My fascination with cortisol continues. A month or two prior to taking IV Steroids, I did the Adrenal Stress Test Panel. It is a test that is done by collecting saliva samples at four points throughout the day. From this, you can see how much cortisol your adrenal glands are producing during the day. It cost $120 and my insurance did not cover it. If you are curious to see where your body’s stress response is at but do not have the money to cover the test, you can begin to pay attention to what your energy levels and responses to stimuli are at these times: 8-9am, noon, 4-5pm, and 10-12pm. For example, I was not surprised that my cortisol levels were above the normal range in the morning (I wake up amped, usually after having vivid dreams for several hours), dropped to their lowest levels at noon (this is usually when I am desiring a nap and when I decide to go nowhere if I have not already left the house), and then proceeded to climb back up through the evening and late night (why it is harder to wind down and go to bed the later that I stay up.)
Why is it important how much cortisol you produce during the day? Well, it is your stress response. So if your cortisol production does not follow a circadian rhythm (of producing the most cortisol in the morning, still within a normal range, and then steadily tapering off the rest of the day) then it is an indication of adrenal fatigue, which is a further indication of chronic stress. I might argue that if every person with MS got their adrenal levels checked, a high correlation of adrenal fatigue and chronic stress would be found. In America, we often call this Type A personality and I have seen this in a lot of MS literature- that there is a high correlation of Type A personality and MS. But what makes us Type A? For me, I like to have everything just the way I want it when I want it. I build up grand stories and expectations and do not handle the disappointment well. Since I do this throughout the day, I create a lot of stress for myself. And it is all about little things or things that actually do not exist. So chronic stress has nothing to do with whether you face trauma and tragedy every day, it’s just the way that you deal with life. And if you didn’t have chronic stress before MS, dealing with a chronic illness can cause it.
After meeting with my functional medicine doctor, he directed me towards evening out my cortisol levels during the day, NOT lowering them as I was previously touting in a blog. I started taking Coenzyme Q10 100mg three times a day with meals (with lechithin or some other form of fat in the pills), an herb called Rhodiola Rosea twice a day inbetween meals (Gaia makes a variety) and straight licorice tea throughout the day (Traditional Medicinals is a great brand.) For long term adrenal support, he recommended the supplement Adrenal Response from Moss Nutrition. BUT, he emphasized that none of this explains how I got to the point of adrenal fatigue and herbs would not get me out of it. Indeed, the yoga and meditation I do has a greater impact on stress relief than anything else. If you find that you still run hot and tend to get riled up easily, it is okay to throw in some herbs that calm the nervous system. Recently I have used tinctures of passionflower and kava kava. Kava kava can affect the liver so depending on what disease modifying MS treatment you are on, you should be careful with this and run it over with your doctor. On the flip side, drinking coffee or anything with caffeine only ramps up your cortisol production and your nervous system.
A lot of us experience MS fatigue and a lot of us are on prescription medication for it. Many have grown accustomed to dealing with it as a primary symptom, but what if we could get our adrenals back up to normal levels o
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