In Part 1 we talked about some cortisol basics. In this part we will be talking more about what goes wrong, how we diagnose the problem and what you can do to fix it.
As with any system, as it begins to destabilize, you tend to get larger and larger fluctuations that is increased swings in cortisol levels. This lack of an appropriate response can also interfere with sleep. The brain is dependent on a steady supply of blood sugar and cortisol activity helps to ensure this. If the cortisol drops too much at night, the blood sugar also drops too much and a common response is the increase in epinephrine (older name adrenaline). This works great at temporarily increasing blood sugar but it is pretty hard to sleep with this increased adrenaline as you might imagine.
One of the effects of mild cortisol increases is improved memory and energy in general. This is because cortisol and the hippocampus portion of the brain work together in the memory response. Chronically elevated levels, however, will tend to physically destroy the hippocampus. That is an important part of the reason for the gradual demise of the brain from chronic stress.
As time goes on the body will begin to lose its ability to maintain this high cortisol output and the levels will begin to flat line. This is a grave sign and means that some of the damage is becoming permanent unless steps are taken.
Testing the cortisol levels is fairly easy. You really shouldn't rely on your symptom picture to guess at your cortisol profile. The most accepted form of cortisol testing is through saliva samples. Cortisol in the blood is mostly protein bound. The protein bound portion is not biologically active. Only the free cortisol is in the active hormone state. The cortisol in the saliva is representative of the part that is biologically active.
We tend to do a cortisol profile with a neurotransmitter profile. This comes in a home test kit that we have the lab send to you. You collect the saliva samples along with a urine sample for the neurotransmitters and send them to the lab with the enclosed, pre-paid shipping envelope.
Having a cortisol and neurotransmitter profile gives us excellent information for specific brain and adrenal treatment and also gives us a baseline to compare subsequent tests.
For treatment we use different combinations of adrenal and neurotransmitter support amino acids and herbs. For the past 10 years our favorite supplement for helping rebuild your adrenal health and help normalize cortisol patterns is Adrecor by NeuroScience.
We judge the effectiveness of the supplements by their ability to help restore a person's energy and by the numbers we see in follow-up testing. We have seen nothing more effective than AdreCor for this mission.
If I were a psychologist I would stress making changes to your lifestyle to decrease stress. This is a valid point and I agree. In this context, I will say that everything you can do to reduce chronic stress will help your adrenals return to health that much more quickly. I will leave it to you and your counselor to work that out.