Cortisol is much like the in-built alarm system that nature has provided human beings. It signals a lot of emotional states as well as physiological conditions. One of these conditions is adrenal fatigue. Tiredness, exhaustion, listlessness, anxiety – these are all symptoms that your adrenal glands are not functioning well.
After all, this is the organ atop the kidneys from where the stress hormone is secreted. Your adrenal glands are essential for effective regulation of behavior, mood, and health. Let’s delve deeper into the ways cortisol can impact the body and how you can ward off adrenal fatigue.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is the stress hormone directly impacting parts of your brain, controlling moods, feelings, and motivations. The adrenal glands are a triangle-shaped organ, and they are situated above the kidneys.
These glands are known for secreting cortisol. While cortisol is perhaps best known for fueling the body’s fight or flight responses, it plays a significant role in several bodily activities.
Cortisol keeps inflammation down and regulates how the body uses energy in the form of carbs, fats, and proteins. It also regulates blood pressure and blood glucose levels(1) in the human body.
High levels of cortisol can even lead to an insulin imbalance(2). Cortisol also controls the sleep-wakefulness cycle and boosts energy levels for managing stressors.
How Does It Cause Adrenal Fatigue?
The hypothalamus is a section of the brain, which senses if the blood contains enough cortisol along with the pituitary gland. If cortisol levels are low, your mind picks up on this, and a signal is sent to the adrenal gland to fine-tune the cortisol released.
Cortisol receptors in the body receive and use the hormone in a lot of different ways. After stress levels fall, cortisol should lessen.
Conditions like Cushing’s Syndrome can result if there is too much cortisol in the body. And, this leads to rapid weight gain, diabetes, muscle weakness, and many more medical issues.
On the other hand, too little cortisol is associated with Addison’s disease, symptoms of which include changes in the skin, a constant feeling of tiredness, muscle weakness, loss of weight and appetite besides low blood pressure.
As most bodily cells have cortisol receptors, cortisol imbalances impact every part of your body, including the brain prompting the production of the hormone in the first place. Anxiety, stress, and depression can cause cortisol levels to stay high when they should not.
The result is adrenal fatigue related to the brain. This is when the brain-adrenal HPA or axis is not working so much so that the brain cannot communicate effectively with the adrenal glands for cortisol regulation.
Signs Of Adrenal Fatigue
The term adrenal fatigue was coined way back by alternative medicine expert and naturopath James Wilson in 1998. It is a group/syndrome of signs and symptoms, where adrenal glands function at a suboptimal level.
When fatigue does not get better with sleep, this disorder is said to be prevalent. Due to overworked adrenal glands, too little cortisol is produced. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue range across tiredness, salt cravings, and loss of bodily hair.
Besides this, the person may experience reliance on stimulants like caffeine and general digestion issues. He or she may have trouble getting to sleep and waking up, craving sugar or unexplained weight loss.
The symptoms and signs may be generic, but they are prevalent. Long term stress causes the brain-adrenal glands axis to become overloaded, leading to adrenal gland fatigue and the inability of the gland to keep up with physiological demands.
How to Lower Cortisol Levels?
1. Follow the Adrenal Fatigue Diet
The adrenal fatigue diet follows guidelines of recommended balanced diets, increasing consumption of whole grains, veggies, and high protein foods. It also decreases consumption of simple carbs like sugar, processed foods, fried items, and stimulants like caffeine. Additionally, proper meal timings are critical to regulating blood-glucose levels effectively.
2. Decrease Stress
Adrenal fatigue is based on stress. So simple ways to reduce stress like deep breathing exercises exercise in general, meditation and de-stressing might work.
3. Vitamins and Minerals Supplementation
Supplementing the diet with vitamins and minerals is also extremely beneficial. This list of supplements includes B vitamins like B5, B6, and B12. Vitamin C is also helpful for warding off adrenal fatigue. Besides this, adrenal fatigue cures also range across the ingestion of minerals like magnesium.
[Also Read: Supplements to Fight Adrenal Fatigue ]
4. Herbal Supplements
Natural healing practitioners and naturopaths recommend treating adrenal fatigue with a host of herbal remedies such as Siberian Ginseng, Golden root, Maca Root, and Licorice Root.
5. Eat Nutrient-Dense Proteins
Try oysters packed with zinc and copper, which help with healthy neurotransmitter functioning and serve as adaptogens to stress. Copper-zinc balance is directly linked to brain stress and anxiety associated with adrenal fatigue.
Foods like turkey containing amino acids like tryptophan can also relax you. Try grass-fed organ meats, green superfoods like Swiss Chard and spinach. These are rich in magnesium and other nutrients that optimize and regulate communication in the brain-adrenal axis or HPA axis.
Besides leafy greens also contain sulfur-rich veggies that come enriched with B vitamin folate. This vitamin moderates brain-hormonal problems.
6. Eat Healthy Fats
Avocados contain monounsaturated fats and beneficial B vitamins that boost brain and neurotransmitter health. This super fruit also lowers blood pressure because it has potassium.
Another great choice is probiotics like kefir, which balance the microbiome and have fat-soluble vitamins A, K2, and D, which are critical for brain health. Coconut oil offers good fats like MCTs or medium-chain triglycerides, which help in optimal brain functioning.
7. Have Herbal Teas
One such amazing mild herbal tea is Chamomile. It comes in two varieties – German and Roman. The herb has been linked to lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Rooibos tea is from the African Red Bush, and it balances cortisol levels too. Adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha, holy basil, eleuthero ginseng, and Rhodiola Rosea are some other effective cures for adrenal fatigue.
8. Stock Up on Spice
Turmeric contains compound curcumin which has potent antioxidant properties and serves as a neuroprotective barrier. It enhances the mood, too, curing depression associated with adrenal fatigue.
9. Practice Yoga Regularly
Another way to regulate cortisol levels, increase alertness and induce weight loss is yoga. Based on ancient science, yoga is more than just an exercise. It regulates the hormones in the body and massages the organs. Through yogic postures, you can eliminate high levels of cortisol and restore the adrenal glands and the brain-adrenal axis to normalcy.
Thus, whether you have too much cortisol or too little, the problems are many either in which ways. Adrenal fatigue can be a severe problem to cope with, given the lack of research. However, most science-backed methods of dealing with this condition focus on natural ways and home remedies. Try these tips and strategies to ward off fatigue and live life to its fullest!