I’m sure you have heard this term cortisol flying around the place when it comes to the conversation of stress.
I also have a sneaking suspicion that many of you are confused about what cortisol is exactly and whether it’s something you need to care about.
I’m going to give you 10 simple facts about what it is so you can take some action if you feel that the release of too much cortisol is an issue for you.
1. Cortisol is a hormone made by the adrenal glands and is released in response to stress.
2. Ideally, cortisol should rise steadily during the early hours of the morning ready to get you up and out of bed ready for the day. Cortisol should begin to steadily decline during the later hours of the morning, into the afternoon and reaching its low point before bed (around 9pm).
3. If you spend too much time feeling stressed, you will release too much cortisol too often and very likely disrupt this natural cycle.
4. A stressed cycle often sees cortisol rising at night (when it should be low) and low in the morning (when it should be high).
If this is the case, you may find it hard to get to sleep or if you do you may find it hard to stay asleep. The flip side is that you will likely find it extremely hard to get up in the morning (I found this out first hand as I developed adrenal fatigue from the result of too much stress over a long period of time).
5. If you are chronically stressed and have been so for some time, you will likely find that your cortisol is simply low the majority of the time. If this is the case, you are likely feeling tired and fatigued all of the time.
6. A very common effect of disrupted cortisol levels is adrenal fatigue. If your cortisol is flatlining (ie low all the time) you are likely in severe adrenal fatigue and/or may be dealing with other health conditions.
7. You can test your cortisol through a number of means:
a) A Blood Test. The results however are not definitive and often can show that all is ok.
b) A Saliva Test. This is done 4 times during the day -first thing when you wake up, before lunch, before dinner and finally just before bed.
c) A Hair Sample.
d) A Urine Sample.
Work with your doctor to obtain the blood test and work with a naturopath or a functional medicine practioner for your saliva test, hair and urine sample.
8. Cortisol can have an effect on all the other hormones in the body. So, if you can manage your cortisol (which means getting a handle on the stress in your life) you will likely have a greater chance of managing the other hormones in your body.
9. If cortisol has caused issues with adrenal fatigue, it is important to have a balanced amount of protein, complex carbs and fats with every meal and snack. A very low carbohydrate quantity can put added stress on the body.
10. When you take time to relax deeply each day, you get into the part of your nervous system known as the parasympathetic nervous system and this allows you to release the “feel-good” hormones (such as dopamine and oxytocin) instead of the stress hormones like cortisol. Take the time to develop a daily “chill-out” plan for yourself.
If you feel like adrenal fatigue may be something you are dealing with, check out these posts to help you understand what to do about it.
Take care, and set aside that relaxation time every day. It will be life changing for you!
With love, Lisa.