Your adrenals, cortisol & how they affect your hormones
Dysfunctional cortisol can lead to adrenal burnout, thyroid issues and sleeping problems
Cortisol, typically increases after age 40. It can also become ‘dysfunctional’ where it is lower during the day and higher at night time. This commonly is when poor sleep patterns develop or even hot flushes at night.
Cortisol is a hormone we produce in our adrenal glands. Its main function is to raise blood sugar levels, increase blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
Cortisol should be high during the day and lower at night, when we need to produce the hormone melatonin to sleep. Long term stress can cause an increase in cortisol and so can ageing!
If your adrenals are pumping out cortisol for long period of time it will inevitably affect your other hormones. Your skin can sag, muscles droop, become ‘stress intolerant’ and you end up with a lack of confidence.
Progesterone steal pathway and estrogen dominance
High cortisol over time reduces progesterone levels. This is because we produce cortisol and progesterone from the same hormonal precursor- pregnenolone. Progesterone is our anti-anxiety hormone and gives a feeling of contentment. And if you feel like you have constant PMT/PMS then you probably are low in progesterone! If this keeps dropping over time because of stress, lowered thyroid function or a sluggish liver, then you end up with estrogen dominance
Excess estrogens can slow down the thyroid function and contribute to an underactive thyroid. And when the thyroid function slows down, this slows the liver function down and it becomes a cycle.
Prolonged cortisol levels also can decrease the livers ability to clear excess estrogen from the blood.
A sluggish liver can mean you end up with insulin resistance and weight gain. Insulin is the hormone which ‘unlocks’ glucose from your food. If you are not unlocking the glucose for energy, it is stored as fat in your body, usually abdominal fat after age 40, which I known as the middle-aged spread…. Eeek! I know no-one really want this to happen!
Also, as we age we become more resistant to insulin, this can cause weight gain. Our body doesn’t utilise glucose from food as efficiently as it did when we were younger. The way around this is to exercise more and eat less sugar and carb’s.
The top health risks of having high cortisol
· Insulin resistance and diabetes
· Increased body fat/ weight gain
· Mood and brain problems including Alzheimer’s disease and depression
· Insomnia and sleep problems
· Delayed wound healing
· Bone loss in menopausal women
· Infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
We can normalise or control cortisol by
· Controlling stress
· Getting adequate sleep
· Doing yoga
· Practising ‘mindfulness’
· Having a positive attitude
· Taking magnesium and herbs to lower cortisol
· Supporting your adrenal health
· Take or balance melatonin at night (By the way, melatonin is very anti -ageing!)
· Increasing progesterone levels
And most importantly reducing the foods which increase cortisol- coffee, sugar, alcohol and too many processed foods and carbs. This will help to reduce the chance of insulin resistance and weight gain.
The low glycaemic diet is the way to go. Watch the simple carbs and sugars during your day and opt for veggies, salad and proteins at meal times, reducing the carbs to 2 small serves a day. These include breads, rice, pasta and biscuits.
Protein also reduces cortisol and can help keep up feeling calm. If you have sugar or carbs it can leave you feeling more anxious and even trigger hot flushes. So…. don’t go for the sugar or carbs when you feel anxious or tired, have some good quality protein!
Would you like some support or have any questions? You can contact me here for a chat or an appointment. I consult online and in person in South Australia.
The gallbladder is an overworked gland. It’s a small gland that sits under the liver. The liver produces a substance called bile and the gallbladder (GB) stores it. Bile is used to break down fats from your diet and also binds to toxins and unwanted hormones such as excess estrogens to be eliminated through your bowels. When the GB is under functioning it will cause fat malabsorption, a build up of toxins in your body and estrogen dominance. AND it will predispose you to gall stones.
Symptoms associated with a under functioning gallbladder include
- Pain/tenderness under right rib cage
- Pain between shoulder blades
- Indigestion, especially after eating fatty food
- Feeling of fullness after eating
HRT and the Pill causes alterations with gallbladder function as theses hormones affect the stickiness of bile and make the gallbladder more sluggish, leading to potential gallbladder problems and stones. And for those of you women in perimenopause, who are estrogen dominant, then the GB can be a contributor.
