. In our stress-driven society, cortisol overload is a major cause of dementia-related problems in our population.

Your adrenals make DHEA plus the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenal exhaustion comes from coping with chronic stress, poor nutrition, yo-yo diets, emotional turmoil and even job-related stress. Adrenal exhaustion means that your adrenals are bone-tired from pumping out cortisol and they can’t make enough DHEA to support a healthy hormonal balance. What is the end of this? You feel worn out, tapped out, stressed out, overwhelmed and depressed.

Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that should start out with high levels in the morning and taper down through the day, being replaced by rising melatonin in the evening. Cortisol should peak by about 8 am to get you going and then slowly drop off to reach their lowest at about 8-10 pm so that you can fall asleep. The hormone melatonin should be on the rise after 5 in the evening and peak around 8-10 pm to put you to sleep. Cortisol wakes you up and melatonin makes you sleepy.

Stress causes cortisol levels to elevate instead of drop at night.

What happens with high cortisol levels
Chronic elevation in cortisol is extremely detrimental to your health. It has been linked to adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, heart disease, excessive blood sugar levels, elevated cholesterol, excess body fat (particularly around the midsection), and depressed sex hormone levels in both men and women. High cortisol will tank your sex life and it also breaks down muscle tissue, which can really douse your results in the gym.

Gaining weight on your diet? Cutting back the calories sends a signal to your body that you’re under attack. Low-calorie meals and frozen diet dinners kick the stress hormone cortisol into overdrive. A recent study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that you’ll get a stress boost just by going on a low-calorie diet. Cortisol actually tells the body to retain weight, so as you eat less, you actually weigh more.

A common finding in patients with autoimmune disease is high cortisol. Patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis also have high cortisol and a loss of circadian rhythms(Axelrod). High cortisol levels help bring on stress and hormone-related cancer but melatonin blocks the effects of estrogen upon cancer cells in hormonally-influenced cancers, such as breast, endometrial, ovarian and uterine cancers.

Large amounts of alcohol deplete hormones and increases cortisol levels and smoking has been found to reduce melatonin levels. If the thyroid is low the adrenals will come up to compensate and this will also cause extra cortisol.

Regulating cortisol
Simple solutions are to regulate stress by relaxing more, eating better, avoiding stressful situations and staying off Big Pharma drugs. Eat like a king for breakfast (when the cortisol is high), a prince for lunch (as levels taper off) and a pauper for supper (when cortisol should be phasing out). Avoid skipping meals, as this will create a cortisol release.

Astragalus, ashwaghanda and rhodiola are adaptogenic herbs that support normal adrenal functions. Go gluten-free and avoid excessive carbohydrates that generate a cortisol release in response to constantly elevated insulin levels. Go to bed by 10:30 pm at the latest. Avoid energy drinks that contain ephedra-like compounds and caffeine. Never drink coffee after 12 noon. Limit workouts to 45 minutes because after 1 hour, testosterone levels begin to decline and cortisol levels rise. Never train more than 2 days in a row.

You can do a cortisol spit-test through your naturopathic doctor to see where your levels are throughout the day.

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