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role of stress and cortisol in muscle and bone deterioration?

by (40)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:47 PM
Created June 10, 2012 at 2:10 AM

After years of a mystery illness that came on after prolonged severe stress I'm trying to find out about the role of cortisol in it and if there's anything I can do to improve where I'm up to now.

My illness included fatigue and severe muscle pain. Tests by a paelo style nutritionist showed I was breaking down muscle tissue like a person with autoimmune disease would. I also tested with low bone density. I followed the nutritionists instructions for a couple of years and my overall health and bone density has improved. I was told to eat meat and fat with every meal, supplement with protein shakes (because I was breaking down muscle and bone), supplement with multi-vits (no calcium).

I find mainstream doctors and specialists have struggled with the idea that good nutrition could help me but it has. My specialist tried to explain away my "statistically significant" bone density improvement and was alarmed that I hadn't been supplementing with calcium.

Anyway, I still get muscle pain but most of the time less severe. It is always bad first thing in the morning and tends to abate during the day if I do nothing to aggravate the muscles. Its always been worst early in the day and when I was very sick and in a lot of pain I had a lot of trouble getting sleepy at night and sleeping through the night. This makes me thing cortisol may play a part.

My questions are:

  1. Can I do something to regulate my cortisol levels?
  2. I still stress too easily and instead of stressing gradually I just elevate really quickly. Is there any way to slow my body's reaction to stress in the moment of the stress?

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645
4413 · June 12, 2012 at 12:59 AM

aylien you might want to ask this as a new question.. not sure but you might get more answers. Many people have low AM cortisol. I do and I use Isocort in the AM . Have you tried the Magnesium for your cramps. It worked for me. Meditation is what comes to mind for lowering high cortisol and stress. good luck

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 11, 2012 at 3:22 AM

Its hard to describe the pain but the muscles feel very tight and don't ever really lengthen even with lots of stretching. The muscles also get hard ball-like lumps in them - one dr has called this "spasm". Usually when I get moving in the morning they feel less stiff and sore and exercising can make it even better but sometimes worse. Think I will try Xiao Yao Wan but worried about taking Cortisol Manager without getting tested. As I do more research on cortisol and have looked into adrenal fatigue a lot of my symptoms come up. Think I best try to save up for a 4 x day cortisol test.

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 5:36 AM

cheers Crowlover

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645
4413 · June 10, 2012 at 5:01 AM

Good luck to you.

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 4:38 AM

I just looked up home saliva tests I can get in my country but they are very expensive. Starting to feel the best I can do is continue with excellent diet and supplements as it does seem to be working although improvements now are coming very slowly. If anyone here saw something obvious in my story that matched theirs or something like that perhaps it could help me. I understand no one can really advise me when I have such limited knowledge of my own medical condition. Just really trying to learn general info that might help me improve my quality of life more. Thanks for your help.

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 4:34 AM

Thanks Crowlover. It's getting hard to continue to pursue for financial reasons as I had to leave my job due to my illness and still trying to start over. It's a little difficult dealing with MDs as they do a limited range of tests and their acceptable range is huge. They've not found anything abnormal. My nutritionist does a wider range of tests which is hugely expensive and has a tighter range for what is acceptable. Nutritionist found a lot was out of range/balance when I first went there but has improved on subsequent visits.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645
4413 · June 10, 2012 at 4:20 AM

You might want to do a saliva test that takes four samples. BioHealth makes a good Adrenal test. Also, DiagnosTechs. Have you explored other reasons for the stress you describe? Is all your other blood work normal? Might be nice to get a diagnosis from an MD (although I think you have tried) then treat it with the nutritionist and/or ND.

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 3:59 AM

The nutritionist tested cortisol. Strangely before I started his program when I was feeling really sick it tested within range. When I was tested a year later after being on his program (paleo diet plus supplements) my reading was elevated outside the normal range. Both were AM fasting blood tests. Have always wondered if the 1st had inaccurate results although the nutritionist didn't seem to think the 2nd was important as stress levels fluctuate. I'm just mainly trying to work out what happens in the mornings to make my pain worse. As I stress too easily feel like it must be related...

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 3:54 AM

No, not on a statin. I take some OTC painkillers when pain is bad but other than that on no medication.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645
4413 · June 10, 2012 at 2:51 AM

Are you on a statin drug per chance?

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3 Answers

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160 · June 10, 2012 at 1:57 PM

What kind of pain do you have? Are your muscles tight and once you get moving you feel fine?

Anyway if you are not going to get the tests, you might try "Cortisol Manager" by Integrative Therapeutics and high quality Magnesium supplement (both before bed). You could also take some Xiao Yao Wan, a safe and cheap Chinese Herbal formula basically for stress.

