Cortisol is a buzz word that gets thrown around a lot, but what is it and why does it matter?!
First of all, cortisol is your stress hormone. This means that it is secreted when you are under any kind of stress. Now, stress is NOT just the bout of anxiety or panic episode or “freakout” from being overwhelmed that you may think of when you hear the word “stress”. In fact, people who are chronically stressed may not have these episodes at all. Cortisol is triggered by physical strain and mental-emotional strain.
The main signs and symptoms are chronic fatigue, inconsistent energy, poor sleep, weight gain, digestive issues, brain fog, low sex drive, feeling overwhelmed, frequent muscle aches and joint pains, getting injured easily, anxiety, depression, getting sick often, and feeling burned out.
Most people know and feel that something is off, but can’t figure it out and often attribute it to age or genetics or life. There are also the high-achievers and athletes who tend to adapt to the way they feel over time, accept it as their new normal, keep pushing and often push harder even though they are pushing up hill and the hill is getting steeper. Most have no clue how much better they could be feeling or performing!
Why does this happen?!
Everyone is always looking for that 1 big cause, but it is actually a combination of things taxing the same system frequently that wears it down. The 4 main causes are physical exertion, mental-emotional upset, digestive issues, and chronic pain.
Here are some examples:
- Consistent hard training and exertion
- Demanding lifestyle with many commitments
- Pressure to perform well or excel
- Emotional upset from a relationship or loss
- Digestive issues with signs such as bloating, heartburn, loose stools, constipation
- Financial stress
- Inconsistent or poor diet or binge eating
- Chronic injuries or pain
- Skipping meals or not eating enough
- Excess mental exertion like strenuous work or school or thinking/strategizing a lot
- Shift work
- Commuting to work or training in traffic all the time
- Busy days without adequate relaxation time
- Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep
- Not enough or improper recovery between workouts
- Too much coffee or caffeine
ALL OF THESE STRESS THE BODY IN THE EXACT SAME WAY, TAXING THE SAME SYSTEM!
Why does this matter?!
This matters because this system (called the HPA-Axis or Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis) secretes hormones that regulate many of our body’s processes! Including energy levels, fat storage, inflammation, digestion, sex hormones, immune function, and mood/emotions.
Initially, cortisol rises to meet the demand, but then it drops because the adrenal glands (which secrete it), can’t keep up with the demand. People always think high cortisol is the major problem, but low cortisol (called adrenal exhaustion) is where you see the really negative effects…
- Low energy – dragging during the day, hard to get motivated, afternoon energy crash, “going through the motions”.
- Poor sleep – tired but wired, active mind at night, hard falling asleep, wake easily, not waking up feeling rested.
- Muscle aches and joint pains – frequent aches and pains, poor recovery, getting injured often (cortisol is your natural anti-inflammatory).
- Weight gain or fat gain.
- Digestive issues – heaviness, bloating, gas, heartburn, food sensitivities, loose stools, constipation, IBS.
- Low sex drive – low testosterone or low estrogen/progesterone.
- Brain fog – poor memory, lacking mental sharpness.
- Weakened immune system – sick often or easily.
- Feel overwhelmed or burned out – not feeling or performing at your potential.
We can test this system using specialized lab testing to see exactly what’s going on and then correct the issues with our protocols designed to address the specific state you are in.
Do NOT start taking adrenal supplements on your own, if you don’t know what you are doing you will make things worse!
By properly addressing the root cause, re-setting the hormone balance, and restoring proper function we can improve the way you feel and perform while preventing injury and illness.