Women's Wellness Blog September 30, 2019

Low energy has you craving coffee? Let’s look at morning cortisol.

Are you someone who uses the thought of pouring your morning coffee, to bribe yourself to get out of bed in the morning?  Is the first hour upon waking difficult for you to get going, feeling like you’re dragging your butt around?  This could indicate that your morning cortisol might not reach the highest peak we’d hope for – especially in those who experience burn out, or high stress.

Cortisol – our stress hormone – should be at its highest point upon waking.  When we graph this hormone using a sample of 4 salivary tests, we expect morning cortisol to be at its highest, following by a slow decline througout the day, continuing into the evening before bed.  It is what’s responsible for giving us our ‘pep in our step’, playing a role with our sleep-wake cycle, in conjunction with melatonin – our sleepy hormone, produced when we are exposed to darkness.

Why would our cortisol be low in the morning?  Possible reasons could be adrenal fatigue or burn-out – when we’re running on low fuels, or concerns with our thyroid – via the adrenal-thyroid connection.

Here are some things you can do, to get you away from needing the coffee, to instead taking or leaving it;

Get your salivary cortisol tested, if indicated.

I prefer using salivary over serum (blood) testing specifically for cortisol, as we can see inappropraite ‘spikes’ in cortisol, simply from the act of getting a blood draw done – if you find giving blood a stressful event.  As mentioned above, we do want to see that ski-hill slope – high in the morning, sloping down to a bedtime low.  Depedning on how severe or not your cortisol levels are, determines how we treat.

Supplementing accordingly.

Vitamin B complex, adaptogens are all useful.  Melatonin is also useful to encourage that sleep-wake cycle.  Adrenal glandular formulations may be necessary, making note of improved energy, or getting that ‘pep-in-your-step’ back.

Stress reduction – get your zen on

Even if you don’t feel stressed, your body can still hold it physically.  Simple practices such as trail walks in nature, reading a book, taking a bath – whatever it is that relaxes you, is important to implement on a daily basis.  If only for 20 minutes, its important to your health.

Correct any sleep concerns you may have.

We need to regulate sleep, if cortisol is not ideal. As mentioned above, melatonin is one of the supplements that can help with this sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin can be thought of as the yin to cortisols yang.

In sum, there is much to be done, if you’re finding mornings are quite difficult to get going. How nice would it be able to enjoy coffee in a take-it-or-leave-it mentaility, rather than requiring it to function?  Coffee in bed on Sunday’s are quite lovely, especially when its a desire rather than a necessity.

Yours in health,

Dr. Alison Gottschalk, ND

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