Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, plays a crucial role in maintaining health. But to be effective, circulating levels must be maintained in a fairly narrow range. If levels dip much below optimal, signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue occur. Any lower and the situation can become life threatening.
If levels climb and remain above optimal for a period of time, signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome appear. And if they get too high, Cushings syndrome manifests.
The level of circulating cortisol in the healthy body remains between 15 and 24 mcg/dL, producing 20-25 mg of cortisol over a 24-hour period. These optimal circulating levels carry in a diurnal pattern, with low being at approximately 4:30 a.m. and high occurring 30 to 45 minutes after rising or at approximately 7 a.m. There is also a mid-afternoon low sometime between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., which usually lasts between 15 minutes and two hours.
The following are common signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
1) Morning fatigue: difficulty getting up and going without caffeine or other stimulants.
2) Mid-morning low: often compensated for by more caffeine plus sugar with fat. (e.g. coffee and donuts)
3) Afternoon low: typically experienced between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
4) Energy improves substantially after around 6 p.m.
5) Sleepiness may occur around 9:30 p.m.
6) A second wind occurring around 11 p.m., lasting until 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.
7) Sleeping in about two hours beyond usual rising time is more refreshing.
8) Feeling run down and exhausted most of the day.
9) Sleep disturbances
10) Getting sick more often and taking longer to recover from illness and other stresses.
11) Decreased libido
These symptoms can be addressed through stress management , lifestyle modifications, food choices, dietary supplements and homeopathy.