Cortisol Decoded: The Myths & Truths About A Hormone Crucial To Your Health & Survival.

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what is cortisol
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Let's face it: cortisol gets a bad rap these days.

“I have high cortisol.”

“I have low cortisol.”

“My cortisol it out-of-whack.”

You've no doubt heard this all before or said it yourself. So in an effort to decode cortisol once and for all, I decided to feature a wildly popular previous guest of mine—the guy who personally helps me and my wife manage our own hormones and has helped countless listeners of mine with their own anti-aging and natural hormone management protocols.

His name is Dr. Craig Koniver.

Dr. Koniver was a guest on the episode “How To Get Your Own Vitamin and NAD IVs, The Truth About Umbilical Stem Cells, Peptide Injections & Much More With Dr. Craig Koniver.

He has been practicing performance medicine for over 18 years and is the founder of Koniver Wellness in Charleston, South Carolina. Not satisfied with the disease-based model of modern medicine, Dr. Koniver seeks to help his clients optimize their health and performance through time-tested, nutrient and science-driven protocols that are the cutting-edge of medicine. He is the founder and creator of the patent-pending FastVitaminIV® as well as re-engineering the NAD+ IV protocols, now called Brain Refuel™.

Dr. Koniver’s client list includes Navy SEALs, NFL players, PGA golfers, Hall of Fame NHL players, world-class professional athletes, Fortune 100 Executives, and well-known celebrities and TV personalities. In addition, Dr. Koniver offers a comprehensive training program of the Koniver Wellness Model to physician practices across the country.

In this episode, you'll discover:

-What is cortisol? 5:32

  • Hormone secreted by adrenal glands
  • Not enough attention is given to cortisol in the medical field
  • “Stress hormone” — fight or flight response
    • It is secreted in response to any real or perceived threat or stressor
  • We're hard-wired to have high cortisol in the am, and low in the evening
  • Rhythm vs. volume is key
  • Acute hormone; ex. being chased by a lion
    • Turns off pain recognition
    • Anti-inflammatory
  • Catabolic hormone — wear and tear
  • We've changed cortisol from an acute to a chronic hormone
  • Key takeaway: try to find meaningful ways to live w/ the sun's rhythm
  • Lowest levels are at around 10 pm; allows anabolic hormones testosterone, growth hormone, and melatonin to elevate
  • Most critical hours of sleep are 10 pm – 2 am
    • It takes melatonin 12 hours to reset
    • Later (or no) sun exposure means melatonin levels peak later, leading to loss of sleep quality

-How cortisol is secreted…13:37

  • Perceived stressors (most often subtle in modern times)
  • Primitive part of the mid-brain, above the spinal cord
  • Reticular Activating System (RAS) triggers release of cortisol
  • Signal sent to locus ceruleus (one of the most connected parts of the brain)
  • Signal sent to hypothalamus, to pituitary, then to adrenal glands
  • Norepinephrine and cortisol are “partners in crime”; released along w/ cortisol
  • Pituitary responsible for all signaling molecules
  • We stop releasing cortisol, and have surplus of norepinephrine
  • We release an average of 35 g of cortisol per day
  • Irregular sleep patterns (night shift workers) lead to chronic health problems later in life

-How cortisol imbalances affect our lives…20:12

  • Our brains cannot differentiate between perceived and real stressors
  • Visualizing a success (or a failure) will trigger cortisol secretion
  • “I can't wait to wear that outfit” is much more effective than “I'm way too big…”
  • RAS helps distinguish background and foreground in our world
  • Buy a red truck, all of a sudden you see a bunch of red trucks on the roads
  • What you put your attention is what you're going to get in your life

-How cortisol gets disrupted…25:40

  • Humans are “super-adaptors”; we can tolerate stressors over a long period of time
  • Modern tech can disconnect us from the sun, circadian rhythm, and cortisol flow
    • We release cortisol at night when we look at TV, phones, etc. at night
  • We tolerate stressors for years and decades, but it eventually catches up with us
    • It will eventually blunt the anabolic hormones (testosterone, growth hormone, melatonin)
  • We lose sleep quality, take longer to heal injuries, workouts are more challenging, etc.
  • Gold standard to test adrenal function: salivary cortisol test
    • Salivary is far less stressful than a blood draw (hence more accurate results)
  • We rely on stimulants such as coffee and prescription drugs, rather than address the issue of disrupted cortisol flow