Thyroxin or T4, is a thyroid hormone that influences GB function. If this hormone is low, it can cause slow bile flow and contribute to formation of gall stones.
What can you do to look after your GB?
Diet should include;
- Lemon juice in warm water on rising
- Regularly eat raw beetroot, bitter greens and olives
- Dandelion root tea
- Coconut oil, nuts and seeds, oily fish, omega 3 oils
- Avoid trans fats, red meat, fried foods, reduced processed foods and sugar
- Avoid over eating!
Supplements can include;
- Lethicin with meals – sunflower is best, or supplement with choline
- marys thistle
- Dandelion root
- Use castor oil packs of the GB area at night
- Rub a few drops of rosemary oil (in a carrier oil) over your GB
Get in touch if you need support or have questions.
Get in touch here
Are you exhausted? Fatigued? Overwhelmed? Anxious? Moody? Depressed ? Wired and tired at night? Are you getting sick all the time or constant hay fever or allergies ?
If you have any of these symptoms, fatigue on waking or throughout the whole day and you have been suffering long term, your adrenal glands are probably to blame. These small, walnuts sized glands produce our ‘fight or flight’, or stress hormones. They therefore help regulate the stress response, but also other hormones, the nervous system, cardiovascular system, regulate the sleep wake cycle and inflammation, and the immune system. With many people in today’s busy world, they get over worked and then they cannot keep up with the ongoing demands our bodies put on them.
To rebuild the adrenals, you should avoid all stimulants where possible. This includes caffeine in chocolate, coffee, cola and guarana in supplements, sugar, alcohol, and white flour products/ refined starches. Reduce stress and get plenty of sleep.
EATING FOR YOUR ADRENALS!
- Eat within 2 hours of waking up
- Eat frequently through the day to regulate your blood sugar levels, at least every 4-5 hours. This will prevent a drop in your blood sugar levels and will make a difference to your adrenal health and energy levels.
- Eat good quality protein at every meal. These can include organic free range eggs and chicken, fish and nuts and seeds.
- Eat a wide variety of whole, natural foods
- Combine a healthy fat, protein and carbohydrate source with every meal
- Eat lots of vegetables, especially the brightly coloured ones and preferably organic
- Use a mineral salt such as Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt; ½ a teaspoon daily.
- Avoid fruit in the morning
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons of fresh essential oils (cold pressed olive or flaxseed oil) into wheat free grains, vegetables and meats daily. Do this after cooking as they are not meant to be cooked with! Cook with coconut oil which is anti-inflammatory and has a high burning point.
NUTRIENTS FOR ADRENAL HEALTH
Magnesium is a very important mineral for adrenal gland function. It is estimated that at least 80% of the population are magnesium deficient. Please be aware that there are many forms of magnesium and they are not all the same! Practitioner ranges have the most bio-available forms, meaning they are very efficiently absorbed. Potassium and magnesium together are the ‘nervous system Nutrients’.
B complex vitamins are important but may be too stimulating for some people when they are extremely adrenally fatigued. In these cases, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C are the best nutrients to nourish the adrenals glands. ‘Activated’ B vitamins should be used for more efficient absorption. Vitamins B5 and B6 especially help to restore adrenal function. Always take a B- complex if you are taking singular B vitamins to avoid an imbalance occurring. Be careful during intense anxiety as the B vitamins maybe too stimulating, also when there is Chronic fatigue, take small amounts to begin with and see how you feel.
HERBS FOR ADRENAL HEALTH
There are many herbs for the adrenal glands that can help strengthen the adrenals, but also act as adaptogens. Adaptogens help your body adapt to stress and protect the adrenals from any ongoing stressors. An example of an adaptogen are; siberian ginseng, panax ginseng, withania and Rhodiola. Withania can help when there is insomnia and Rhodiola is great for energy, stamina and cognitive function. I use other herbs simultaneously to strengthen the adrenals glands, such as Rehmannia and licorice, along with homeopathics.
