Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Your adrenals release cortisol in a diurnal pattern. Diurnal meaning, your levels of cortisol are highest in the morning (to wake you up energized for your day - I know who wakes up energized?!) then gradually decrease during the day, reaching their lowest level at nighttime (allowing you to fall asleep).
When this pattern is disrupted due to a consistent release of cortisol you most likely will experience:
Low energy and fatigue – because of lack of restorative sleep
Difficulty falling asleep sleep/staying asleep – because cortisol does not drop at nighttime and/or spikes around 2 – 4 am
Muscle and joint fatigue/pain – because cortisol is catabolic, meaning it breaks down tissue AND because your adrenals so busy producing cortisol they are not producing adequate amounts of testosterone. Testosterone is needed for bone and muscle building. Cortisol and Testosterone are inversely related to each other, meaning when cortisol goes up and stays up, testosterone goes down and stays down
Reduced resistance to infections – because cortisol dampens our immune response
Craving salt – because of aldosterone dysregulation
Craving simple carbs – because you are tired and need quick energy
Brain fog/anxiety/depression – because of all of the above, plus you are not making adequate progesterone and pregnenolone is all going to cortisol
This combination of symptoms is what is called “adrenal fatigue”.
I happen to think “adrenal fatigue” is a misnomer. I think it is more accurately described as “Cortisol Dominance” or “Cortisol Resistance”. Why? Because our adrenals are not necessarily “fatigued” they are simply responding to the consistent stress your BodyMind is telling them you are under. Whether it is the unrelenting responsibilities you have, the toxins in your food/cleaning products/beauty products/air/water, the toxic thoughts in your head, the worry, the comparison-itis, the endless to-do lists, putting yourself last, caring for others, illness, I could go on and on – any of this sound like you or a woman you know?
This consistent release of cortisol dominates our adrenals functioning. They switch from creating hormones that regulate our monthly cycle, our fluid balance, etc. to creating endless amounts of cortisol = cortisol dominance. If we think back to insulin resistance – cortisol resistance is also a real disease. With all that cortisol floating around our cells start to ignore it. The beginning stages of cortisol dominance you will experience the “tired but wired” and all the symptoms listed above; if your levels are chronically elevated you will still experience the above symptoms, yet your tired but wired can progress to chronic fatigue – because now your brain begins to ignore the signal to release cortisol. It is like the "crying wolf" story... Your hypothalamus begins to "ignore" the cry. This is when you will see low levels of cortisol. This can then lead to fibromyalgia.
Fun Fact – definition of fibromyalgia by the Mayo Clinic: “Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and nonpainful signals. Symptoms often begin after an event, such as physical trauma, surgery, infection, or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression.”
The good news is that we CAN learn to manage our stress. Simple changes can make a big difference.
Gradual changes are best kept, so begin to:
Decrease the toxins in your food, your home/beauty products, and your mind
Nourish your beautiful self with whole real foods
Live with a lightness of being
xoxo Wishing you a lightness of being,