Cortisol, Adrenals, and Turning on Morning Energy
Do you have a hard time waking up in the morning, feel foggy headed, or depend on caffeine to get going? Learn how to energize your adrenals naturally!
Your adrenal glands have two primary functions:
- Adrenals turn on all your light switches to get your body going for the day.
- Adrenals enable your body to deal with increased demands 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 excess adrenaline is covered on the Stress and Mood 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 house cleaning, and immune cells and cortisol are somewhat synergistic opposites. Thus, rising cortisol in the morning turns off sleep-related immune system repair and turns on your energy activation for the day.
If you struggle to get going in the morning, you may 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 is a sure sign of adrenal fatigue.
Adrenals & Caffeine
Caffeine is often used in our society to turn adrenal glands on, which is not a problem for most people if it is not overdone. Too much reliance on caffeine will drain adrenal glands. This can be judged by consequent carbohydrate cravings, poor sleep, jittery feelings, gaining weight despite large amounts of caffeine, and/or needing 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.
Adrenals & Salt
Your adrenals must have some salt to function normally, thus salt restriction may inadvertently crash your adrenals. People with adrenal stress 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.
High Protein Breakfast
If you have low energy by mid-morning, then the worst possible breakfast is one 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 you started on the right foot. A few eggs, almond butter on toast, cottage cheese, or a Daily Protein smoothie, can make a huge difference.
If you don’t eat enough protein at breakfast, you’re more likely to get mid-morning food cravings, blood sugar drops any time later in the day, and overeat at lunch or dinner. Getting started with a high protein breakfast can help boost your morning energy, reduce cravings, and improve mood!
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