Adrenal Fatigue VS Adrenal Insufficiency
Your adrenals regulate important systems like your blood pressure, immune system, and metabolism. Chronic stress can raise cortisol and over time decrease cortisol. This is an issue because your adrenal hormones affect other hormones, throwing your thyroid hormone and sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone) out of balance.
Adrenal fatigue is controversial because symptoms do not always correlate with cortisol level. Some people at the ends of normal may be symptomatic, but it is not recommended to treat everyone based on lab values alone.
Adrenal insufficiency is a medical illness with unstable cortisol outside of normal that can result in catastrophic drops in your blood pressure that necessitate hospital support. Please seek emergency medical attention when needed and follow your physician’s medication regimen for hormone replacement.
Effective Ways to Balance Cortisol
- adaptogen support
- glandular support
- stress, anxiety, depression management
- restful sleep
- regular exercise and weight management
- balance thyroid and sex hormones
Adaptogens are botanicals that restore your adrenals by resetting function. Rhodiola and eleuthero are popular energizing herbs that increase cortisol production. Ashwagandha is another effective herb that induces a calming response to lower cortisol, stress, and anxiety. It is difficult to guess whether cortisol is high or low in a patient based on symptoms alone.
You can use labwork to establish a baseline. It may take 3 months to a year for adrenals to normalize. I recommend this over replacement with hydrocortisone because this approach addresses the cause of adrenal imbalance. Of note, weaning off of hydrocortisone can be difficult.
Adrenal supplements may include some adrenal hormone, usually porcine, to give more of a boost of energy than adaptogens can alone. This is used cautiously, as suddenly stopping high dose of adrenal hormone can require emergency treatment.
Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Management
The mind-body connection is powerful. Our bodies physical respond to chemicals produced in the brain in response to the environment as well as our thoughts.
Botanical such as lemon balm, passion flower, and chamomile can help us manage stress. For a stronger calming effect, neurotransmitter support with amino acids can increase levels of GABA, 5HTP, theanine, and inositol.
Tyrosine, mucuna, and theacrine lift the mood, boost energy, and improve mental clarity.
Oxytocin is a natural hormone that can take the edge off stress and help with anxiety.
Ketamine is a mild dissociative that at low doses takes stress down by several notches. Rather than being overwhelmed, it helps you step back and deal with problems productively. It works well for depression and PTSD.
Sleeping It Off
Sleep is when we’re pulsing out growth hormone to help our bodies heal. It’s when our brain clears out excess protein to get ready for another day. When we sleep, we reset our immune system and gut. Lack of sleep will increase cortisol and trigger inflammation. With worse adrenal stress, we find it harder to respond at our best.