March 7, 2014 at 12:02 am #15731
Since eating more calories, saturated fat, salt, sugar, carbs, etc. etc., my thyroid function has improved, yay! My T4 and T3 are in pretty optimal ranges. But my 24hr urine hormone panel showed that my cortisol is really high, definitely out of range. I’m being sent to an endocrinologist for further tests, like for Cushing’s and other things. But what else could be causing high cortisol?? And what else could I do about it?
And it’s strange that my thyroid function is good; I thought if the adrenals are stressed, that affects the thyroid.March 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm #15745AshleyParticipant
I haven’t been tested, but I have symptoms of high cortisol. I started taking rhodiola and it definitely seems to work. The first couple of days it made me really tired and not hungry, then I seemed to level out. It keeps me from starving all the time (but believe me, I still eat plenty, probably 2,400-2,800 calories a day or more on days I work hard).March 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm #15912
Thanks, I will look into rhodiola. What do you mean by ‘it keeps you from starving all the time’?March 19, 2014 at 2:05 am #15963TeddyOParticipant
High levels of stress, mental, emotional, physical, lack of sleep, etc can all contribute to high cortisol…esp if no recovery.March 19, 2014 at 11:24 pm #15982corktreeParticipant
I recently had test results come back with very high cortisol and normal thyroid levels as well. I was having very typical symptoms to go with it; waking up with racing heartbeat at 3am every morning, crashing temps and shaking after eating well, phenomenal weight gain…
Here’s my story (short as I can make it) and why I think there is hope even with high cortisol:
The thing is, this is the third time in three years that I am attempting to follow Matt’s advice to full recovery. Both of the other two times, I had very predictable results. My temps and weight steadily went up, my low thyroid symptoms went down, and I felt better, but couldn’t stand the extra weight and the stupid fear of judgement that people thought I wasn’t healthy if I wasn’t thin, so I inevitably went back to intermittent fasting and restricting sugar (and wheat, and potatoes, and rice, etc.) to lose weight (though I maintained a WAPF diet otherwise).
So this time, I was gaining weight anyway, despite restrictions, due to the already high cortisol from recent stresses, so I decided to try again to see it through without reservations or backtracking …with very different results than the past two attempts.
Basically, I was reacting exactly how Matt describes in his new book on hypoglycemia (thank you Freebruary!), and I read it just as I was about to give up because eating was making me feel like crap. The explanation of idiopathic postprandial syndrome described my reactions to a tee, and gave me the reassurance to keep going despite feeling like eating previously warming foods was making me colder than ever (like crashing down to 94.8 after eating anything) So…I kept chugging along, force feeding myself at times when I knew my adrenaline and cortisol were about to spike, and slowly but surely, over the last month or less, I’ve seen a lot of improvements that tell me I’m back on the right track. I’ve stopped crashing after meals, I’m not waking up at night anymore, I fall asleep easier, my temps are stabilizing throughout the day in addition to remaining higher in the mornings. My hair has stopped falling out in handfuls, and I’m much more patient and less reactive with my children and stressful situations. I still get that fight or flight feeling in my stomach that shuts everything down on the occasions when I’m confronted with my current stressor, but I’m hopeful that with more time and de-stressing like yoga and meditation, and not stressing my body with dieting, that I will get to where I want to be, and I’m finally ready to accept that it may take more than months to reverse what I, like so many, have caused over the course of many years.
So, I think with high stress hormones, the short term recovery may look a little different, and it may take a little longer to see positive gains, but the plan is the same and can have the same long term results? Still hoping at least. Oh, and I have been taking Gaia’s adrenal support for 2 years now with mostly amazing results. My only complaint is that if I ever miss a dose, I get very rage-y and it’s difficult to control my anger and reaction response. I’m told it’s not addictive and that I shouldn’t have dependency issues, but it’s a bit disconcerting. I suspect it’s the rhodiola in it and not the holy basil or ashwaghanda, but not positive. I just plan to take it as long as I’m working toward recovery.March 20, 2014 at 6:46 am #15987hazmattParticipant
Great post corktreeMarch 21, 2014 at 2:34 am #16004TeddyOParticipant
Aside from the Gaia product what to you do to manage the stress and try to allow the adrenals to heal/recover?March 21, 2014 at 11:11 pm #16008corktreeParticipant
Yoga, meditation, avoidance of major current stressors, and just simplifying in general. I’ve let a lot of things slide lately for the sake of getting my cortisol down. But I don’t believe, and neither does my naturopath, that my adrenals need healing yet, because they haven’t burned out (they’re still chugging away pumping out the “good” stuff) I haven’t had symptoms of adrenal fatigue because I think in general, I’m good at managing everyday stresses and I’ve been proactive with things like herbal support for the last few years. But my stress levels went way up recently due to things I could no longer ignore or control.
