Cortisol Part 3: Burnout? Fatigue?

by Tracey on January 24, 2015

If you have low cortisol chances are you feel like the woman in this photo, at some point in your day.

You might think, based on last week’s message about High Cortisol, that you only have Low Cortisol if you have very little stress. Keep in mind that is not the case at all.

I want to emphasize that while most information that connects stress and cortisol refers to raised cortisol levels, chronic stress will almost always come before Low Cortisol.

You may have heard of “tired adrenals” or “adrenal fatigue” or “adrenal burnout”. All of these are references to a condition that results from excess stress that has simply worn out our adrenal glands ability to respond to stress in a healthy manner.

The result is actually WORSE than high cortisol because when low, it very likely means you’ve been burning at high for so long that your adrenals can no longer keep up and now they don’t make enough cortisol to protect against even the slightest of stressors.

Some symptoms that you might experience if you have low cortisol are:

  • hypothyroid
  • fatigue
  • inability to handle stress
  • feelings of burnout
  • low blood pressure
  • depression
  • irritability, high anxiety
  • digestion issues

As I’ve said before, out of balance cortisol will almost always result in other hormones falling off, low thyroid and sex hormones are the most common. In my case, it has been the low cortisol/low thyroid combo.

If you have found yourself feeling more tired than usual, particularly in the morning, this could be an early sign. The good news is that you can rebuild your adrenals. According to Dr. Sara Gottfried, one study showed that African Dance can help to bring low cortisol back into balance. The inferences to this have been that moderate movement that feels good can do the same. And interestingly, breath work, which also helps high cortisol, will also bring low cortisol into balance.

A great way to find out if you might have specific hormonal imbalances is to take the quiz that Dr. Sara Gottfried offers. You can take it here. This is a great start to determine if you might need to take steps in prevention or correction of hormonal imbalances.

Eat, Think and Live….In Pure Harmony,



P.S. If you think you could have out-of-balance cortisol or any other hormone, I can help you. By taking a self-assessment and working through what is called a “hormone tracker”, we can see just what is going on and provide information for you to take next steps if necessary in bringing your hormones back in balance and feeling like yourself again. Contact me for more information or to book a hormone session at


You are between 35 and 50 years old. You make an appointment to see your doctor because you just don’t feel like yourself…you’re not sleeping – you feel exhausted but can’t seem to fall asleep! If you do fall asleep, you wake up covered in sweat and counting the spots on the ceiling. Sex is a “take-it-or-leave-it” option and lately it’s been fine with you to leave it more often than to take it. You can’t seem to concentrate and get the amount of work done that you used to.

What’s going on you ask the Doc! Their response? Here’s an antidepressant, a sleeping aid and a recommendation to eat better, exercise and have more sex!Well now, that fixes EVERYTHING…doesn’t it Tracey !?!?

Over the next few months I’ll be diving into the reasons for all of these changes, why I believe they are hormonal and how YOU can fix a good majority of them yourself, AT THE ROOT, and feel more like yourself again!

Last week I talked about cortisol imbalance and shared clips from a 1 hour cortisol class I taught last spring here. Today I want to specifically address HIGH cortisol. (we’ll get to low cortisol next week)

Cortisol production is literally a matter of life and death! When we are in danger – perceived or real, our adrenals flood our blood with cortisol which in turn raises blood sugar, increases blood pressure and heart rate and helps us think quick and move fast! The problem in today’s world is that while all of these are necessary for escaping imminent physical danger, the same happens when we are under pressure to meet an unrealistic deadline, running late and stuck in traffic or fighting with our boss or spouse.

Ideally we face the stressor, deal with it, then come back down and everything goes back to normal, including our cortisol levels. But with constant stress that starts, for most of us, from the time we wake until the very late hours of the evening, we never have that release and relief. The cortisol levels rise and stay risen and it causes our adrenals to be overworked.

One example of why this is bad for our health is when we eat a meal and our blood is still hanging out in our extremities. There’s no blood flow to our internal organs for proper handling of that sandwich digestion and metabolism. This is one way stress causes us to gain weight.

Another example is when we finally try to get some shut-eye at night and we can’t. Our cortisol levels are still abnormally high. According to the rhythms of the earth, our bodies are programmed to produce more cortisol in the morning when the sun rises and gradually decrease until there is very little in the evening after sunset. Likewise, melatonin is meant to be highest in the evening and lowest in the morning. When we are chronically stressed, cortisol levels are always high and that depletes our melatonin levels and keeps us wide awake tempted by the sleeping meds or wine glass at the end of a long day.

According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of Americans claimed they have an unhealthy amount of stress to bear. 39% overeat; 29% skip meals; 44% don’t sleep; and women report higher stress than men.

The American Institute of Stress reports that 75%-90% of all visits to healthcare providers are connected to stress-related conditions.

And according to many studies and experts, including Dr. Mark Hyman, 95% of disease is either caused or worsened by stress.

What does this all mean? Well, it means that if we can manage our out-of-control stress levels, we can look forward to a healthier, higher quality of life now and in the future! Not to mention the $$$ we could save in healthcare costs!

On Friday I’ll be showing you a couple ways to start lowering your stress levels on your own. Until then, I encourage you to consider where in your life you have unnecessary stress and might be able to eliminate it.

Eat, Think and Live….In Pure Harmony,




P.S. And don’t forget to check out last week’s Cortisol Part 1 video and blog post.


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