The Verdict: Sleep it Off!
I recently did another Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) test, to check my cortisol levels and see how they compared to those in my original labs. Unfortunately, the results were very troubling-- it came back worse than the first. Of course, this was incredibly discouraging. Before letting me get too panicky about it, my naturopath followed it up with a blood test to see if those lousy results would be confirmed. Fortunately, the cortisol level in that test came back completely differently.
Without going into a big biology lesson, I will try to briefly explain what this means. As I have mentioned before, cortisol is the stress hormone, and chronic high levels can be very damaging. However, we need a certain amount of cortisol in our tissues in order to have energy to do normal stuff every day. The ASI test I took indicated that I have very little cortisol in my tissues (close to none)-- which is obviously why I feel so lousy. On the other hand the cortisol in my blood test was actually high. What this translates to is that I always feel quite keyed up like I need to run from a bear, but I don't actually have the energy to do much. The important issue now is to get the adrenaline out of my blood and into my tissues-- which would help me feel more calm and energetic.
My ND consulted with with some other doctors about this unusual situation, and the first thing that came up was my quality and quantity of sleep-- both of which have been poor. Apparently, that is the missing link for getting the cortisol where it belongs. I was so excited when she told me that I would have to start taking Benadryl on nights when I am unable to sleep. This is seriously awesome news for me, something I have been fantasizing about-- just knocking myself out until I'm all rested up! Other parts of the ASI showed improvements in my hormone production and immunity, so once I can get enough rest I should be in pretty good shape.
The other good news is that I am no longer on exercise restriction. In fact, the other part of the cure for high levels of cortisol in the bloodstream is exercise. I am very very happy about this, since exercise has always been a key stress management tool for me. Plus, all of this sitting around resting and trying to eat more has inevitably led to some extra weight I am looking forward to working off.
It's been a bit of a roller coaster in the last month with all of this stuff, but I am so encouraged overall. Leaving the Dr.'s office with orders to sleep and exercise made me cry with relief most of the way home. Especially since I was afraid that the news was going to be much worse!