Cortisol out of control causes illness at a cellular level.
Contrary to popular belief, taking cortisone-based drugs will not solve inflammation, asthma or other chronic problems in the long term. As with any type of hormone supplementation, one will experience a backlash unless the initial cause of the problem is confronted. Cortisone output depends on an on-off cycle so a constant interaction with cortisone is not a good idea, whether from drugs or self-induced reactions to stress. Controlling cortisol with a special diet and supplementation helps to keep stress hormones from ruining your life. Excessive cortisol has unhealthy side effects like constantly raising blood sugar, causing cellular acidity, muscle weakening, acidifying the blood and provoking insulin fluctuations in today's sedentary sugar-craving world. We get fatter and more fatigued in spite of our slimming aids, energizers and antidepressants.
The stress-activated adrenal cavalcade for survival is only temporary.
Primitive man survived from eminent danger by the fright, fight and flight mechanism. But in the 21st century this default setting is not appropriate for handling stress that is only mentally induced. When a threat is sensed (either from a consideration or from an old fashioned physical danger), the adrenal glands release adrenalin and noradrenalin to infuse one with hype, courage and aggression, to increase the heartbeat, boost circulation and muscle activity. The adrenal hormone called cortisol thickens blood in case of injury and raises blood sugar. Muscle tissue (not fat) breaks down to fuel up the great escape from danger. When safely back in the cave after the tussle, our ancestors' stress hormone levels and blood sugar stabilized. A good balance of noradrenaline and dopamine prevented depression and brain fog. The cortisone and insulin levels then ranged within normal limits and they did not suffer from inflammation, adrenal burnout, heart problems, blood sugar disorders or other diseases caused by excess cortisol and insulin. But we do!
High blood sugar and insulin resistance.
When we sense danger signals the body prepares itself: making us fret, get angry, worried and hyped to get up and fight or run away. We don't use up all that emergency sugar. We sit in the office, fret, fume, drive cars or roll around the bed at night. Ironically, we crave comforting carbohydrates and sugar – more sugar? This places a burden on insulin. That sugar is not needed to fuel the current rate of metabolism. So it is bound up by insulin into triglycerides: bundles of three glucose molecules. We call these low density lipids or LDL cholesterol. Ideally they are used to make steroid hormones, repair blood vessels or be stored in fatty tissue but excessive levels also remain in the blood when sensitivity to insulin is reduced. Triglycerides and blood sugar elevate and this leads to syndrome X or insulin resistance. But this is only the beginning of the stress cavalcade. When low blood pressure develops and fatigue sets in it means the adrenals are taking more strain. Their hormonal output gets depleted and so does your strength. Sugar and stimulants make it worse. Depression, apathy and listlessness take their toll. You fail to adapt to stress.
Insulin levels increase in relation to cortisol output.
People under constant perceived stress suffer from overstimulated adrenal output and flood themselves with cortisol. Blood sugar rises and insulin flows in to mop it up. The carbohydrate cravings increase but the glucose remains in the blood due to the excessive cortisol. It's rather like the tap turned on with the plug left in the basin. The first thing one needs to do is reduce the cortisol and cut out the sugar! Then address the nutrient requirements for insulin. IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) is another neglected hormone that rebuilds muscle tissue and assists the insulin function by pumping glucose into all the cells. They are both made out of amino acids, the building blocks of protein.* Adding more insulin does not fully solve the blood sugar problem at any stage and this is why diet is important when type 2 diabetes develops. Insulin has to be taken in direct proportion to the carbohydrate intake but cortisol also elevates blood sugar.
Warning symptoms of a burnout.
After a bout of stress the body stops pumping out cortisol and undergoes a phase called adaptation. Maladaptation is caused by constantly stressing and pumping out cortisol without a break. This happens to people who just try to keep going and they fail to rest or replenish their micronutrients. High doses of Vitamin B5 help to prevent a total adrenal burnout but sugar , estrogen and sulpha-drugs(antibiotics) destroy this vitamin. Stressing out damages the adrenals as do other triggers: mercury, gluten sensitivity and food-based lectins that conflict with the blood type. For example: wheat intolerance in blood type O, beef reactions in type A and chicken in type B. This can set off autoimmune attacks on thyroid and adrenal tissue and cause digestive conflicts and blood reactions. A combination of adrenal and thyroid problems is being observed by iridologists and physicians at an increasing rate these days.
Addison's disease means no more cortisol.
When people crave salt, it can be symptomatic of Addison's disease whereby sodium is lost and potassium is retained due to an aldosterone imbalance. At this stage adrenals need salt to survive as well as large amounts of Vitamin C. See a doctor immediately if salt cravings persist with constant fatigue, lowered blood pressure, a darkening of the skin and a fallout of hair. A 24 urine output analysis will determine what has happened to the cortisol and other hormones. This type of adrenal failure has more to do with autoimmune disease but stress is the last straw.
Cortisol is easily controlled by ADAPTOGENS.
Cortisol is released in on - and off - cycles every day. But some of us experience a constant flood of cortisol because we react negatively to stress. This weakens the immunity, causing frequent colds and flu, candidiasis and cystitis. The blood stays thicker and is more prone to clotting. Fatty tissue accumulates around the tummy, causing the apple shape. Stress makes you ugly and sick but stress is a perception that can be modified. Not all of us, especially blood type A or B can relieve stress by meditation, heavy exercise or copping out. But stress management counseling does help. Adaptogens are the answer to stress. Adaptogenic herbs like Schizandra, Rhodolia, liquorice and ginseng, etc, especially when combined in a liquid form, are easy to take and within a week an improvement in stress reactions and sleep cycles are noted. They are the key to controlling cortisol and and protecting one from the ravages of stress-related conditions. With combined thyroid and adrenal problems we are advised to first treat the adrenals because thyroid boosting can over-stress weak adrenals. Heavy metal detoxification and understanding your blood type will help to lessen the adrenal burden.
Other ways to prevent and cure adrenal burnout.
Amino acids or spirulina supplements provide protein required to top up on the IGF-1 and insulin function during the day to maintain energy. Eating regular small meals high in protein and low in carbohydrates is the next step. Turkey and soya protein are good sources of arginine, an important muscle fuel. The herb Coleus forskholii provides natural cyclic AMP and is a critical link in restoring cellular energy. To control inflammation we need to increase Omega 3 oils and reduce arachodonic acid found in Omega 6 oils and saturated fats. Take vitamin B5(calcium D-pantethonate) in high doses of 100mg with your 3 main meals as this helps to assimilate fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It is essential for cortisol production and helps to protect the adrenals during moments of extreme physical stress. This must be combined with good multivitamin and antioxidant supplements. During stressful phases, increase vitamin C, taking 1000mg every hour or so. It is a wonderful cure for constipation and protects the adrenals. Treat nervousness, anxiety and insomnia with herbal products eg: valerian, bacopa or camomile tea. Homeopathic remedies and Flower remedies are excellent but need to be matched to your symptoms. Tissue salts like Kali Phos clear brain fog. Finally, before bed take your calcium and magnesium and relax, alkalize and get some much needed sleep. Tomorrow you will feel much better!
*We have published 3 articles on Amino Acids in Vibrations: issues 31, 32, 33.
References and recommended reading.
1 The anti-ageing zone by Barry Sears. Thorsons 1999 ISBN 0 7225 3860 X (About cyclic AMP – Omega3 activity inflammation, cortisone, insulin and dietary control.)