Is a Cortisol Problem Making You Tired?

By June 2, 2018 No Comments
Woman yawning

Are you tired?

Do you have a hard time dragging yourself out of bed in the morning?  Do you need caffeine to get through the afternoon?  And then, after feeling sluggish all day, do you get a second wind late in the evening and have a hard time falling asleep?

Or maybe you find that you don’t handle stress well,  and little things (that shouldn’t really be a big deal), feel overwhelming and exhausting.

If so, you certainly aren’t alone!  You may have a problem with cortisol, your main stress hormone.

Cortisol is your stress hormone

Your adrenal glands produce cortisol to help you cope with stress.  Then, when the stress is over, your cortisol level goes back down to normal.  This is a normal stress response.

Here’s the problem.  In the past, our ancestor’s stresses were dangerous things, like being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and having to flee for their life. The physical activity (running) helped them to clear the extra stress hormones from their system.

In the modern world, you tend to have lots of little stresses all day long that probably don’t involve running for your life.  Today’s stress is much more likely to involve fuming at the slow traffic while worry about being late for your appointment.  The end result can be chronically elevated cortisol levels.

When we talk about stress, we don’t just include emotional stress (like family issues, work stress).  Physical stress counts as well!  Things like allergies, chronic back pain, and insomnia are also stressors on your body.   You can be stressed from things you are not even aware of,  like hidden nutritional deficiencies or toxins in the environment.  These days, it is very common to have high stress levels, with the high cortisol that follows.

High cortisol causes health problems

If your cortisol level remains chronically elevated, your health can start to suffer.  In fact, stress is one of the most important contributing factors to chronic disease! High cortisol can contribute to fatigue, depression, anxiety, food cravings, weight gain, insomnia, high blood pressure, bone loss, poor memory, reduced immune system function, menstrual problems and increased menopausal symptoms. It is common for women with cortisol problems to have a bumpier ride as they go through menopause.

Cortisol is a “wear and tear” hormone – it ages you at an accelerated rate.   You may have witnessed this – people who live very stressful lives often look older than their age.

Think you may have a cortisol problem?  Here is what can be done.

5 tips to help normalize cortisol naturally

  1.  Reduce stress. Look for ways to simplify your life.  Do you really need to volunteer to bake cookies for the church bake sale AND volunteer to shop for decorations for your kid’s school party on the same week that your mother in law will be in town staying with you?



2.  Find healthy ways of coping with stress.  Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, walking, laughter and heartfelt prayer are good examples of stress management techniques.


3.  Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar.   These may help to keep you moving in the short term, but in the long term they make things worse.  Addressing your stress and normalizing cortisol levels can improve your energy so you don’t need to rely on caffeine.



4.  Get enough sleep.  It can be hard to fall asleep (and stay asleep!) when cortisol is a problem, because it plays an important role in your natural circadian rhythms.  But if you are staying up late (taking advantage of that second wind at night to get stuff done!) and then you have to get up early to get to work or get the kids to school, you can’t realistically expect to get out of this cycle of stress and fatigue.

5.  Nutritional supplements can help!  There are a number of supplements that we recommend depending on your symptoms and the pattern of your cortisol levels.  Ashwagadha, rhodiola and holy basil are examples of herbs that are typically safe and beneficial for most people.

You can be tested

Your cortisol level can be measured in a saliva or urine test.  We prefer to measure cortisol at multiple times during the day, since the levels change – they should be higher in the morning to help you wake up and lower at night to help you fall asleep.   We commonly find low levels in the morning and high levels at bedtime – when your daily pattern is backwards, no wonder it is hard to wake up and then hard to fall asleep!

Take the quiz!

Take our quiz to see if your symptoms could be the result of a cortisol problem!

Help is available

If you have having symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, and would like help to get back to feeling great, contact the office for further information at 704-752-9346 or questions@signaturewellness.org.

Please don’t suffer unnecessarily!  You deserve to LOVE the way you feel!