When there is anxiety, herbs such as withania, skullcap, magnolia and ziziphus, are great to reduce the flight and fright hormones. It is important to check your Thyroid function through a basal body temperature testing or a thyroid function test. The thyroid gland may need support also. The adrenals and thyroid work together to help regulate the nervous system.
RELAX AND MEDITATE
The adrenals cannot rebuild themselves when they continually stimulated. It’s like whipping a dead horse! If you are tired, avoid ‘soldering on ‘, as this will only make the adrenals weaker. De- stress often, by meditating or doing yoga or Tai chi. Have regular massages and enjoy some time to yourself every day. During times of anxiety more intense exercise may be needed to help the body rid the stress hormones and relieve tension.
Have an Epsom salt bath before bed to get you into a deeper sleep. If you haven’t got a bath, have a warm shower and afterwards rub some lavender oil on your temples. Magnesium oil can be rubbed on the tops of your feet before bed to give the same effect as the Epsom salt bath (Epsom salt is magnesium). Sleeping well and for at least 8 hours a night is an integral part of helping the adrenals recover.
AND BREATHE !!
Try and practice breathing from the lower part of your diaphragm. Too many people shallow breathe when they are stressed or have anxiety. Breathe in for a count of 3, and out for a count of 5, when you feel anxious or finding it hard to get to sleep.
Also our adrenals are patterned from birth, we pick up stresses in utero (the womb) and during childhood, which can have long term effects on our adrenal glands. In families, there may be a genetic pattern, where the all of family members have a similar weakened adrenal response.
No matter what stage you are in, there IS a sure road to recovery! I am here, to help you recover also!
Book a complimentary clarity call here - CLARITY CALL
Or an in clinic appointment here - CLINIC APPOINTMENTS
Or an online consultation here - SKYPE CONSULT
1; an excerpt From Angela Hywood on ‘The Adrenal insufficiency syndrome’
NLS Salivary hormones training manual, 2009
The yeast that can cause fatigue
“All disease begins in the gut” - Hippocrates
Candida alblicans are symbiotic (diverse organisms that live together) microbes which has co-evolved with humans.
Candida albicans in particular, is a yeast that we all have living in our intestines, urinary tract and vagina (for you girls). It is the most common yeasts in the human body. It is usually kept under control with the friendly lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in our gut. When it gets out of control and overgrows, it can overpopulate the bowel and other parts of the digestive tract such as oesophagus, mouth and genito -urinary tract and also can become systemic, which is known as candidiasis.
“When allowed to proliferate, candida alblicans has the ability to change from its normal yeast- fungal form to a mycelial – fungal form. The mycelial fungal form of candida produces rhizoids, which are long, root like components that are able to pierce the walls of the digestive tract and break down the protective barriers between the intestines and the blood. Penetration of the intestinal wall by fungal candida contributes to increased intestinal permeability and systemic candida infection.” (1)
Candida produces alcohol and acetaldehyde, which are toxic by-products, and cause the ‘hung over’ feeling and fatigue that many people experience. This can cause an extra burden to the immune system and liver.
Symptoms will vary from person to person and depend on how long the person has been suffering and where their inherent weaknesses are. They can include;
Gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhoea, bloating, flatulence, constipation, nausea
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome
Joint aches and pains
Anal and/or vaginal itching
Carbohydrate and/or sugar cravings
Sensivity to mould can be related to candidiasis
How does candida overgrow?
There are many factors that let candida overgrow. Common causes of candida overgrowth are;
Oral contraceptive pill use and changes in hormones
Poor diet, high in sugar processed foods and carbohydrates
Decreased or poor immune function
Low stomach acid
Decreased gut motility and poor digestive function
Altered intestinal pH
It is also seen in some disease states such as;
Grave’s disease (auto immune hyperthyroidism)
Diverticular disease/ diverticulitis
Chronic skin disorders
Leaky gut or intestinal permeability.