Get some sun during the day, take some walks daily, and try some light stretching (like gentle yoga or tai chi).

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 11, 2012 at 3:22 AM

Its hard to describe the pain but the muscles feel very tight and don't ever really lengthen even with lots of stretching. The muscles also get hard ball-like lumps in them - one dr has called this "spasm". Usually when I get moving in the morning they feel less stiff and sore and exercising can make it even better but sometimes worse. Think I will try Xiao Yao Wan but worried about taking Cortisol Manager without getting tested. As I do more research on cortisol and have looked into adrenal fatigue a lot of my symptoms come up. Think I best try to save up for a 4 x day cortisol test.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645
1
4413 · June 10, 2012 at 2:32 AM

Have you tested your cortisol levels tested? Seems like that's the best place to start.
The four sample in a day saliva test is more comprehensive than a blood draw, although blood tests are good for first thing in the AM as well (most labs have two reference ranges for cortisol, ~ 8AM and then early afternoon).

Many people are low in the AM or at noon and high in the PM (opposite of what should occur) Bezwecken makes a product product called Isocort - a plant derived cortisol - and its very, very helpful for low cortisol levels. There are also supplements that help to lower PM levels when they are too high and messing with sleep.

Regarding the reactivity you describe, it may or may not have anything to do with cortisol levels... best to test first.

Good luck

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 5:36 AM

cheers Crowlover

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645
4413 · June 10, 2012 at 5:01 AM

Good luck to you.

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 4:38 AM

I just looked up home saliva tests I can get in my country but they are very expensive. Starting to feel the best I can do is continue with excellent diet and supplements as it does seem to be working although improvements now are coming very slowly. If anyone here saw something obvious in my story that matched theirs or something like that perhaps it could help me. I understand no one can really advise me when I have such limited knowledge of my own medical condition. Just really trying to learn general info that might help me improve my quality of life more. Thanks for your help.

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 4:34 AM

Thanks Crowlover. It's getting hard to continue to pursue for financial reasons as I had to leave my job due to my illness and still trying to start over. It's a little difficult dealing with MDs as they do a limited range of tests and their acceptable range is huge. They've not found anything abnormal. My nutritionist does a wider range of tests which is hugely expensive and has a tighter range for what is acceptable. Nutritionist found a lot was out of range/balance when I first went there but has improved on subsequent visits.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645
4413 · June 10, 2012 at 4:20 AM

You might want to do a saliva test that takes four samples. BioHealth makes a good Adrenal test. Also, DiagnosTechs. Have you explored other reasons for the stress you describe? Is all your other blood work normal? Might be nice to get a diagnosis from an MD (although I think you have tried) then treat it with the nutritionist and/or ND.

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
40 · June 10, 2012 at 3:59 AM

The nutritionist tested cortisol. Strangely before I started his program when I was feeling really sick it tested within range. When I was tested a year later after being on his program (paleo diet plus supplements) my reading was elevated outside the normal range. Both were AM fasting blood tests. Have always wondered if the 1st had inaccurate results although the nutritionist didn't seem to think the 2nd was important as stress levels fluctuate. I'm just mainly trying to work out what happens in the mornings to make my pain worse. As I stress too easily feel like it must be related...

1f711e2d8bb0a91c5f64f5db04aba01c
0
40 · June 11, 2012 at 6:11 AM

I've been continuing my research since posting my question. I suspect I may have adrenal fatigue and high cortisol but am cautious about it as well seeing as there are no recent tests to back that up. I've looked into treatments both to regulate cortisol and help reduce stress.

It seems interfering in any way with cortisol production could be dangerous without a doctors guidance as getting cortisol levels too low could be life threatening.

I'm wondering for thoughts on treatments that reduce stress. Surely they are safer and when stress is reduced cortisol would reduce naturally? Although I wonder if one is suffering from adrenal fatigue can your body rebalance cortisol and DHEA production once stress is lowered? I am curious about this topic as I know my body has retained a certain level of stress years after the stressors have been removed. I'm not sure how much faith to have in the body being able to recover even if conditions are right...

I know its a long shot looking for such specific answers here but the answers I've already received have given me some useful leads to follow up. All thoughts welcome. :)

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645
4413 · June 12, 2012 at 12:59 AM

aylien you might want to ask this as a new question.. not sure but you might get more answers. Many people have low AM cortisol. I do and I use Isocort in the AM . Have you tried the Magnesium for your cramps. It worked for me. Meditation is what comes to mind for lowering high cortisol and stress. good luck

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