Updated: Feb 8, 2020
Do Low Cortisol States outside of Addison's Disease Exist?? YES....Is it because of 'adrenal fatigue'...99% of the science says NO....
So WHY DO CORTISOL LEVELS GO DOWN???
Cortisol is the body's primary stress hormone and is released in a 'circadian' pattern during a 24 hour day (high in the morning, low at night). This pattern of cortisol release controls every metabolic process and the actions of every single cell in the body...WITHOUT CORTISOL, WE WOULD DIE.
So, if this hormone is so important, then how and why does it go down? Well, some of the more OBVIOUS reasons include:
1. Destruction of the adrenal glands (trauma, surgical removal, infections, or antibody mediated destruction)
2. Addison's disease
3. Certain anesthesia drugs used during surgery
However, for all of you who fall in between black and white boundaries of conventional lab testing, there is an enormous GRAY SPACE...which is not necessarily 'normal'.
There are literally HUNDREDS of reasons why cortisol levels go down...and if your doctor doesn't understand the complexity of these hormonal symptoms and what affects them, then you will continuously take medications and supplements for 'adrenal fatigue' that doesn't exist...and you will NEVER get better!
HERE IS A SHORT LIST OF SOME CAUSES:
1. Prescription medications
2. Over exercising
3. Genetic defects in cortisol production and metabolism
4. Changes in the cortisol receptor on cells
5. Female hormone imbalances (especially low progesterone)
6. Thyroid hormone imbalances
7. Being overweight
8. Dietary influences (i.e. high fat, high sugar)
9. Improperly and/or excessively dosed bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
10. Sleep disorders
11. Impaired liver detoxification
12. Nutrient deficiencies
13. Excessive levels of catecholamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline)
14. Chronic infections
15. Heavy metals
16. Intestinal dysbiosis (leaky gut, bacterial imbalance, etc)
and the list goes on and on....!
I have spent the last 20 years doing extensive reading, writing, and research on this topic and am considered to be one of the clinical experts in this field.
When it comes to pure stress as a cause of low cortisol, the majority of the scientific research indicates that the reason cortisol levels go down during chronic stress is because your brain is trying to save you (and your cells) from yourself (i.e. cortisol). Better to keep you a fat, flat, and fatigued than for your cells and tissues to be destroyed by the very hormone intended to save them (and you).
Ironically, under some circumstances, cortisol levels remain suppressed even after the stress is no longer present. Scientists believe this is because the brain becomes ‘over protective’ and remains unwilling to take its foot off the brake, so to speak….and this is the main reason why cortisol levels remain flattened for prolonged periods of time.
BOTTOM LINE: The adrenal glands do not voluntarily 'fatigue'. States of low cortisol are almost always caused by one or more underlying factors...
and if your doctor doesn't find and properly correct these factors, your cortisol levels will NEVER improve!
Blog from Dr. Lena Edwards