Candida can lead to intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut’. We have a protective intestinal barrier and when it becomes damaged, it becomes leaky, where the mucosal surface lets pathogens, toxins, proteins and antigens through the intestinal wall into the blood stream with detrimental effects.
Leaky Gut could be implicated as a primary contributor to asthma, food allergies, chronic sinusitis, eczema, hives, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, fungal disorders, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory joint disorders including rheumatoid arthritis. It also contributes to PMS, uterine fibroid, breast fibroids, chronic fatigue syndrome and pediatric immune deficiencies.
Candida can be difficult to treat as it can become resistant to treatment, either conventional medical or naturopathic. This is because its produces a ‘biofilm’ to protect itself against invasion, like antibiotic resistant bacteria does.
To Diet or not to diet…
The “anti candida diet” should not be used alone. This is because candida needs to be killed, and cannot be starved just by simply changing your diet.
An anti candida diet along with the suitable treatment plan for the individual is very important.
The most important foods to avoid are sugar (including honey, and other natural sugars), wheat, processed foods and dairy products. Alcohol contains sugar and needs to be avoided and so does coffee. Some people with Candida infections can also develop an intolerance to yeasts, and find avoiding yeasts and fermented foods helpful. These include bread, vinegar, pickles, alcohol, vegemite, mushrooms, cheese, processed meats, peanuts, and old nuts which can be rancid and mouldy.
Kill off that nasty yeast…
Natural anti fungal agents include herbs such as, garlic, andrographis, olive leaf, golden seal, phellodendron, and Pau D’arco . For resistant biofilms oregano, thyme and rosemary oils are effective. Caprylic acid and lauric acid found in organic coconut oil can help kill candida. Adding liberal amounts to your diet and if needed, using coconut oil vaginal pessaries can give great welcome relief.
Healing the leaky gut and restoring a good balance of bowel flora is imperative. Healing a leaky gut can take time and a change in lifestyle and diet. There are many substances to use such as cucurmin and L- glutamine.
Correcting the terrain
To inhibit candida overgrowing, your ‘internal terrain’ needs to be improved as candida can only overgrow in an unhealthy one. Normalising your bowel habit is a great start. You should have at least one complete bowel movement a day.
Probiotics (the beneficial bacteria) come in many strains and some are more beneficial for people with candida overgrowth than others. Prebiotics such as arabinogalactans and slippery elm (these are both barks) help us produce good bowel flora and eating a high fibre diet (from vegetables) will help promote beneficial bowel bacteria. If leaky gut is a known, then there are certain D-lactate producing probiotics and fermented foods that should be avoided as they can further enhance the leaky gut. Green tea and grapeseed extracts inhibit the growth of organisms in the gut.
Low stomach acid or hypochlorydia can contribute to candida overgrowth. A good digestive enzyme complex with betaine hydrochloride will ensure you are digesting foods properly. Correcting the pH in the stomach, intestines and blood is important. A good diet and a good probiotic will influence this pH. Avoiding antacids (for example Quik–eze) and stomach acid blockers (such as Nexium or Losac) is imperative also as these will inhibit proper digestion of foods and alter the digestive pH.
The immune system needs to be supported to help fight candida. This may include taking vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and herbs such as Astragalus and Echinacea and maybe bovine colostrum, if tolerated. Reducing or avoiding stress and getting plenty of rest help your body fight the infection further.
As fighting candida needs a holistic and aggressive approach to be successful, I would recommend the help of a knowledgeable naturopath. I can be of such help. This also means you can monitor your progress and know how long to continue your treatment plan for. I have helped my patients with candida of over 15 years now with great success.
If you would like help, please book a phone or Skype consultations or if you are in South Australia you can visit me at my clinic in Glenelg South.
