Why Hormone Optimization is Critical for Healthy Living
Not everyone has heard of the adrenal glands, but everyone has heard about adrenaline. This hormone, known for triggering the fight-or-flight response, goes by the name of epinephrine as well. It gives your body and muscles a boost, facilitating extra blood flow, increased heart rate, pupil dilation, and the release of blood sugar. This redirection of resources steers the blood away from the skin and digestive system, channeling it toward the muscles and brain.
Situated just above your kidneys, the adrenal glands aren’t solely responsible for producing adrenaline; they also manufacture cortisol along with various other hormones, playing a significant role in your endocrine system.
Cortisol is generated to aid the body’s reaction to stress. Small increases in cortisol will usually give you a burst of energy, improve memory and immunity, and even lower your sensitivity to pain. While adrenaline might jumpstart your system’s response to stress, cortisol is needed to help your body respond to stress in a healthy way.
Sustaining a heightened state of stress (ever heard the term adrenaline junkie?) is not good for your health. The persistent, prolonged release of excessive cortisol in response to everyday stresses can harm our bodies over time.
Even a mild overproduction of cortisol leaves obvious symptoms behind. That is the adrenaline trail, and it is leading millions of people off a health-ruining cliff!
When it comes to your adrenals, hormones, and overall health, I have come to this conclusion: you will never balance—much less optimize—your other hormones until you balance your adrenal hormones. Quite simply, your hormone health requires healthy adrenals. That is because poor adrenal function can make your hormone issues worse and delay any forward progress you might be making. While at times the adrenals are the underlying issue, more often they act more like gas or accelerant to an already-burning fire. They usually make things worse, and putting a fire out with gas is not a good strategy.
Regrettably, many doctors do not typically test adrenal function, which could explain why so many adrenal issues go undetected. When the approach is to only address a problem once it reaches a certain level of severity, an adrenal test is of little value. However, when the focus shifts from masking and temporary solutions to repairing and preventing the problem, getting your adrenals checked might offer some insight into your symptoms and possible hormone issues.
Because most hormones operate in a feedback loop, a decrease in your hormone levels typically triggers an increase in cortisol production, and the more cortisol your body pumps out, the more it messes up your other hormones. This vicious cycle never ends, but your adrenals cannot keep it up forever. The relentless overproduction of cortisol eventually wears out the adrenal glands, leading to adrenal fatigue and burnout. Cortisol levels generally plummet in this scenario, which increases your risk of inflammatory and autoimmune disease, essentially inviting them into your body.
You may be thinking, “I’m not an adrenaline junky, and I don’t have daily scary situations that get my adrenaline pumping. So why would my adrenals even have an issue?”
I admit that heart-pounding, adrenaline-charged moments are few and far between, and that’s certainly for the best. Nevertheless, your body has other strains, stressors, and concerns that never give your stress-response system a break. Cortisol is naturally released to restore calm during short-term, high-alert scenarios. However, when there is no end to the loop or stress, the cortisol keeps flowing. It’s like your alarm button is stuck in the “on” position, and cortisol levels get higher and higher.
High cortisol can disturb crucial bodily functions and pave the way for problems such as elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, decreased thyroid function, and adrenal fatigue.
Stress is an inevitable part of all our lives. Total avoidance is impossible, signifying that each of us is placing strain on our adrenal glands. It’s imperative that we take time to recharge and rejuvenate our adrenals, lest we develop a host of symptoms and diseases to grapple with down the road. Astonishingly, I’ve even come across cases of teenagers suffering from adrenal burnout. That’s not the ideal path to be headed down. That is why my medical experience has led me to firmly believe this cortisol loop pertains to us all.
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