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you know the saying sleeping with the enemy well you may want to snuggle up and get nice and cozy with cortisol because even though that we look at cortisol is a bad thing you may want to buddy up with it because I’m going to show you a thing or two about how cortisol is really your friend when it comes down to actually making it so you can perform at your best let’s get down to the science of the adrenals and let’s get down to the science of stress in cortisol what I want to talk about today is how stress directly impacts cortisol and how high cortisol levels affect you and how high cortisol levels ultimately turn into low cortisol levels which cause even more damage and then lastly at the end of this video I’m going to give you the main three causes of adrenal fatigue that directly have to do with your cortisol levels but first and foremost we have to understand what happens when we are under stress see it starts when we get stressed out our brain sends signals to a small gland that sits above the kidneys known as the adrenal gland and that adrenal gland produces a lot of different catecholamines okay it produces a lot of different hormones but for the sake of argument today we’re just going to talk about three the first one that it produces is adrenaline we all know what adrenaline is but what we don’t really realize is that adrenaline really focuses on just a couple of things adrenaline is the fight or flight hormone response okay it’s the job of adrenaline to get you amped up to get you that initial surge of energy that you need to get a job done then there’s another catecholamine or hormone released and that’s called norepinephrine now norepinephrine and adrenaline are very very similar but norepinephrine job is more so to give you alertness okay its job is to actually divert blood away from the organs and get you blood to where you need it right out the gate then when we’re stressed out the third hormone that the adrenals produce is cortisol this is the one that we all hear about the one that we really don’t give enough credit to because it’s really more good than it is bad it’s really our own fault that it turns bad what cortisol does is deliver glucose to the cells that the cells can have energy so when you get stressed out it’s like a three-part equation adrenaline gets you that initial surge you can ride on adrenaline it’s like a fake energy that you get for a little bit it’s like artificial okay norepinephrine diverts the blood away from the organs out to the cells out to the extremities then as a result of the norepinephrine carrying the blood away the cortisol increases blood glucose levels so the cortisol increases the sugar in the blood Stan norepinephrine you can move the blood to get to the cells in your extremities so that you can burn the glucose and have energy to run away or fight or whatever you need to do so you’re not getting blood flow to your brain that’s for sure okay so let’s talk a little bit about how this cortisol actually works in your body though cortisol also slows down other functions in the body so it’s gonna slow down your digestion it’s gonna slow down your immune system it’s gonna slow down your reproductive system and the whole purpose of that is to make sure that your body is only focusing on what’s important at a very given point in time you don’t need to be focusing on having sex when you are running from a tiger but you can see how if we have chronically high levels of cortisol that’s not good it’s gonna make our immune system suppressed it’s gonna make it so we’re not digesting food it’s gonna make it so we don’t have a sex drive it’s gonna make it so our brain doesn’t function well well believe it or not having a high level of cortisol isn’t really the problem it actually comes down to having lower levels of cortisol which is called hypo cortisol now when you have low levels of cortisol it’s a direct result of having high levels of cortisol for too long of a period of time now there’s a couple of different reasons behind why you might ultimately end up with low cortisol but most of them are pretty much hypothesized we don’t really know a solid way that this is happening or solid reasoning but it’s been shown in a few studies to have to do with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis which is the communication between the pituitary and the adrenals when your cortisol levels are super high for an extended period of time you start to wear out that axis so the brain no longer gets a chance to really communicate with the adrenals very well now we have to remember that cortisol is also all about homeostasis you see we always give course all this bad name like we always think it’s just terrible but in reality when cortisol goes up other hormones go down when cortisol goes down other hormones go up you see it’s always just a balancing act and course always a lot more cortisol can weigh down and cause other hormones to go way up and when it’s up the other hormones go way down so you can see how if cortisol levels are elevated then it’s throwing off that balance but if cortisol levels are low it’s also throwing off that balance you see cortisol really holds the power to keep our body in a positive state as well too so if we have it too low it’s just as bad as if it’s too high but why exactly does cortisol get low and why is it almost worse than having cortisol it’s too high well you see high cortisol levels over an extended period of time will cause brain damage they can actually cause your brain to not function very well now a couple of doctors Hellhammer and Wade actually did a study a few years ago and they found that very much so cortisol did affect the brain so they saw that it was actually a down regulation process to protect the brain when cortisol levels were high for extended periods of time eventually the body steps in and says wait a minute this is gonna start becoming damaging to the brain and we almost like have this physiology built in that tells us it is bad to be stressed out we shouldn’t be stressed out that much now the other thing we have to look at is corticotropin-releasing factored down regulation now that is a big mouthful to say corticotropin-releasing factor is actually a component of cortisol in and of itself you see we have different CRF receptors on all of our cells and we have cortisol levels are elevated for extended period of time we end up having what is known as down regulation it’s basically where these receptors that are used to receiving cortisol get so used to receiving cortisol that they no longer receive it anymore so therefore the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis isn’t receiving the cortisol like it should but what happens then well because it’s not receiving the cortisol that it normally would it actually becomes very sensitive to cortisol so you have this axis that’s completely thrown off so then when you do get stressed out the brain overcompensates and produces too much cortisol at any given point in time so you have these big spikes and these big crashes that’s why once you become a stressed out person they say you have a short fuse because it really does happen you end up developing a quicker stress response because the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the corticotropin-releasing factor down regulation is absolutely screwing you over all