Your adrenal glands are located down near your kidneys, and they are about the size of a walnut. And while they may be small, they sure are mighty.
Our adrenal glands are responsible for producing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin. These stress hormones are produced in ‘fight or flight’ situations, which was great when we needed this response for life or death situations. In the modern day there is a lot less need for this fight or flight, however we are under a lot more long term, low-grade stress through living our busy lifestyles and the stresses of everyday life. In times of long term stress, our body secretes excessive amounts of cortisol and after a while, our adrenal glands get tired reduce the amount of cortisol being produced. To much and not enough cortisol are both problematic, so finding that balance is essential for you feeling your best.
THE CORTISOL CYCLE
In the morning our cortisol levels are supposed to be high, giving us the energy to get out of bed and start our day, as the day progresses we should see a steady decline as our body winds down to prepare us for sleep.
When our adrenal glands become tired this pattern can switch, as the adrenal gland becomes almost unpredictable with its action.
In many people who are adrenally fatigued their cortisol levels will be low at the start of the day and elevated at the end of the day. This explains the severe fatigue in the morning and struggle to get out of bed, and then an inability to fall asleep at night. We call these people ‘wired, but tired’ types.
CORTISOL & HORMONES
High cortisol has a big impact on healthy hormone production. When cortisol levels are high it can contribute to imbalances in thyroid hormone production, as well as sex hormone production. Elevated cortisol disrupts the bodies natural cascades that result in hormone production, causing the compounds to run off course, producing a different hormone than what is intended. Reducing cortisol levels within the body will allow optimal hormone production to occur.
CORTISOL & WEIGHT
High cortisol levels causes central weight gain, but more importantly it makes central weight a lot harder to shift. You often hear people talking about weight that is ‘hard to shift’ and this may be a reason for this.
CORTISOL & IMMUNE FUNCTION
High cortisol levels actually dampen the bodies immune function, making you more susceptible to catching colds and the like. The more run down you are, the higher your cortisol generally is and the more likely you are to catch the head cold thats spreading around the office.