-Why cortisol is such a hot topic in modern society…37:40

  • Acute stressor triggers cortisol
  • Over time, cortisol has become a chronic hormone, rather than an acute hormone
    • We'll never be chased by a lion in the jungle
    • We trigger cortisol response w/ everyday stressors
    • Chipping away at cortisol release over time
    • We can't keep up w/ cortisol demands; lose cortisol reserve
  • Major stressor (loss of job, death in the family, etc.) causes a breakdown when cortisol levels have been chronically disrupted
    • Cancer, autoimmune disease, etc. occur with this breakdown
    • Many fear cancer, other serious illnesses
    • Best way to prevent disease: take care of cortisol levels
  • Be aware of indicators of low cortisol levels: poor sleep, longer than usual recovery times, etc.

-The key element regarding cortisol missed by conventional medicine practice…43:13

  • Adrenal fatigue and insufficiency doesn't exist in conventional medicine
  • Two extremes in conventional medicine: Cushing's disease, and Addison's disease
    • Cushings: too much cortisol secretion
    • Addisons: not enough cortisol is produced
    • There's a gray area; it's not simply black and white
  • As cortisol levels are disrupted, norepinephrine levels increase
    • Increased heart rate
    • Increased blood pressure
    • This feels like anxiety
    • Consider visiting a doctor knowledgeable in this as you may have lost control of the cortisol buffer
  • Study in the Netherlands on men over 50 who ran marathons vs. men who didn't run marathons
    • Men who ran marathons suffered more heart attacks (due to overtraining)
    • Positive exercise can still be a stressor, releasing cortisol
  • Recovery is key to being an elite athlete

-How cortisol interacts with other hormones in the body…49:30

  • Hormones are like kids w/ differing personalities
    • Cortisol is the neighborhood bully
    • High insulin levels and cortisol lead to weight gain (cut carbs in the morning)
  • Abnormal cortisol modulation affects thyroid levels deleteriously
    • Be aware of your adrenal status if you're on thyroid hormone replacement
  • An imbalance of cortisol and testosterone inhibits muscle production
  • Growth hormone depletion leads to brain fog, weight gain, etc.

-How to effectively modulate cortisol…56:52

  • Tests:
  • Adrenal glands are like a factory producing hormones: cortisol is the goal, but we need to make the other hormones
    • Cortisol imbalances lead to depletion of other hormones
  • Pregnenolone is made from cholesterol; low cholesterol levels affects cortisol production
  • Number 1 risk factor for heart disease for men is low testosterone; cortisol will help optimize health
  • Having a cortisol reserve enables us to handle and tolerate stress, thus preventing cancer, autoimmune disease
  • Behaviors to normalize cortisol levels (deliberate contemplative exercise)
    • Meditation, prayer, reading
    • Activate parasympathetic system, turn off sympathetic system
    • Meditation is not the only means of managing stress
  • Adaptogenic herbs:
  • Critical nutrients:
  • Peptides: (use code: BEN2020 at check-out to get a 15% off of products and phone consult)
    • Hexarelin
    • Epithalon
    • Ipamorelin
    • GHRP 6 and GHRP 2
  • Intranasal and intravenous stem cells
  • Hydrocortisone replacement (don't surpass 35 mg per day)
  • Phosphatidylserine (100-300 mg)
  • Ashwagandha (use at bedtime – 300 – 3000mg)
  • Glycine (great for the liver, 1000-5000 mg at bedtime)
  • CBD (bedtime)

-Closing thoughts…1:14:42

  • Good correlation between HRV and cortisol; collect morning and evening times
  • Cortisol helps be your best cognitively
  • If you're feeling tired, stressed and anxious, check your cortisol levels

-And much more…

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

Koniver Wellness ( use code: BEN2020 at check-out to get a 15% off of products and phone consult)

Episode sponsors:

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Got a question for me or Craig related to cortisol, or anything else we talked about in today's show? Leave a comment below, and one of us will reply!

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14 thoughts on “Cortisol Decoded: The Myths & Truths About A Hormone Crucial To Your Health & Survival.

