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Adrenal Fatigue

adrenal fatigue

We will start this basic discussion with the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a member of the family of steroid hormones, made by cholesterol, in the adrenal glands. Cortisol is most widely known as the "stress hormone". When your body experiences a stressor, your adrenal glands secrete cortisol into your blood stream. A rise in your cortisol level acts to give you a quick burst of energy, to heighten your memory functions, to increase your immunity, and to lower your sensitivity to pain. This is an excellent system, as long as this rise in cortisol level is "turned off" effectively and quickly and you don't need to use this "flight or fight" response often.

Unfortunately, in today's hectic world, your cortisol levels are often rising with the job of dealing with day-to-day stress. For some of us, our cortisol gets "stuck on high" and for others of us, our adrenal glands are exhausted from over production.

If it isn't tough enough on the body that its stress handling gland is overworked, cortisol happens to play an essential role in many other vital bodily functions. It handles regenerating the body, protein synthesis, inflammatory mediation, energy creation, blood sugar regulation, brain function, mood, cognition, memory, strength and stamina. Fortunately or unfortunately, the body prioritizes its cortisol use with handling day-to-day challenges, tensions and pressures over many other bodily functions. This means that for many of us, cortisol is shunted away from its rebuilding duties like regenerating the colonic mucosa, rebuilding bones, keeping blood sugar stable and regulating the sleep cycle.

In other words, if your cortisol levels are too high, or too low due to a history of being too high, you can not heal and if you are not already struggling with your health, you are likely to be soon. For a short time, high cortisol is functional. However, sustained high cortisol tears your body down, destroying muscle and bone, slowing down healing and normal cell regeneration, co-opting biochemicals needed to make other vital hormones, impairing digestion, metabolism and mental function, interfering with healthy endocrine function; and weakening your immune system.

Because of the importance of keeping the hormone cortisol in a persistent optimal range, it is crucial to good health to monitor your cortisol levels seasonally and, if needed, to support the adrenal glands using lifestyle changes, herbs and supplements. The most effective and inexpensive way to monitor your cortisol levels is to use a four-sample saliva test during the course of one day. This saliva test is offered by the lab Diagnos-Techs.

In the Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) from Diagnos-Techs, Inc., 4 saliva samples are used for the following 10 tests:

4 x Cortisol
Helps evaluate stress response
2 x Insulin
Helps investigate blood sugar control
Helps determine stress adaptation
Secretory IgA
Helps evaluate toll on immunity, including gut permeability
17-OH Progesterone
Helps determine adrenal reserve
Gluten Antibodies
Helps identify grain intolerance

My hope is that you will monitor your cortisol levels seasonally in order to take the necessary action to optimize your health!

To learn more about stress and adrenal fatigue, please read our Adrenal Recovery Support document (PDF).