Last week I talked about some of my health challenges that I am dealing with which I outline in this post. I think it's important to discuss my journey back to health because I believe by sharing, it will help others create more self awareness around their own health, as well as help my own development as a coach.
I also believe my current health is reflected to varying degrees in most people whether a driven endurance athlete, or let's be honest, just plain driven. If you are a person who often (or always) dedicates your time and energy to train or compete at your best, and/or put the needs of others above your own health, I implore you to stay with me on this journey.
I promise you will take something away from your time here that will help you.
So this is my first of many updates.
It's about progress not perfection.
Well today after seeing Dr. Allison Ziegler, I'm going to give a little update. We reviewed my results of my blood work (which all fell in the "normal" ranges) and Dutch Hormone Test. I will also be visiting my family doctor as well for a full physical in a couple of weeks.
The main findings were as follows:
Elevated Cortisol (our primary hormone secreted by the adrenal gland in response to stress - flight or flight response) especially in the morning:
Normal range: 100-250ng/mg
My Value: 1610ng/mg
Normal Range: 40-100ng/mg
My Value: 7ng/mg
These results where similar to the results I has on my last test about a year ago, albeit using a different testing protocol (saliva then vs. urine now), the results were very similar.
My endocrine system continues to focus on producing stress hormones at the expense of sex hormones. This most likely why I see substantial drops in hormones like testosterone, as hormone precursor material is diverted towards the cortisol production pathway. The key here is a hormone named pregnenelone, which is the precursor to both testosterone and cortisol. This diversion is named the ‘pregnenelone steal’.
This would explain why I am experiencing lower levels of testosterone and why it has had a significant impact on my quality of life.
Some of the common symptoms of low testosterone are
- regular tiredness
- a lack of enthusiasm or motivation
- lower sex drive
Without treatment this phase has the potential continue for several months or even years. I believe my situation is explained in greater detail in this previously mentioned article by Dr. Phil Maffetone and Dr. Paul Laursen which helped initiate the understanding of my symptoms.
Developing the action steps:
When creating the action steps to decrease cortisol and increase testosterone production I believe it is important to consider the following:
- Elevated cortisol and decrease testosterone are symptoms of a number of factors which are contributing to these symptoms.
- I have to consider how my current lifestyle behaviours that may be contributing to these symptoms. In other words, what behaviours could be contributing to these symptoms that I have direct control over. Specifically:
- Poor sleep (consistently not sleeping through the night)
- Trying to push bouts fasted training to often
- Working too close to bedtime which affects my ability to get to sleep
- Avoiding seeking stress management support (Feeling like I can handle things when obviously I'm not doing a good job of stress management)
- Consuming foods I seem to have an inflammatory response to (i.e., dairy - I like cheese and cream)
- Incorporating the follow positive lifestyle behaviours. Again it's about focusing on what I CAN CONTROL.
- Being consistent with a night time routine (which I outline here)
- 10 minutes of morning meditation and 4-7-8 breathing throughout the day especially when I feel anxious, stressed, or having trouble relaxing before bed (I talk more about this here). Parasympathetic nervous system (rest and relax) stimulation is very important to help create balance in the body by offsetting the chronic stress pattern my body seems to be in.
- Shutting work off a minimum of 1 hour before bed and do a brain dump to clear the mind (i.e., write down all the things on my mind to deal with the next day). I coach late some nights so this can be a challenge but understand the importance of it to set up a quality sleep.
- Avoiding any dairy, refined, or processed foods (I currently only eat these rarely but important to make sure I take them out due to their contribution to inflammation in the body).
- Taking a daily probiotic to support good gut bacteria important for brain and hormone function and magnesium to help with sleep before bed.
So the theme here goes back to this idea of self awareness. Being able to look at myself and ask these two questions:
- What am I doing to contribute to my current health and performance?
- What can I do or what support do I need in order to move myself closer to my ideal health and performance?
I challenge you to ask yourself these questions. You most likely have the answers you need within you. You just have to ask the right questions and answer with truth.
P.S. What do you need to perform at your best and achieve optimal health? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a note on facebook and let's chat. Our Nutrition and Coaching Programs provide the support and guidance you need to help you achieve your ideal health and performance.