(1) The digestive and renal systems , Henry Osieki and Fiona Meeke, P134
HealthWorld Ltd/ Metagenics Protocols for candida
pH and our Microbial terrain part One Vanessa Hitch
You must have a healthy THYROID to have healthy hormones and metabolism, and for your cardiovascular system to be healthy. If you are over 40 or nearing menopause then be aware you need to have a healthy thyroid and adrenals to have a symptom free and healthy perimenopause and menopause. Women are more prone to thyroid conditions as they age. If your hormones are out of balance and/or if you have a difficult menstrual cycle, or are starting to put on weight , feel tired as you age, or are struggling with your hormonal issues through yours 30’s 40’s and 50’s…. then please consider looking after your thyroid…..it is such an important gland to be aware of and nourish for your hormones to be in balance ( along with your very important adrenal glands ) and for your overall health.
If you want a healthy thyroid …. You need to
· Have a healthy gut
· Have a healthy liver
· Have healthy adrenals
· Have a good nights sleep
· Eat healthy food
· Drink clean alkaline water with no fluoride or chlorine
And just as importantly you need to look at what can be causing the thyroid to not be functioning properly.
TOP 10 THING YOU MUST AVOID FOR A HEALTHY THYROID
1. HORMONES- in food such as dairy products, eggs and meats containing hormones
2. BAD FATS- Foods high in inflammatory fats (ie- fried, processed fats, margarines )
3. UFILTERED TAP WATER – fluoride and chlorine in water and traces of heavy metals
4. MEDICATIONS – antidepressants and hormone replacement therapy including the oral contraceptive pill
5. CHEMICALS AND TOXINS -Parabens and Phthalates in skin care, Chemicals in cleaning products and household products, fly sprays , pesticides, preservatives in foods
6. ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS – BPA, Phthalates and other endocrine disruptors in plastics, parabens and phthalates in skincare
7. GOITRAGENIC FOODS - Too many foods high in goitrogens IE;-unfermented soy, uncooked kale, cabbage and Brussel sprouts.
8. STRESS and negative emotions
9. HEAVY METALS - from pesticides, insecticides, light globes amalgam fillings, car fumes and industrial fumes.
10 . POOR GUT AND LIVER HEALTH - function both affect thyroid function
If you would like to know more, please check out my video here
Did you know we spend a third of our lives sleeping? And that if you don’t get enough of it, it will have detrimental effects to your health? Many people underestimate the importance of sleep. Some people sleep more than others. Some people claim they need lots of it and others don’t need much at all. Margaret Thatcher and Napoleon only had 4 hours sleep a night. That explains why they were a bit mad! Recent studies show that adults need approximately 8 hours sleep a night to stay healthy.
“Sleep is the great cycle of involutional restoration that heals the foundation of our mind, body and Soul” (2)
Many people come to me with fatigue and a large contributing factor is their lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep.
Sleep is a recuperative process. Sleep supports some of the following processes;
- Regulates metabolic processes which are chemical processes that maintain life
- Supports neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that carry signals to other cells in the body).
- Contributes to growth and development
- Temperature regulation
- Immune system responses
- learning and memory
Insomnia is loss of sleep from a difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep. Sleep loss is a very common complaint which many people do not take seriously.
The two types of insomnia are Sleep onset insomnia and Maintenance insomnia. Sleep onset insomnia is when there is a considerable delay in falling asleep. The average time for falling asleep is 25 minutes. Maintenance insomnia is when there are periods of waking up during the night or waking up too early.
Causes of insomnia.
Some causes of insomnia include;
- Noise and /or light pollution
- Allergies or food intolerances
- Alcohol excess
- Medications (ie; oral contraceptives, thyroxine, aspirin)
- High or low blood sugar levels
- Sleep apnoea (pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep)
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Over hydration at night
Over hydration at night
- Low iron levels
- Low brain levels of serotonin and melatonin.
- Stress and anxiety
- Hot flushes / night sweats
What happens with lack of sleep??
And acute or short term lack of sleep for 6 days can lead to increased production of the flight and fight hormones. This can lead to symptoms such as feeling anxious, tired, unhappy, nervous, difficultly in concentrating and not feeling confident.
Long term sleep loss contributes to development of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity and memory loss.
