Adrenal fatigue is a functional medical condition that is often misdiagnosed, misunderstood or ignored all together.Typically diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue is typically seen on blood or hormone tests with low cortisol or high cortisol.
There are numerous outward symptoms of adrenal fatigue such as constant restlessness, lack of energy, decreased sexual performance, poor sleep and an overall feeling of not being well.
Of all the medical tests associated with adrenal fatigue, low cortisol or high cortisol is a clear indicator of adrenal fatigue. It depends on where your cortisol is and at what time of day.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is implicated in in your mood, drive and pleasure systems. Cortisol drives your “fight or flight” system including controlling your inflammation, managing your blood pressure, decreasing blood sugar and maintaining a healthy stress response.
When you don’t eat enough, when you stay up too late, when you train too hard or when you are overly stressed, your body releases cortisol as a low grade adrenaline and releases stored muscle glycogen and raises your blood sugar. Other hormones respond as well, your testosterone decreases, insulin rises and thyroid hormone is stressed. (1)
When this is a constant cycle, now we have adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue With Low Cortisol In The Morning
Cortisol is low grade adrenaline, it is suppose to wake you up gradually. If you’re in a constant state of brain fog and require a pot of coffee and a bunch of sugar to wake up in the morning, this is clearly an adrenal fatigue symptom.
Start by assessing the quality of your sleep, specifically the final few hours before bed. If you're obsessed with your phone and staring at social media often, you’re not going to recover properly.
Vitamin B5 is closely linked to adrenal health and can actually raise morning cortisol (2).
Rhodiola is another herb that is closely linked to cortisol health especially stabilizing cortisol levels and I include it in The Physique Formula Adrenal Support (3)
Adrenal Fatigue With Low Cortisol At Night
If your hormone panels show low cortisol at night, I’m not too concerned. Cortisol is suppose to decrease at night so your body can produce melatonin and get you into a deep sleep. You can further augment good sleep patterns with Physique Formula Magnesium Glycinate.
Adrenal Fatigue With High Cortisol In The Morning
As long as your blood and hormone tests reveal cortisol that is closer to the high end of normal cortisol in the morning, then that’s fine. Your cortisol is suppose to rise in the morning to wake you up.
Adrenal Fatigue With High Cortisol At Night
High cortisol at night is a big issue. While it is largely linked to too much social media, too much blue light from technology and our culture that is always “on”, you want to manage cortisol at night with diet and lifestyle first.
Start by reducing your exposure to light and technology upwards of two hours before bedtime. (4)
Assess your diet. Your aim should be to consume healthy fats and protein before bed. I favor honey as a slow releasing carbohydrate source before bed.
I think eating too late at night also impairs sleep quality as it kick starts digestion that is actually a stress response. Less is more.
Adrenal fatigue is a functional condition that many people understand they live with regardless of testing. Aim to improve your sleep quality, healthy eating habits, proper supplementation and relaxation to manage your adrenal fatigue with low or high cortisol.