  1. jessica craig says:

    Thanks Dr.K, i Just found this podcast. I’m an athletic female in menopause with a history of ovarian failure, or maybe something like PCOS (they can’t figure it out). After a DUTCH test noted I prefer cortisone., and I don’t clear cortisol efficiently, I take the B Vit and do “all the things”, I’m 30 lbs over my fighting weight and it simply won’t budge? What are your thoughts? Thank you

  2. Luke says:

    As far as the herb and supplement recommendations go, is it still safe to use things like ashwagandha, rhodiola, phosphatidylserine, and holy basil if you are cortisol deficient? Don’t these things lower cortisol so wouldn’t they be contraindicated?

  3. Lloyd says:

    Hey Guys can I repost this on our website blog with all links and credits back to you (basically will post it as is with a link to the website. Not sure the correct way to ask!

  4. Alice says:

    Such great info, thank you. There’s a mistake in the notes. It should be 35mg of cortisol, not 35g.

  5. Tom Yarrington says:

    This was a great podcast, information was conveyed very clearly. I am left a little confused about one thing in particular. It was my previous understanding that when we sleep our bodies go through clean out processes of sorts such as clearing out amyloid plaque from our brains and senescent cells from our bodies. Along with not eating hours before going to bed, and incorporating intermittent fasting, this gave me the view of sleep being more of a catabolic time. I have a small understanding of cortisol rising in the morning and falling in the evening, I just never put it together with being anabolic at night, though it makes sense being more of a rest and recovery parasympathetic time. I have been focusing on gaining muscle in the past few months and have been using Dr. Mercola’s autophagy tea before bed to manage fat gain and other nasty side effects of weight gain. After listening to this podcast, inducing autophagy at night seems like it would be counter productive to gaining muscle, and that it may be better to drink the tea in the morning as long as the resistance training is in the afternoon. Further more, it seems it may actually be helpful to drink a protein shake an hour or so before bed instead. Or, would the better idea be to balance out the anabolism with the tea so that there was less stress on the body? What I mean is that there seems to be two approaches, one being to aid the bodies natural processes at certain times of the day to optimize results, the second being to counteract what the body has a tendency to do to reduce dramatic changes. I apologize this wasn’t a straight forward question, but any light on the subject would be greatly appreciated!

  6. Karine says:

    Great show, thank you.

    What would be the proper order or the step-by step plan to tackle a situation where an athlete and professional lawyer is constantly tired and burned out?

    In terms of peptides, adaptogenic herbs, vitamins, better behaviours, nutrients? Is there a point to introduce those tools in a certain order to get maximum benefits and not to overdo them?

    Thank you very much.

    1. I’d get some testing of your cortisol rhythm first.

      It’s always best to apply these tools to the context they should be applied to vs. empirically starting.

  7. This one of the best episodes ever. It helped me to really understand my cortisol patterns throughout the day. It also helped me understand why when my cortisol level went through the roof I got adrenal fatigue. Thanks!

  8. Mat says:

    This was such a great show, brings it all together about stress, sleep, circadian rhythm a.s.o. thanks a lot. And, as usual, the more answers, the more questions:

    1) What advice would you give to people living in time zones with huge seasonal variations regarding daylight, with like no daylight before 10AM and dawn starting at 3PM during several months (+ the shift with daylight saving time)? Rather be consistent in hours and get out in the dark at 7AM or would you advise to use a device with artificial daylight?

    2) Many older folks (like me, 62, f, Hashimoto’s, recovering from a professional burnout, competitive runner) tend to have the problem of “shortening” day-cycles (which is the exact opposite of what has been described in the podcast): No trouble falling asleep at all, sleepiness setting in from 7PM, waking up at 4AM, eager to start the day, followed by a feeling of exhaustion at 9AM … If not resisted (i.e. struggling against sleepiness up to at least 10PM) sleep and wake-up will set in earlier and earlier from one day to the other. I just feel I have not enough energy to last through the whole day. (Tried -but not conclusive: Going out or using my artificial daylight device at 10AM, rather than in the very morning).

    Any thoughts?

    Thx again for all the good work!

    1. 1) Live with the sun! Sun light seems to be the main driver here so follow that rhythm even if it’s different then typical sunlight variations

      2) I’d be curious about your cortisol fluctuations throughout your day. Try to get some testing so you can better understand your very own individualized variations

  9. Hannah Hausman says:

    Is there a transcript So I can read This interview?

  10. Jim says:

    Midbrain is part of the brain stem

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