Long term lack of sleep affects the brains ability to function. This is part of the brain that controls the memory, planning and sense of time.
“With continued lack of sufficient sleep, the part of the brain that controls language, memory, planning and sense of time is severely affected, practically shutting down. In fact, 17 hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% (two glasses of wine). This is the legal drink driving limit in the UK.” (1)
Stages of Sleep
There are 5 stages of sleep;
Stage 1 is the interim between wakefulness and sleep
Stage 2 is 50 % of our total sleep time. This is the real sleep stage and is a lighter stage of sleep, where if the person is woken, they feel they were not asleep.
Stage 3 Is slow wave sleep. This is when the body makes repairs.
Stage 4 is slow wave sleep and is a deep slow wave sleep where our Body temperature and blood pressure decreases. Stages 3 and 4 cover about 20% of our total sleeping time.
Stage 5 is REM or rapid eye movement sleep. There is an increase in eye movement, heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and temperature. This is when most of your dreams occur.
Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is released in a rhythmic manner throughout the night. The peak level of melatonin is around 3 am. Apart from facilitating sleep is also acts as an antioxidant and regulates the core body temperature.
The average sleep duration amongst adults is 7.5 hours a night, give or take and hour either side. There are people who are outside this who are considered long sleepers if they sleep for more than 9 hours and short sleepers who sleep less than 6 hours.
Women and Sleep
The menstrual cycle has an effect on sleep. Oestrogens increase REM sleep, increase the time it can take you to go to sleep, causes more wakefulness and Increase total sleep time. Progesterone has a sedative effect and increases deep sleep. Low progesterone (and therefore oestrogen dominance can causes poor sleep in women.
During menopause hot flushes/night sweats can interrupt sleeping.
Long term lack of sleep in women can cause infertility, miscarriage, menstrual problems, low birth weight babies and premature labor.
Solutions for insomnia
Some rules for getting a good night’s sleep include;
- Maintain regular hours for sleep
- Exercise at least 6 hours prior to sleep
- In the mornings, expose yourself to bright light
- Treat stress and anxiety
- Avoid bright lights, computers and TV’s an hour prior to sleep
- Avoid mental or emotional stimulation before going to bed
- Engage in calming or relaxing activities prior to bed such as mediation
- Avoid caffeine
- Eating at the same time each day helps set the circadian clock
- Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, coffee and chocolate
- Avoid drinking excess fluids at night.
- Avoid napping during the day
- Avoid spicy, sugary, heavy foods 4-6 hours before bed.
Supplementation for insomnia and a better sleep
There are many herbal formulations which help with sleep onset and duration. These include passion flower, Zizyphus, magnolia, and valerian. Valerian is particularly effective when your brain won’t shut up! Just be aware that a small percentage of individuals become more aroused with this herb and it has the opposite effect.
Adenosine , which is a brain sleep molecule, increases deep sleep and may increase REM sleep. It is effective for stress related insomnia.
5-HTP or 5-hyrdoxytryptophan, is the precursor to serotonin and from serotonin we can produce melatonin.
Melatonin, is available in homeopathic and crude form . It can also be used for jet lag.
Magnesium, relaxes muscles and the nervous system and is affective if insomnia is due to stress, anxiety or restless legs.
GABA, (gamma aminobutyric acid) due to its relaxing effects it has been shown to reduce the time to get to sleep and increase length of quality deep sleep.
Treating the underlying cause of insomnia is an important factor. It is too important to ignore.
** Some of these are practitioner only supplements and need to be prescribed.
If you are having problems with sleep please contact me for a consultation!
Here is to your perfect slumber!
Science: Human Body and mind “what would happen if we didn’t sleep’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/articles/whatissleep.shtml
1.P 53 ‘So what is sleep’ Sleep, health and consciousness a physician’s guide. Reza Samvat and Henry Osieki.
Encyclopedia of natural medicine – Michael Murray pp 602-608
The Nervous system, Henry Osieki, Fiona Meeke, Jennifer Smith, pp 83-90