Balancing Cortisol Levels: A Guide to Managing Stress and Adrenal Health
The Impact of Stress on Well-being
The Age Factor
Assessing Cortisol Levels
The Negative Impact of Cortisol Imbalance
Functions of Cortisol
1. Stress Response
2. Effects on Carbohydrate Metabolism
3. Balancing Blood Sugar Levels
4. Muscle Breakdown
5. Circadian Rhythm
Symptoms of Imbalanced Cortisol Levels
Symptoms related to both high and low cortisol levels
- Sleep issues
- Difficulty controlling or losing weight
- Hypoglycemic symptoms
- Compromised immune system
- Decreased sex drive
- Moods and anxiety
- Stress-related diseases
- Blood pressure changes
- Digestive disturbances, nausea, constipation, vomiting
- Aggravation of inflammation and allergies
Symptoms of high cortisol levels
(Note that there are other conditions which can also cause these symptoms)
- Sleep disturbances, struggling to fall asleep, feeling stressed and brain feels like it’s spinning
- Body composition and weight changes.
- Weight Gain: Increased cortisol levels can contribute to weight gain. Weight control is significantly more challenging when cortisol levels are elevated. Elevated cortisol levels must be addressed to successfully lose weight.
- Weight gain on the belly area and the development of ‘love handles’. Consistently high levels of cortisol can lead to this weight gain, even without any changes in diet or physical activity.
- Prolonged stress can result in a fatty hump developing on the upper back, just below the neck.
- Loss of muscle mass and strength.
- Wanting to lose weight? When consistently stressed, it is crucial to approach weight loss with caution, especially for individuals who have experienced significant weight gain. Engaging in an extreme weight loss programme can place added stress on the body and result in counterproductive outcomes. Avoid extremely low-calorie diets while stressed.
- Moods: Symptoms such as memory lapses, anxiety, waking up with worry, feeling stressed and wired, and feeling stressed while effectively managing it, may also be experienced.
- Cravings: Craving sugars, sweets, junk foods and stimulants like caffeine
- Thinning skin, bruise easily, puffiness under eyes, hair loss
- High blood pressure may be experienced by some people
- Over energised, looking for the next high “adrenaline junkie”
- Increased heart rate and muscle tension
Symptoms of low cortisol levels:
- Experiencing exhaustion following stressful situations.
- Feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
- Having dark circles under the eyes, without puffiness.
- Experiencing fatigue during early mornings (7 9 am), mid-afternoons, and evenings.
- Often getting a second wind around 11 pm, indicating the need for an earlier bedtime and sufficient sleep.
- Experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia and having cravings.
- Noticing excessive age spots on the face and arms.
- Struggling with weight gain for those needing to increase their weight.
Managing Cortisol Levels
Here are some immediate steps to manage your cortisol levels:
1. Dietary Changes
3. Life Modifications:
Supplements for Cortisol Management
Here are suggested supplements that have been found to be beneficial for adrenal support and cortisol recalibration. Note that many of the categories below overlap.
Anxiety, mood changes and depression
Individually tailored amino acids – completing the Sally T. Amino Acid questionnaire can provide valuable insight into which amino acids would be beneficial for your personal profile. Consider scheduling an appointment for a comprehensive assessment.