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Sleep, cortisol, insulin--in relation to the gut (etc.!)

Discussion in 'Sleep' started by Gestalt, Apr 2, 2014.

  1. Gestalt

    Gestalt Senior Member

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    Note: This thread has been split from the Resistant Starch thread

    I think I just figured out something really important that has been starring me in the face forever but I just haven't made the appropriate connections.

    I was reading some stuff yesterday about eating to support your circadian rhythm where the author suggested eating a lot of carbs upon waking to help blunt naturally high morning cortisol levels.

    [​IMG]

    Now assuming the average person goes to sleep around 11:00 pm and wakes up 8 hours later at 7am and eats breakfast around 7:45am this is what their cortisol levels will look like.

    Notice how cortisol levels are highest right before a person wakes up. As they wake up levels begin to drop. Eating carbs generates insulin which counteracts cortisol and helps bring that down throughout the day.

    This is seen as "normal" but I am beginning to wonder if "normal" is actually really screwed up from a hormonal perspective. While many things in the body ebb and flow, that is more like a massive spike similar to a huge insulin spike for someone who has poor insulin control, rather than a nice fluctuation around a homeostatic line.

    For as long as I can remember I have been waking up utterly exhausted usually from nightmares and it takes me all day to get my energy back. Usually I feel best between 8pm and 2am. If the above graph reflected my exhaustion levels it would be pretty darn close! Duh!

    The nightmares in the early morning hours make sense in that cortisol is a a stress hormone, and leads to nervous system activation. Cortisol is also catabolic leading to the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy. When you sleep your body is fasting. High cortisol also impairs your immune system and causes wounds to heal slower. Excessive cortisol also causes collagen loss from the skin and reduces bone formation. It also impairs learning and long term memory retrieval. Can't remember your dreams? I usually have woken up muscles tight and stiff, adrenals depleted, emotionally exhausted, energy depleted and no appetite to boot and then not eating which by prolonging the stress response.

    A lot of western breakfasts are high fat/fiber/protein such as eggs, bacon, cereal & milk. Oh and then a cup of cortisol boosting coffee. Perhaps westerners have got it all wrong and some insulin promoting carbs may be better, a potato or some rice perhaps. When I traveled to Japan I always had rice for breakfast.

    I don't want you to get the impression that cortisol is evil, it is naturally very good for you if your survival is threatened and your in danger and need to move quickly. However is this the case for most people between the hours of 4am and 8am??

    If you remember a while back I was interested in polyphasic sleeping where instead of sleeping in the modern human contrived 8 hour time increment it is perhaps more natural/ancestral to sleep in two 3-4hr segments separated by 8-12 hours. Many animals do this already naturally, but many humans have eschewed this.

    When i first started taking RS it seemed to me that it was coaxing my body more towards this polyphasic style of sleeping. The natural outcome would be that I would be eating every 4 hours instead of starving myself for 8 and inducing a massive cortisol spike. Thus it seems that a person following this kind of eat/sleep schedule can completely eliminate the huge early morning cortisol spike and all it's associated negative aspects.

    The defining aspects of CFS/ME is fatigue! And the modern "normal" eat/sleep schedule appears to thus be very detrimental to many if not perhaps most people. I mean who purposely wants to impair their immune system, slow healing and rejuvenation in the body, enhance catabolism right when you want to be doing the opposite? Sleep is supposed to be rejuvenating! The thing is if you do it too much at once, it has the opposite effect.

    I suspect many people may be inducing adrenal fatigue by following the "normal" sleep/eat schedule. I suspect most CFS/ME people suffer from this.

    Cortisol also has consequences on your micro-biome and can increase leaky-gut.

    Consider the following from: http://www.ucc.ie/en/cns/news/newsarchive2012/Mind-alteringmicroorganisms.pdf

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now I know many people are probably quite adverse to changing the way they have been sleeping their entire life. I now, force myself to wake up after about 4-5 hours of sleeping and eat some carbs to boost insulin a bit to dampen cortisol. If I'm still tired I will go back to bed and nap, but at least it will be more rejuvenating this way.

    It has been a "belief" that you need 6-8 hrs of consecutive sleep for proper rejuvenation. Many people thus will get anxiety if they think they are not getting what they are "supposed" to. Hopefully this post can change some of the psychology around this. And remember you can still get all the sleep you need, just tweak it so your cortisol doesn't spike. Eat some carbs every 4 hours. Your body, mind and microbes will thank you. :thumbsup:

    Siesta anyone?;)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2014
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  2. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    People with ME have been found to have cortisol levels generally on the low side, and with an abnormal diurnal variation, thus lower than controls in the morning and higher than controls in the evening, which I suspect is one reason why many of us feel better in the evening. See this paper for example. There may be more recent ones that throw more light on the issue.
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  3. Gestalt

    Gestalt Senior Member

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    Sure a more recent one from 2005 found Cortisol was lower all-around than controls in CFS (which is an indicator of adrenal-fatigue, btw) and that diurnal variation was normal.

