By: Jonathan Tait, D.O.
It is rare that a patient shows up for their initial consult and tells me that their energy levels are through the roof, they sleep soundly, and they’re sharp as a tack throughout their work day.
In fact, I usually hear quite the opposite. Unfortunately the remedies most patients turn to are quick fix energy supplements and drinks. If you search “energy supplements” online you will get over 39,000,000 pages.
Simple enough. Low energy. Can’t focus. Just pick up your favorite energy boosting pill, powder, or liquid energy shot, down it, and bam – problem solved.
What you may not realize is that when your body is chronically exposed to high-stress situations, as it is for most people in our “always on” lifestyle, and we couple that with less than your best effort to maintain a healthy diet, exercise, and the right amount of sleep, it can take a tremendous toll on your body.
Especially on one particular set of glands in the body that help regulate some very key hormones responsible for you feeling naturally energetic – the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands sit right on top of the kidneys and are responsible for secreting cortisol in a natural and timely rhythm. You may have heard of this already, it is called the circadian rhythm. A couple more fun facts about the adrenal glands – they have one of the highest rates of blood flow per gram of tissue, and the highest content of vitamin C per gram of any tissue in the body.
The adrenal glands have an outer portion, or cortex, that accounts for 80-90% of the weight of the gland and is responsible for production of adrenal steroids including cortisol, DHEA-S, aldosterone, and other sex hormones. The inner portion of the gland, or medulla, compromises 10-20% of the gland and produces catecholamines including adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. Cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline are the three main adrenal stress hormones.
DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is key in the regulation and balance of sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone), so abnormal production or rhythm can obviously negative impact your sex drive, as well as energy and maintenance of a healthy body composition.
Cortisol is usually referred to as the main “stress hormone”. Levels should typically peak in the morning to get you going with a little pep in your step, and then taper off towards the end of the day to allow you to quickly fall asleep and sleep soundly throughout the night.
Cortisol and adrenaline can be released as a natural response during stressful situations to help boost your energy and focus. This is sometimes referred to as the fight or flight response. Normally this is a short-lived response. Cortisol levels that remain elevated due to chronic stressful situations can have a catabolic effect, wearing the body systems down. This can also seen in athletes with chronic over training, not allowing their bodies time to adapt and recover from the stressful demands of their sport.
What most people don’t know is that when you skip or delay meals, or have even a couple of nights of disrupted or shortened sleep patterns, the natural rhythm of cortisol production can be turned upside down.
Abnormal cortisol levels can have widespread effects on your body and can contribute to a wide range of negative health conditions.
Is this test right for you? It is if you suffer from any of the following:
Optimizing adrenal function and cortisol levels can positively impact your health in a number of ways:
The Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) is a simple non-invasive saliva test that can be used to evaluate the health of the adrenal glands, and the effects of stress on your body.
This test is covered by many insurance plans and is quite affordable if not. Results are usually received within 1-2 weeks. Treatment will typically involve balancing the peaks and valleys of cortisol production throughout the day with appropriate dietary recommendations and supplements, not pharmaceutical medications.
If you are feeling fatigued, stressed out, or just flat out run down despite your best efforts to get healthier, sleep better, and take care of yourself, contact us to get an appointment and see how this quick and easy test can help you make tomorrow a better day than today – without that $5 everyday afternoon pick me up.