Anyway, I just realized I neglected to address the main poster’s questions, that my naturopath had an interesting explanation for. I originally went in for extensive testing because I was having major hormonal ups and downs, most notably that I was menstruating every two weeks. But all of my tests except for ferritin, hemoglobin, vitamin d and cortisol came back normal. Her take on my symptoms (aside from clearly needing more iron and sunshine) was that my hormones were no longer being accepted effectively, which in my understanding, is something that can happen with thyroid hormone especially.
Basically, when cortisol is elevated for too long, the tissues stop responding or being sensitive enough to thyroid hormones (as well as estrogen, progesterone, insulin, testosterone, and even cortisol itself), even if the production is still optimal and circulating according to tests. So you can have dysfunction even with optimal test results. I don’t fully understand yet how higher calorie, carb, and saturated fat intake makes tissues more sensitive to hormones, but I’m assuming that’s what’s going on if symptoms are improved, which mine definitely were, and in the face of little more than dietary changes.
So, maybe it does or doesn’t need to be said that you can have cortisol issues without adrenal fatigue (though it doesn’t mean that isn’t where you’re headed) and that stress, in any form; physical, mental, emotional, is a primary factor to consider when trying to address it. Food will help with symptoms and will help keep you afloat and maybe give you enough of a break to de-stress, but I don’t think it will fix the underlying problem, unless the only cause of your stress was food in the first place, or a secondary but related physical issue. For me, relationship stress raises my cortisol higher than anything else, and I know in therapy circles, that is commonly the case. But certainly not always.
Also, my naturopath has me on high dose ashwagandha in addition to my usual support dose to help my body regulate the cortisol levels. So that may be helping a little as well. Supposed to help with the mental symptoms such as memory lapses and concentration.April 6, 2014 at 3:01 pm #16127
Thanks for your responses. corktree that was really helpful. I have to have more hormone testing done so I can’t take any supplements like ashwagandha, rhodiola, etc. that may affect cortisol, but they will definitely be something to consider in the future. For now I guess it is yoga and meditation until I find out if anything further is going on.April 26, 2014 at 3:26 am #16232napster4everParticipant
What could be causing higher than normal urinary cortisol? That’s typical of a VLC diet. How long did you VLC and how low did you go? That’s one of the classic symptoms of long-term VLCing. Could also get that short-term if you’re vulnerable.
How’s your BG control? Cortisol will also dysregulate BG control. Some Paleo think it’s physiological insulin resistance. But you can’t have PIR when you’re eating enough carbs — that’s usually dysregulated cortisol affecting your insulin secretion.April 26, 2014 at 10:37 pm #16242
@napster4ever I wouldn’t say I was doing VLC…well, I was doing an anti-candida diet for about 2 years. I still had quinoa at breakfast and brown rice later in the day, but that’s about it. I don’t really know what percentage of my diet came from carbs during that time, but definitely not enough.
It’s interesting that you ask about BG control because I just got blood test results the other day, and my fasting glucose was very elevated. The range for fasting after 10 hours is supposed to be 3.6-5.5 mmol/L and mine is 8.6! :/ (Hemoglobin A1C was elevated too – 7%) I don’t really understand. I’ve only been eating more starch and sugar in the last 6 months or so. My meals are always balanced with protein, fat, and carbs, and then I’ll have dessert at the end or something. So high cortisol can affect blood glucose? My DHEA-S is elevated as well. Oh dear, I feel like a mess lol.April 27, 2014 at 2:22 am #16243napster4everParticipant
dania, if your A1c is 7.0, you’re diabetic. That FBG of 8.6 mmol (155) confirms it. Did your doc not point that out or attribute that to your potential Cushing’s diagnosis? Do you remember how high your urinary cortisol was? When you said you increased carbs, I assumed that you may have been VLCing, like many people do when they mess up their hormone and immune homeostases. High DHEA-S is suggestive of adrenal dysfunction but if your ACTH and cortisol are also high, then you might have a real endocrine issue. Cushing’s frequently results in diabetes if untreated due to impaired insulin sensitivity. How’s your cognitive fucntion, blood pressure. Have abdominal obesity or any edema?
High cortisol could be due to a pituitary tumor but the most common reason is due to taking corticosteroid and immunosuppressive medications for autoimmune or other conditions. Did you take such drugs or other similar drugs? You’ll need a pituiatry MRI and possibly an adrenal scan.
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