How to manage cortisol hormones from stress

Cortisol is, in many ways, a perplexing hormone.

A certain amount of cortisol is necessary for optimal health, but too much or too little can be unhealthy.

During acute episodes of stress, more cortisol is released to help the body cope with physical or psychological stressors.

Its primary functions in the body are:

• Regulation of blood glucose levels in the liver.

• Regulation of the immune system.

• Regulation of carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism.

Essentially, cortisol is regarded as an anti-inflammatory hormone, a blood glucose modulator, an immune-modifier, and an adaptation hormone.

Depending on diet, exercise, stress, and time of day, serum levels of cortisol can vary.

During healthy conditions, cortisol levels peak in the early morning hours (usually around 08:00) and dip to their lowest between midnight and 04:00.

The complex process of cortisol biosynthesis and release is sensitive to disruption by both internal and external factors. In the face of chronic psychological stress, for example, the adrenal glands excrete an abnormal amount of cortisol in an abnormal rhythm.

Cortisol, being a catabolic hormone (a hormone that breaks down tissues), when out of balance and unregulated, can have detrimental effects on body composition.

Moreover, too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, while too little can lead to autoimmunity and rheumatologic disorders.

Cortisol receptors are expressed throughout the body, including in the brain; therefore, derangement of the biosynthesis, metabolism, and release of cortisol can disrupt many physiologic systems.

So in short infection, physical stress such as trauma or pain, poor nutrition, psychological stress, high blood sugar, chronic inflammation, and toxicity causes adrenal resistance and elevated cortisol.

The symptoms of high cortisol are high blood sugar, high blood pressure, insomnia, hypothyroidism, poor digestion, decreased immune function, and constipation.

Supportive nutrients and herbs for the adrenals are:

Siberian ginseng (150-450 mg): It strengthens the adrenal glands themselves which is especially important to those suffering from chronic stress.

This herb helps normalise the way in which the body responds to stress triggers and acts to regulate the manufacture and secretion of adrenal hormones.

Rhodiola (500-1 000 mg): This herb increases tolerance to various stressors (eg mental, physical, environmental), in part by beneficially modifying the stress response.

This herb acts predominantly on the hypothalamus in a way that normalises the manner in which the body responds to stress triggers, thus reducing secretion of the adrenal hormones, including cortisol.

L-Tyrosine (500-1 000 mg): High cortisol states tend to promote the over-utilisation of tyrosine, which is required for the synthesis of adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine, and thyroid hormones.

Tyrosine supplementation may therefore be necessary to ensure adequate levels of these other hormones are maintained during extended periods of stress.

Other supportive nutrients and herbs are liquorice root, vitamin C, vitamin B5 and B6, zinc, and magnesium.

Lizel Brtiz 072 243 7707

Lizel Britz

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