Has your tolerance for stress dwindled lately? Are you unable to function without coffee? Do you feel burned out?
You bad attitude and lack of energy may not be all your fault — it may be your stress hormones.
We have two adrenal glands, which are walnut-sized organs that sit on top of each kidney. These little glands produce hormones (primarily cortisol and DHEA) that have huge impact on our energy production and on our ability to handle stress.
In a recent ABC News segment, reporters alerted the nation that women’s hectic lives can give them continuously elevated cortisol levels, which can lead to chronic illness. An important point from the story is that women don’t realize how stressed out they really are because they think that this is just how life is for everyone, and so they don’t tell their doctors about it. As a society we accept that our daily lives have to be busy and complicated, but we really do need to stop and simplify where we can!
High cortisol levels give you the extra energy you need to keep up with your fast-paced life — for a while. High cortisol is more of an issue for younger women, but what I see most in my office is health challenges linked to LOW cortisol.
BUT cortisol was designed to fuel our “fight or flight” response to run from predators or protect ourselves in an emergency, not for the constant daily strain of long commutes, financial worries, and crazy work demands.
After making abnormally high amounts of cortisol for a while (a few months to several years, depending on your constitution), your adrenal glands just can’t keep up with the extra output anymore. The adrenals start to make less cortisol and DHEA, which means your energy level drops and your metabolism slows down.
The longer this goes on, the more exhausted your adrenal glands – and you – get.
Lifestyle choices like practicing yoga, meditation, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep, are great for helping people with excess cortisol to bring down their stress levels. Stressed-out people often crave refined carbs like pastries, pasta, and chocolate, preferably washed down with some coffee. Meal plans that focus on vegetables, healthy fats, and protein (such as the keto diet) are best to optimize your adrenal function.
But once you’re in burnout with low cortisol levels, these practices alone won’t get you back to your energetic, life-loving self.
Get your adrenal function tested by a practitioner who understands that cortisol and DHEA levels that are within “standard laboratory values” are not necessarily normal. A few integrative medical doctors understand this, but they’re hard to find. Alternative practitioners such as some naturopaths and nutritionists can order this test for you, interpret your results, and put you on a plan to support your body’s natural repair process so you can rebuild your adrenal function.
If you’re interested in getting your adrenal hormones tested, call my office at (949) 954-6225 to schedule an appointment for a 20-minute free phone consultation with me. If you live locally, you may also visit me at Depke Wellness in Newport Beach, California, also by appointment only.