    From: http://simonwessely.com/Downloads/Publications/CFS/171.pdf
    Also
    To me this is largely irrelevant and the inconsistency in experiments shows that.

    My main point is that the high spike in cortisol can be avoided, by timing sleep and carb intake differently. This would provide tremendous health benefits to people with CFS and normal healthy people alike. If sleeping in excess of 5-6 hours at a time puts a significant burden on the body I see no point in doing it.

    Napolean was quoted saying: “Six hours for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool.”

    Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Buckminster Fuller, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill plus many other noted great minds adhered to some form of polyphasic sleeping. To me this is more than just eliminating CFS.....it's about becoming superhuman! :angel:

    Again it's not really about sleep I believe, but rather about food and the cortisol response to lack of insulin/carbs. This I believe also has a significant effect on the gut-biome. I think there will also be a lot of individual variation, depending on different rates of metabolism and stress as well.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2014
  4. Vegas

    Vegas Senior Member

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    Tell me what you think about this graph? Perhaps there is a correlation between the lows and the highs and how someone feels? In other words, feeling worse from roughly 12:30 to 4:00 p.m. and feeling best between 6:00 and 11:30 p.m. This is about the best graphical representation for ME/CFS symptom variation that I can come up with.


    Does anyone know what this represents? upload_2014-4-2_16-40-49.png
  5. Vegas

    Vegas Senior Member

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    Sleep and timing, yes this can help things. I will agree that one can shift their cortisol curve, over time to some extent. In fact I think this is a good strategy to help even out some of the symptom variation. The problem though is that the corticosteroid response is tied to other fundamental measures, and much of this is outside our control.

    Some crazy stuff happens with ME/CFS, I recall, for at least a couple of years, praying for the moment that I would get just a tiny hormonal response, to take me away from the pain. Everyday I would try to weather the moments when the hormonal, energy, and antioxidant response would plummet. I think a number of people can relate to this experience when you can literally feel every hormonal release as they happen throughout the day. It sucks using every ounce of energy you can muster to keep your eyes open or hold a thought.

    As to your point about changing sleep, I found that eating in the a.m. and forcing an earlier bed time was immensely helpful, and it definitely alters the hormonal response after some period of time. I also, today, feel better with some carbs in the morning, but this didn't happen until my carbohydrate metabolism became more of an asset than a liability. For many of us, this part of the metabolism is downregulated to prevent further damage.
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  6. Gestalt

    Gestalt Senior Member

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    I am not sure what you are asking but the B,L,D,S represent meals. You eat, insulin levels go up and cortisol goes down. Each successive meal brings cortisol down further seemingly.
    [​IMG]

    I am beginning to think about cortisol just like insulin. Imagine consuming a super high GI meal and spiking your insulin levels throught he roof, and you did this every day for decades on end.

    Think about cortisol the same way. This is what you do when you sleep 6+ hours and fast. After a while the adrenals are going to get worn out, and the cortisol response may not function as well or predictably. The bodies systems will become over-taxed and cortisol supply may operate intermittently being much more vulnerable to a whole host of other factors. Similar to insuiln,...you become over sensitive and things become less predictable.

    The medical community references cortisol to circadian rhythm......but to me the reference seems more like food/insulin!!!

    Some cortisol gives you energy, too much and it exhausts you. Just like carbs, a little is good, too much and your insulin goes sky high. Moderation is key here. Seems to also then apply to sleep and meal frequency as well which few people have picked up on.
  7. Gestalt

    Gestalt Senior Member

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    This is what would happen to me. If I sleep 6+ hours, I'll wake up for a bit between 6-7hr mark, with a bit of hunger. Ill feel light headed and tough it out, and then about 5 minutes later my metabolism will down-regulate. It's like a switch I can actively feel it happen. Then i'll drift back to sleep.

    Then once I finally wake up after sleeping an extra 1-2 hours (so total 7-8hrs), ill have no appetite & feel sluggish. My body has been just damaging itself for the last 2+ hours catabolizing my muscles to support my brain compromising my immunity and a whole host of other systems.

    I can now resolve this by forcing myself out of bed after 4-5 hours of sleep and eating something. Then I don't have to deal with the downregualted metabolism that is trying to prevent damage. My point is can you dictate to some degree if your metabolism is going to be a liability or not.
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  8. Vegas

    Vegas Senior Member

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    This is actually a graph, which reflects the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione in healthy humans. I think this measure much more closely parallels what patients with ME/CFS experience than any cortisol curve. Notice that there is only a very small window in the a.m. where this one measure of redox status is optimal. It precipitously declines until lunch.

    I think, if someone with ME/CFS is going to exert himself/herself in the a.m., it needs to be brief. The more forgiving time to exert oneself will be during the lasting redox window, which is most commonly from about 5 to midnight, although obviously earlier would be better. (realizing that many don't fit this pattern, I do think it is the most common though) While sleeping GSSG naturally falls, so regardless of GSH synthesis, this redox ratio improves, and our bodies can execute general detoxification. I believe this pattern relating to symptom severity doesn't just apply to ME/CFS, it applies to inflammatory diseases, in general.

