Cortisol and Morning Energy
Your adrenal glands have two primary functions:
1. They turn on all your light switches to get your body going for the day (changing from sleep functions to active functions).
2. They enable your body to deal with increased demands that happen as your day goes along.
Cortisol is the primary hormone secreted by your adrenal cortex (outer portion of your adrenals). The medulla, or inner portion, secretes adrenaline which is also produced in your nerves and is responsible for the fight or flight feeling, anxiety, fear, etc. How to calm down excess amounts of adrenaline is covered on my Stress and Mood health topic page and is not the subject of this health topic page. Adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout has to do with how your adrenal cortex is functioning.
Cortisol release follows a natural 24-hour rhythm with the highest amount at 6 a.m., which tapers off gradually during the day to the lowest amount around midnight. During sleep your immune system orchestrates housecleaning, and immune cells and cortisol are to some degree synergistic opposites. Thus, rising cortisol in the morning turns off sleep-related immune system repair and turns on your energy activation for the day.
Individuals who struggle to get going in the morning have some combination of poor sleep, poor house cleaning (too much toxic garbage just sitting there in the morning), and low adrenal function. Not being able to make it through the morning without your energy crashing out is a sure sign of adrenal fatigue.
Caffeine is often used in our society to help turn the adrenal glands on which is not a problem for most people as long as it is not overdone. Too much reliance on caffeine will drain adrenal glands which can be judged by consequent cravings for excess carbohydrates, poor sleep, too much jittery feelings, gaining weight despite large amounts of caffeine, and/or needing more and more caffeine and not getting much energy from it.
Caffeine is certainly not required for health, but it does assist many people to get going in the morning and to help their bowels clear out in the morning which are good things.
Your adrenals must have some salt to function normally, thus salt restriction may inadvertently crash your adrenals. People with struggling adrenals typically crave salt and fat. Both in moderation are usually fine unless there is a fluid retention or blood pressure problem from too much salt intake.
If you struggle with your energy by mid morning then the worst possible option is a breakfast of mostly carbohydrates or no breakfast at all. Your adrenals communicate with your liver to sustain daily energy function and your liver simply must have protein to function properly. This means that 15/ 30 grams of protein at breakfast is needed to get any person with struggling adrenals off on the right foot. A few eggs, peanut butter/almond butter on toast, cottage cheese, or my favorite a whey protein drink, can make a huge difference.
The failure to get enough protein will cause cravings by mid morning, blood sugar drops any time later in the day, and the inability to eat proper sized meals at lunch or dinner. A bad mood or poor stress tolerance will accompany the lower energy state when your adrenals are tired.
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