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AGING & CORTISOL HORMONE

Cortisol is essential for life because without it we die. Cortisol is called the “Stress Hormone” and it is produced by the adrenal glands along with DHEA (an important precursor of all hormones) and adrenalin. Cortisol’s main role in the body is to enable us to take stress in stride, keep our energy at peak levels, and build immunities against illness. Hundreds of times a day, the adrenal glands fine-tune our Cortisol response to stress and the strain of living--be it emotional or physical stress.

Cortisol’s impact on our body is double-edged: acute stress pumps up the body’s energy level and defenses in order to get ready for “fight or flight”, but relentless stress leads to chronic fatigue and a weakened immune system.

In medical school we were taught that either extreme in Cortisol levels were deadly, but that everything in between was absolutely “normal”! If the patient developed adrenal gland insufficiency and produced little to no Cortisol, it was deemed a medical emergency and the Cortisol had to be replaced ASAP, otherwise the patient would die. On the other hand, patients that required Cortisol or Prednisone therapy (usually getting 10-100 times more than physiologic doses of Cortisol) would get osteoporosis, obesity, acne, ulcers, and a very weakened immune system (like AIDS patients) that could also be fatal.

We have learned that Cortisol levels are crucial to maintaining the body functioning well and is a key factor in regulating ALL other hormones –If Cortisol levels are not where they should be, Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, human Growth Hormone, and Thyroid hormone cannot perform their functions well.

The medical community is well aware that high stress and anxiety are killers and are the most common causes of premature aging. During World War II, concentration camp survivors frequently developed age-related diseases including the very early onset of Alzheimer’s dementia, as early as age 35.

Stress is an integral part of 21st century living and it is a primary risk factor for all of the most common diseases in the US: heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s. The economic toll of stress-related illnesses in the US exceed a staggering $200 billion per year.

What causes Adrenal imbalance?

Stress can be thought of as the spark the ignites or starts us every day. Now, there is a difference between the stress that we can handle and the stress that gets out of hand or distress. Distress occurs when the pressures of modern day life call on the adrenal glands to secrete Cortisol, either too much, too often or both. The struggle to keep up with production of too much Cortisol causes the adrenal glands to get sluggish and then burn out, this is called Adrenal Fatigue.

Both high and low Cortisol lead to negative symptoms in our bodies and cause the adrenals to be out of balance. Energy, bone, mood, muscle, and sex drive are all affected by adrenal imbalance, making us look & feel old before our time!

Do I have symptoms of Adrenal imbalance?

In the 21st century, life in the fast lane makes us all likely candidates for Adrenal imbalance.

SYMPTOMS
1. Am I usually tired when I wake up and too wired to fall asleep at night?
2. Do I keep myself going all day with coffee and sweets?
3. Is it hard to relax? 4. Is it hard to get exercise?
4. Do I get sick often and take a long time to get well?
***These are the warning signs of an Adrenal imbalance waiting to happen.

“When we can no longer rise to a challenge but instead become weakened by it, the predicament may be that our Cortisol isn’t functioning properly” The End of Stress As We Know It, Bruce McEwen. Low Cortisol causes chronic fatigue, allergies, asthma, susceptibility to illness & infection, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. High Cortisol leads to muscle & bone loss, “belly” or intra-abdominal fat, high blood sugar (pre-diabetes), sugar or salt cravings, high blood pressure, suppressed immune function, mood swings, memory lapses, sleep disturbances.

Take this simple test to find out if you have an adrenal imbalance

If you answered yes to 3 or more questions, you may have an adrenal imbalance
1. Fatigue (especially in the morning)
2. Sleep disturbances
3. Headaches
4. Depressed
5. Anxious & nervous
6. Stress
7. Irritable
8. Memory lapses
9. Abdominal/”BELLY” fat
10. Decreased libido
11. Cold body temperature
12. Heart palpitations
13. Elevated triglycerides (bad cholesterol)
14. Sugar/Salt cravings
15. Lack of periods
16. Scalp hair loss
17. Increased facial/body hair
18. Chemical sensitivities
19. Acne
20. Thinning skin
21. Allergies
22. Aches & pains
23. Infertility
24. Decreased concentration
25. Joint pain
26. Decreased muscle mass

 How do the Adrenals affect other hormones in the body?

“Stress itself can initiate imbalances among all the hormones”Cortisol is a key regulator in the hormonal web of the body. High and low Cortisol levels impact negatively on body systems and related hormones, particularly Thyroid and Testosterone. “About 80% of adrenal fatigue patients will have also a sluggish thyroid that needs supplementation” Adrenal Fatigue, Dr. James Wilson. Testosterone as well as human Growth Hormone levels are decreased by an adrenal imbalance. In times of high Cortisol demand, the Adrenals will steal Progesterone (“the happy hormone”) to make extra Cortisol, leading to Estrogen/Progesterone imbalances.

How can I restore Adrenal balance?

When our lives are balanced by optimal hormonal levels, good nutrition & supplementation, enough sleep & exercise, and good stress-handling techniques (prayer, meditation, yoga), the adrenal glands perform for us 24-7. But if we habitually burn the candle at both ends, adrenal functions burn out, and so do we. The good news is that we can regain health and energy by supporting adrenal gland function everyday by doing the following:  

STEPS
a. Work with an experienced physician in the field to test and monitor your Cortisol levels (at least 4 times during the day)
b. Test and balance all other hormones in the body aside from Cortisol
c. Always support the Adrenals with Nutriceuticals (pharmaceutical-grade supplements prescribed by your physician) to give your body the fuel needed to create energy & to regenerate the adrenal glands. Visit green supplements by Dr. Cabanellas
d. If you need hormone supplementation, always use “Bio-Identical” (natural hormones that are the same as what your body produces)—you must have this treatment performed by a physician experienced in Cortisol supplementation
e. Use meditation, prayer, yoga, or psychotherapy to deal with daily stress
f. Avoid pollutants and toxic chemicals
g. Avoid caffeine “pick-me-ups”
h. Engage in non competitive, gentle exercise like walking, ballroom dancing, or swimming
i. Eat organic, insecticide/pesticide, hormone-free, non-processed foods
j. Get 7-9 hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep and take naps if needed
k. Enjoy life and laugh often!
 
 

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