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The Cortisol Connection to Metabolic Overdrive (MO)


The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys.

The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week I defined metabolic overdrive (MO),, and listed 5 body organs or systems that are effected: the gut, sex hormones, thyroid, pancreas and adrenal gland. Each week I will tackle a different system to give you a better understanding of what happens when you fall victim to MO. I’ll start with the adrenals.
The adrenal glands are triangular and sit on top of your kidneys. They make stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone). Daily stress (too little sleep, overworking yourself, or exercising too much)  triggers your adrenals to overproduce the hormone cortisol. Eventually the adrenals become fatigued and the ability to make cortisol is lost. As the adrenals lose the ability to overproduce cortisol, MO kicks in.  When cortisol production falls, intense cardio can initiate the breakdown of protein stores leading to loss of muscle mass and increased fat mass. This is why exercise may not always be good for weight loss. Poor adrenal function also lowers levels of testosterone in men, progesterone in women, and DHEA in both sexes. This leads to weight gain, fatigue, low sex drive, insomnia, infertility (in women), and emotional instability (moodiness).
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue? Answer each of the following questions with a yes or no.
Do you have trouble slowing down at night?
Does it take longer than 30 minutes for you to fall asleep?
Do you frequently wake at night and find yourself unable to get back to sleep?
Do you watch TV or use a computer shortly before bed?
Do you eat while working, watching TV, or sitting at the computer?
Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning because you do not feel rested?
Do you keep yourself going during the day by drinking or taking caffeine?
If you answered yes to one or more questions, consider talking to your doctor about testing your cortisol levels. High cortisol levels indicate that your stress response is turned “on” all day long. Low cortisol indicates that your adrenals have burned out. In either case, follow the suggestions in The Stubborn Fat Fix, Use the Level 2 eating plan, take the supplements described in chapter 9, and pay particular attention to the stress reduction advice in chapter 10. Also, it’s particularly important for you to avoid cardiovascular exercise during the first month of your weight loss plan.
If MO has affected the adrenal glands for awhile there may be more damage, MO may be infiltrating more than just the adrenals, as one body system starts to fatigue, the others (gut, sex hormones, thyroid, pancreas or any other) compensate creating a domino effect. There can be more than one reason your body is in a rut making the cure even more difficult but not impossible.
Maybe you have not heard of metabolic overdrive but it is real and it can be devastating. When you feel depressed or tried, when you cannot achieve your weight goals and are trying hard, when your adrenals are pumping out cortisol and adrenaline and hormones are out of whack, your body is screaming for help. It is your body’s way of trying to communicate with you. Learn to listen, you will be rewarded with weight loss success, good health, more energy than you ever thought possible.
Next week I will dive into thyroid and MO.

About the author

Valerie Goldstein

Valerie raises the bar for health and nutrition know how with unconventional expertise and unconditional support for wellness.

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  • Since you posted this in Perfect Health Diet I will note that eating too low carb also causes issues with the adrenal glands.
    Q. Is low Carb (less the 50 grams per day) an adrenal stressor for some people? and if so why?
    A. Perfect Health Diet Yes, for all people. Because cortisol and other adrenal hormones are required to manage the glucose manufacture, utilization regulation, and electrolyte regulation that occurs on a low-carb diet.

  • This is very good. what foods or supplements word you suggest for MO I cannot lose weight. You would not believe how healthily I eat. Thank you for the courtesy of your response at you convenience.
    Sent from my iPad
    Maureen McGovern

    • Thank you. I’m glad you have found it helpful. You may very well be eating healthy but “healthy” foods are not always “healthy” for every medical condition. It is difficult to provide you specific information without understanding your history. In general, keep carbs between 50-100g each day of healthy carbs. Use “The Stubborn Fat Fix” as a reference guide. Speak with your doctor about supplements that will work for you. Do not exercise until the adrenals are well rested and you get doctor approval.
      I wish you well. Good luck on your road to better health.

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