If you often feel tired, you cannot rest as well as you’d like, you wake up tired, become drowsy after meals, or find it hard to fall asleep in the evening when you feel like taking that nap, I recommend you read the following.
Cortisol affects the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins . If there is an excess of cortisol production (overproduction), over time this can cause metabolic disorders and other problems. Cortisol is catabolic in nature that breaks (“destroys”) things. In addition, cortisol is a “glycemic” hormone in the sense that it can increase the levels of blood sugar in various ways, such as the production of glucose in the liver (gluconeogenesis). Cortisol can also reduce the ability to utilize glucose by peripheral tissues. In fact, it’s possible for cortisol to act as an anti-insulin, inhibiting its production.
The Pathway for Producing Cortisol
The hypothalamus throws out the corticotropin-releasing hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland (pituitary) to produce ACTH, which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.
Inflammation and infection
Because of the impact of inflammation and infections on the production of cortisol, input signals are sent in the presence of hypothalamus neurochemical profile and cytokines. These are useful to determine the output signals of cortisol. An excess of input blockers or liberators profoundly impacts important effect producing a “limiting”. There are two ways in which this interference can result in a dysfunction of the adrenal cortex: cortisol producing too much or not enough.
As we mentioned above, cortisol is a catabolic hormone. It is common to see patients with blood glucose levels quite high (pre-diabetic) Slimming continuously (with malabsorption problems) or that otherwise fail to gain weight in spite of balanced and nutritious diets.
The adrenal glands
Stress and adrenal fatigue are often mentioned, thinking that the adrenal glands are directly responsible for this fatigue, when in fact it is often the case.
The problem is in the brain mechanisms. This dysfunction lies in a defective signaling system to the adrenal glands or integration into a bad adrenal rhythm (cortisol).
The adrenal glands are “only” a factory that does what they’re ordered to do by the brain.
These are the four areas of the brain that are involved in the regulation of adrenal functions:
- Hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal access: virtually controls the amount of cortisol produced at any time of the day or night
- Hippocampus: controls and regulates the rhythms of cortisol (circadian rhythms)
- Midbrain (or “average brain”), a rather primitive part of the brain
- Pineal gland that (in simple words) controls the balance between cortisol and melatonin
The 3 stages of adrenal dysfunction are:
- Alarmed reaction (elevated cortisol and DHEA): adrenal glands become overactive to increase cortisol levels to adapt to the presence of stress
- stage of resistance (high cortisol and low DHEA): this occurs in response to prolonged stress as the body “steals” pregnenolone from cholesterol to produce more cortisol. Normally, pregnenolone helps produce sex hormones such as progesterone and testosterone. As a result of “stolen pregnenolone”, you experience hormonal imbalances (commonly infertility, male menopause, and polycystic ovary syndrome).
- exhaustion phase (low cortisol and low DHEA): at this point the adrenals are exhausted and can no longer adapt to stress. The co-factors needed to produce cortisol are missing and the levels decrease, too. Because the adrenal glands fail to produce enough cortisol, the cycle of “stolen pregnenolone” stops.
What are the potential causes of adrenal exhaustion?
- infection or inflammation (with consequent reduction of the output signals of the hypothalamus)
- abrupt cessation of prolonged administration of steroids
- low levels of cholesterol (for use of statins, for example)
- autoimmune problems
- Chronic stress (from unbalanced diets with excessive consumption of sugar, over-training, too much caffeine, etc.)
Adrenal Fatigue, paleo diets, and gluconeogenesis
When there is adrenal fatigue and gluconeogenesis is impaired in the liver, those who have adrenal fatigue and first follow a paleo diet (or even worse, an Atkins diet) will make it hard if they don’t take the necessary steps at this stage to support the adrenal glands.
What not to do in these cases:
- skipping breakfast
- make a breakfast of carbohydrates
- skip meals
- fast (including intermittent fasting )
- consume carbohydrates upon waking and before going to bed (even fruit )
- undergo intense efforts or over-training
- consume cereals and gluten
- consume legumes
- consume starchy-like potatoes (even sweet)
- consume refined products in any form rich in sugar and preservatives
- consume a vegetarian or vegan diet (which will inevitably be based on carbohydrates)
Dysfunction of the circadian rhythm of cortisol
This is the most common adrenal dysfunction. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that mitigates our stress where there are the largest deposits of cortisol receptors.
The hippocampus was not “designed” to respond continuously to stress, but to do it when you really need it to (when facing a serious problem or trauma). What happens to many of us today is that we live continually in this state of stress where the hippocampus is called into action at any time of the day or night without (almost) never remain in a state of relaxation.
This is quite dangerous because cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which “destroys” and does not regenerate.
This part of the brain is responsible for short and long memory, which helps us to learn, and is also the first part of the brain that destroys Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The symptoms resulting from a dysfunction of the circadian rhythm are:
- difficulty getting to sleep
- trouble staying awake
- energy dips during the afternoon or at odd hours of the day
- difficulty getting up in the morning
- problems with memory and learning
If this situation continues over time, it can also lead to developing cardiovascular disease, or gastrointestinal problems because these activities (circadian rhythm) are very important for coordinating intestinal motility. They are also important to coordinate and regulate immune function.
The possible causes of the degeneration of the hippocampus are:
- chronic stress
- excess sugar / starch in the diet (dysglycemia)
- chronic neuroinflammation due to the presence of antigens (gluten, for example)
- indigestion that leads to vitamin B deficiency and high homocysteine levels (and inflammation)
- deficiency of omega-3
Activating the pineal and melatonin
Melatonin and cortisol are always in opposition to one another. If melatonin increases, cortisol decreases. If cortisol increases, melatonin decreases.
The pineal gland produces melatonin, which is influenced by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (which regulates the circadian rhythm). In most cases it is cortisol that disrupts the production of melatonin due to hyperactivity (typical of modern times).
A disturbed sleep undermines this balance that limits the long-term immune function.This imbalance may depend on various reasons. It may be seasonal, or it can develop in people who do not expose themselves to enough sunlight (working all day in the office with artificial lights).
Pineal dysfunction may then cause the metabolic syndrome (weight issues). That’s why adequate sleep is vital to our health.
Obviously if you are deficient in melatonin, sleep will be quite disturbed and this will result in the inability to dream during the resting phase (REM sleep). As a result, the immune system will weaken (you get sick more often).
Theoretically, melatonin stimulates the immune system, as it is pro-inflammatory in nature (while cortisol is anti-inflammatory in nature). Neither is better than the rest, melatonin and cortisol must maintain a constant balance for everything to run smoothly.
What impact will the administration of oral melatonin have on our endocrine system?
Whenever you assume an endogenous hormone, we’re messing up the system of feedback and communication. Every time we take hormones, they are actively sabotaging the integrity of the hypothalamic-pituitary. If you take melatonin occasionally, perhaps to overcome the time zone difference when travelling, it is not much of a problem. Whoever might take these on a regular basis is likely to create significant damage to their internal communication system.