Suzy has been seeing her physician for the last 6 months. She’s been complaining of too much stress and anxiety to handle. It must be from that nasty fight she had with her husband a while ago that made them decide to try a trial separation.
Her doctor decided to prescribe Zoloft to treat the anxiety and depression.
But in those 6 months, her emotions have not gotten any better. She also noticed that her pants are too tight – even though she has been disciplined to follow her strict diet… no sugar or junk food for this gal!
Strange things are still happening to Suzy, though. One of the newest problems is that she wakes up at night with pretty bad neck pain. And, that pain is getting so much worse that she often pops Ibuprofen while at work to help make it through the day.
During Suzy’s last doctor visit, she mentioned the expanding waistline and neck problems to him. His reply was “there’s no connection… I’m sure it’s temporary and I’ll go away as soon as you life settles down”.
Was he right? Of course not!
Welcome to the world of wacky hormones and how to get them back under control. The hormone we’re talking about is Cortisol.
Cortisol is a Great Hormone to Combat Stress
Take a guess what causes up to 80% of all doctor visits – and causes 50% of all diseases. It’s stress!
It’s no secret that we are all stressed these days. Finances, jobs, relationships, social media, watching the news… the list of stress triggers is endless. Most of us find that their are stress levels are high and stay there almost continuously.
That’s not the way the human body was designed to work. We need breaks from the stress – just like in the “good old” days.
Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands to combat stress. It gets the body ready for the “fight or flight” response that everyone seems to know… like when a burglar breaks into a home and the owner pulls out a gun to defend themselves.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO A BODY USING CORTISOL…
Cortisol is a hormone released by the outer part of the adrenal glands (cortex) in response to stress. It’s how the body gets ready for extreme action… that should only last for a few minutes.
Here what happens:
- Blood sugar levels go up. The muscles need this sugar as fuel to respond to the severe stress.
- It causes the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) from the center of the adrenal gland (medulla) to give you more strength.
- The body breaks down fats, proteins and carbohydrates in a process called Gluconeogenesis to get more sugar into the bloodstream.
- Your digestion slows down or stops completely.
- Cortisol is a natural anti-inflammatory so you heal quicker after the stress is over.
- It acts as a natural pain-killer.
- If it says high for too long, it causes blood sugar dysregulation which leads to “muffin top” or a rubber tire for the gut as well as diabetes.
Please note that points 5 and 6 point out the fact that Cortisol is very useful in treating chronic neck pain. Or, said another way, when Cortisol levels plummet, the neck pain often gets worse!
This is one of the things that Suzy (remember her?) was complaining of! So when her doctor says that there is no connection between stress and pain, he is just plain wrong!
Suzy’s Cortisol levels are probably plummeting based on her symptoms, but why?
EVER HEAR OF ADRENAL FATIGUE?
The idea of “Adrenal Fatigue” means that the adrenal glands can’t keep pumping out high levels of Cortisol forever. In effect, they become “tired”… and over time the Cortisol levels decrease drastically.
Since Cortisol is a “feel-good” hormone, people with this problem start to feel lousy. Sometimes they self-medicate with gobs of caffeine or tons of sugar in an attempt to keep going. Others (like Suzy) seek out help from their doctor. Most often, the doctor can find nothing wrong and tells them “it’s all in the head”.
Truly, the levels of Cortisol are dependent upon more than just the adrenal glands – so the term “adrenal fatigue” is a misnomer. The correct way to explain Cortisol levels is using the Hypothalamus – Pituitary Gland – Adrenal Gland connection (also called the HPA axis in functional medicine). In many cases of low Cortisol, the adrenal glands may be working just fine, but are not getting the proper signals from the rest of the HPA axis.
And just to make things even more complicated, the Cortisol levels change throughout the day. It follows our Circadian Rhythms and diurnal patterns and is supposed to be highest 30 minutes after awakening and lowest 3 – 4 hours after going to bed.
An ideal Cortisol pattern should look like this:
In this chart the “X’s” are the highest normal levels, the “O’s” are the lowest normal level and the black dots (which are in the normal level) are the person’s test results.
Someone with chronically low Cortisol will have test results like this:
A different way of looking at Cortisol levels over time is to look at the general pattern that happens when a body stays under stress for long periods of time.
The Cortisol output starts out normal, like kids have…known as the Adaptation Stage. As stress comes chronic, Cortisol levels increase dramatically and can stay high for many years (the Acute Phase), then tails off through the Compensatory Phase to the Exhaustion Phase. If the levels get low enough, death usually follows:
TESTING OF CORTISOL LEVELS IS EASY!
The test consists of collecting 4 saliva samples spaced out during the day in a test tube – sending it to the lab – and getting your results in about 10 days. That’s it! It’s easy and inexpensive. Truth be told, usually a more comprehensive saliva panel is run to check the levels of 7 different hormones.
That’s because, if Cortisol levels are screwed up, the levels of the other hormones are probably screwed up too.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HORMONES LEVELS ARE CORRECTED?
If hormones are out of whack, it’s impossible to feel good. That’s when patients have their doctors’ run “tests”… and usually the doctor can find nothing wrong.
How can that be? Simple… most allopathic physicians are not trained to diagnose these kinds of hormone problems. One of my recent clients went to his doctor with the name of the test to run (I gave it to him) and his doctor had to Google the phrase. He had never even heard of the test… so of course refused to run it and said it’s “not important”.
So, if the doctor can’t find the cause of feeling lousy, don’t just take a prescription from him that probably won’t help at all.
Get the problem fixed. You’ll have:
- More energy
- Less pain
- Better weight control
- Less anxiety
- Better sleep
- Better results in the gym
- More fun in the bedroom
Seek out the help of an experienced, certified Functional Medicine Practitioner. In as little as 3 – 4 months, say “welcome” to the new you.
PS: I’m offering a free 30 minute no-obligation consultation to discuss issues like this. Just go to www.stopneckpainnaturally.com and click on “Get One-On-One Help”.
See ya on the other side!