Inner Circle Health Network

DIY Health: A Neglected Aspect of Adrenal Dysfunction

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One of the conversations we're going to conduct in the Undoctored world, starting in the Undoctored book, and then carried on in the Undoctored websites, is that of adrenal dysfunction. Some people call it adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal dysfunction can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It can come as fatigue in the afternoon. It can express itself as a very difficult time in getting up in the morning — low morning energy, and an inappropriate surge late at night, like 9 or 10 at night, and some other forms. We won't cover all that now. But there's a point I'd like to make about adrenal dysfunction.

One of the forms of adrenal dysfunction is an excess cortisol level. This is most common in stressful situations. I mean prolonged, severe stress: financial ruin, caring for someone who has dementia or a child with some long-term problem like autism — very stressful — and responsibilities that are very hard to get out of, right? I mean these are very very serious responsibilities, and stress-affecting.

It's that kind of stress, long-term profound stress that can raise cortisol levels. Long-term it can often lead to low cortisol levels, but if you have a high cortisol level identified, the point I'd like to make is: it's not so much the stress (I think that's an imprecise way of looking at it), it's the helplessness of the stress that is causing the very high cortisol levels. This has been shown, over and over and over again in psychological studies, that it's stress, yes, but more specifically, more precisely, it's the helplessness.

Now why do I point that out? Because if you recognize it's a feeling of helplessness, it can be the first step to understanding what to do about it, in taking back control over your life. Now some of these situations you simply can't get out of. If you have an 80-year-old parent that you're taking care of, it's not easy. Recognize it's the feeling of helplessness that is leading to high cortisol levels.

If you can find a way to deal with that helplessness: finding help, taking control of life in other ways, it can be part of the path back, to turning off that high cortisol level. High cortisol levels are among the hardest of things to turn off. It is key to understanding that it's not just the stress. It's the helplessness you feel. Understand that principle, and it might be the first step in allowing you do undo that high cortisol level.