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Cortisol & Adrenals

Navigating Stress - Pausing Your Adrenals & Balancing Your Cortisol

Why am i so tired?

Do I Have Adrenal Fatigue?
You wake up in the morning and find that you don’t feel like you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Perhaps you woke up once or twice in the middle of the night, interrupting what should be your time to recharge. You roll out of bed and force yourself to get a jumpstart on your day. You have a lot to do and the thoughts of the looming stresses already start to weigh on your mind and body. You make yourself a cuppa of coffee or tea, get yourself ready and your brain starts to function well enough to get you through the morning. Or maybe it just barely functions. As you start your routine, even the word “stress” has become a swear word in your mind.
You already feel like you’re walking on a tightrope edging between happiness and a total and complete meltdown. You don’t know why, you can’t put a finger on it. Life is ok. You don’t have any specific chronic health issues. Sure, there are issues in life that sit on your shoulders, but you wonder how other people can go through life without the same feeling of frustration that you have.

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Fight-or-Flight Response

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If your brain classifies the stimulus as a threat, then your autonomic nervous system kicks in - it’s “autonomic” as it’s not within your conscious control.

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Deep in your brain, there’s a small region known as the hypothalamus. One of its main roles is to trip the “fight-or-flight” response when it senses danger. Then it tells your nervous system to secrete the main hormones - norepinephrine and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). These hormones work inside your brain to increase your heart rate, increase blood flow to your muscles so you can fight harder or run faster.

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They also tell your liver to dump stored glucose into your blood for the quick energy you will need to deal with the threat and increase your mental alertness. The result is rapid heart rate, sweating, muscular tension and hyper-alertness.

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Meanwhile, your pituitary gland is secreting ACTH, another hormone that travels through your blood to your adrenal glands. Your adrenals are located just above your kidneys, one on each side of your spine. Your adrenals pump more norepinephrine and adrenaline into your blood, along with the stress hormone cortisol.

Love-Hate Relationship with Cortisol

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Cortisol is a steroid that increases your blood sugar, stimulates your metabolism, and suppresses your immune system. By increasing the blood sugar, it enhances how the glucose is used in our brains. It’s also used to repair tissues. Sounds great right? In reality, cortisol is great as its job is to provide available energy for fight-or-flight. That is fine if you only encounter a threat now and then like your ancestors did. The problem arises when you’re in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight. Think about it for a moment – High blood sugar is a precursor to Diabetes There’s a growing body of evidence to suggest the linkage of high blood sugar to weight gain. Cortisol also shuts down sex hormone production, hence affecting libido. Cortisol also suppresses the immune system, which means you’re more likely to get sick more often.
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