right now let’s talk real quick the basics what is causing all of this and this is simple I don’t have to spend a lot of time on this the biggest one is emotional stress okay and it’s how we perceive that stress studies have shown that our perception of stress dictates what levels of cortisol are released so that means if you’re excited or you’re really getting ambitious about something and you’re releasing cortisol because you’re excited it’s going to have a different effect on your brain it’s gonna have a different effect on your CRF receptors then it would if you are negatively stressed out for some kind of emotional trauma we can’t always avoid emotional trauma but we can control how we react to it and that’s the big thing if we can control how we react to emotional trauma we can control how long our poor salt levels stay elevated because if there’s anything that you’re learning from this video it’s that cortisol level should not be elevated for too long of a period of time okay the next big one is sleep sleep resets our corticotropin releasing factor regulation basically it makes it so that your body can respond to cortisol better remember you don’t want to not have a response to cortisol you want to have a good response to cortisol so adequate sleep is gonna make a big big impact on this and believe it or not you can catch up on sleep studies have shown that if you actually catch up on sleep one day per week and get a few extra hours you can actually recap and help some of the neuroplasticity and help some of the receptors simply by catching up on sleep lastly the big one is sugar okay remember how I mentioned that cortisol works directly with glucose okay well glucose also works directly with cortisol every time we get a major sugar high and we have that massive amount of inflammation coming in the body it skews our brain’s ability to communicate with the adrenal glands and if there’s anything again that you’re learning from this video it’s that access that communication between the pituitary and the adrenals that is so important inflammation clouds the phone line the phone line doesn’t work well which means the brain can’t send the signal which means the signal isn’t getting to the adrenals and the adrenals aren’t producing enough cortisol and therefore you’re ending up in that hypo corticoid state where you’re in trouble now I know this isn’t the answer to all of your problems one of the biggest things that you can start doing is making sure that you’re getting enough potassium enough sodium enough magnesium and keeping track of your minerals because that’s the biggest way they’re gonna be able to help out your body produce enough of the cortical minerals than it needs to produce the aldosterone them needs to produce and of course the norepinephrine and the adrenaline so I know I’ve thrown a lot of terminology at you but as always I want to give you the science and I want to help you understand what’s gonna work for you keep it locked in here in my channel and I’ll see you in the next video
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Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue? Top 3 Causes – Thomas DeLauer
What do the Adrenal Glands Do?
Your adrenal glands are two small, walnut-sized endocrine glands situated on top of your kidneys.
Your adrenal glands are made up of two parts: the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla.
The adrenal cortex is responsible for producing vital hormones, including cortisol, hydrocortisone, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen.
Corticosteroid hormones are one class of hormones produced by the adrenal cortex.
When you experience a stressor, your hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) which stimulates adrenal corticotropic hormone (ACTH) release from the pituitary gland. ACTH is what queues the adrenal glands to produce these hormones.
The hormones released by the adrenal medulla are released after the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and include epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, and norepinephrine.
Hormones and the Natural Stress Response
When we experience stress, our brain sends signals and hormones are released.
Adrenaline, commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight hormone, plays a part in the immediate response to stress – think fast heart rate, sweating, breathing heavily, tightening muscles, and boosted energy and focus.
Norepinephrine is involved as well at this initial stress response moment. This hormone plays a similar role and helps to increase how alert and aware you are, as well as helping to shift blood away from areas not crucial to the immediate response to stress and to areas like our muscles.
Next, often minutes following the stress, cortisol kicks in.
Cortisol increases glucose in the bloodstream for immediate energy needs, enhances the brain’s use of glucose, and plays a role in boosting substances that repair tissues.
Cortisol also slows down functions not considered essential in a fight-or-flight situation. These include suppressing digestion, reproductive system, growth processes, and immune response.
Cortisol is known to impact brain regions that control feat, motivation, and mood.
Following a stressor, our hormone levels return to normal. This reduces the effects of these hormones on our bodies – think about it – we don’t want impaired immune system function, digestion, and blood sugar continuously.
Chronic stress can lead to our bodies eventually not producing enough of these hormones. The exact mechanisms here are still being studied, however research emphasizes the importance of cortisol regulation and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the regulation of the cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, vascular, and neurologic systems (1).
How Chronic Stress may Lead to Hypocortisolism
Current theories on how chronic stress could lead to hypocortisolism include:
1. Protecting Our Brain:
Elevated cortisol levels for extended periods of time can damage the brain.
Hellhammer and Wade have hypothesized that, in situations where the HPA axis has been over-active for long periods and there has been excess cortisol secretion, that the body may over-compensate by reducing the levels of cortisol such that hypocortisolism may occur in order to protect the brain (1).
2. Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Receptor Downregulation
In animal studies it has been found that excess release of CRF can lead to downregulation of CRF receptors at the pituitary gland.
It is postulated that prolonged cortisol release may lead to an increase in the sensitivity of the HPA axis to cortisol and negative feedback controls, leading to hypocortisolism.
While the mechanisms are still being researched, chronic stress is tied to hypocortisolism and a wide variety of diseases, so understand what leads to adrenal fatigue and how to combat it are important for everyday health and wellbeing.
1) Hypocortisolism: an evidence-based review
2) What is Cortisol
3) Chronic stress puts your health at risk
4) Adrenal Responses to Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from
5) Allen LV Jr. (n.d.). Adrenal fatigue. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from
6) Physical activity and environmental influences on adrenal fatigue of Saudiadults: biochemical analysis and questionnaire survey. (n.d.). Retrieved from /