    This measure of redox status,while not perfect, strongly reflects ones ability to mitigate the effects of oxidative stress. I think it shouldn't be especially relevant, as we have surplus capacity to suppress oxidative stress when we are healthy, but in those with compromised resources, this unfortunately becomes germane.


    [​IMG]

    Attached Files:

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  9. adreno

    adreno 3% neanderthal

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    The cortisol graph fits my symptoms. I am usually okay in the morning, but at my worst at around 16, then I get better again around 19.

    I am not sure I see the value in blunting morning cortisol. You want high cortisol in the morning. On my tests, I am always flatlined throughout the day. If anything I want more cortisol, not less.

    It's true that cortisol can have negative effects on the immune system, especially bacterial infections, but I suspect ME/CFS is more a inflammation mediated disease, and for this cortisol is helpful. In short, cortisol is the most effective anti-inflammatory agent there is.

    I would probably be more interested in blunting epinephrine than cortisol. Cortisol has more of a calming feeling than a wired, stressful feeling. It is a hormone that allows you to deal with stressful events in a controlled manner. Now when you have high E/NE combined with low cortisol, that's when you really feel shitty and unable to respond to stress.

    Veterans who develop PTSD has been associated with lower cortisol levels prior to engagement, so in many ways cortisol is protective against stress.

    Saying that cortisol is catabolic and destroy muscle tissue is really an oversimplification. Cortisol is needed after exercise to repair muscle tissue, and to blunt inflammation.

    Again, blunting cortisol when you need it the most is a bad idea, IMO. Instead of calling it blunting, or avoiding spikes, you might as well call it impairing your stress response. In a stressful situation you want a cortisol spike, and then you want it to drop down again quickly. You don't want a blunted or prolonged response. It's the long drawn out response that's the killer, not the spike.

    That said, I agree that providing a steady flow of carbs to avoid overtaxing the adrenals is a good idea.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2014
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  10. Vegas

    Vegas Senior Member

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    I think if you look at the relative ratio of GSH/GSSG in the a.m., feeling o.k. in the a.m. is not unexpected. This is a healthy curve you are looking at, with the expectation that this ratio follows the same trend line, but is significantly depressed at all points.You will notice that the levels are still fairly high for most of the a.m. In fact, your feeling at your lowest at 1600 then rebounding at 1900 suggests to me that you stay up fairly late and probably consume more calories, including higher cysteine foods fairly late. You still have that same redox "valley" it just happens to be later than many. To me this is a bit of an acquired pattern that develops with inflammatory disease and caloric content and sleep get pushed back.

    I didn't say anything about blunting cortisol, I don't think. Yes, you want a normal cortisol curve, yes it makes us feel good, but you only want it if you have to have it. The adrenocortical response is governed by the inflammatory response. We need to control inflammation at a more fundamental level. Cortisol secretion is just covering up the damage.

    Speaking of PTSD. These patients develop the same pattern as is found in Depression, high-cortisol at night.
  11. adreno

    adreno 3% neanderthal

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    @Vegas

    You are right that I eat dinner fairly late, usually around 20, and go to bed around 23. Good guess.
  12. Vegas

    Vegas Senior Member

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    I've generally found that some of the best symptomatic improvement was brought about by those things that are known to suppress an adrenocortical response: phospholipids, dimethylglycine, Mg, pantethine, controlled exertion, low glycemic load, etc. These things are in large part protecting our mitochondria where the process of cortisol secretion is initiated.

    Do you have something that you find particularly valuable in terms of symptom improvement, regardless of the symptom?
  13. Gestalt

    Gestalt Senior Member

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    Well according to fitness nutrition expert Lyle McDonald, you want to be consuming your largest meal of the day right after your workout. In fact there is some debate among fitness nutritionists whether there is an opportune window of repair in that if you eat a large meal within 30mins or 60mins after a workout you get maximal repair benefit. So athletes ideally are spiking insulin which therefore will blunt cortisol as soon after exercise as possible. Also most bodybuilding nutrition is designed around having a near permanent stream of amino acids entering the blood 24/7. Consuming slow digesting proteins like casein therefore is done at night because it often takes a full 6 hours to digest completely. You want to reduce catabolism as much as possible.

    I don't see why you need cortisol "the most" in the 3 hours before waking up? This is where most people get it. Sleep is not supposed to be a stressful situation.

    During exercise ya of course you want it to be high or if you are running from a tiger. Again I am not advocating for permanent low cortisol, I just don't see any point in spiking it while you sleep.

    Also to your other point I'm pretty sure E/NE track pretty close to cortisol. As per you other point about CFS being all about inflammation mediation, inflammation is a secondary effect from a primary catabolic like effect. In this case leaky gut is likely one of the primary factors. Your body won't be trying to fix leaky gut if your cortisol is being jacked which leads to more inflammation, which leads to more stress response. A vicious negative cycle can establish. If you can at least interrupt the negative cycle and promote intestinal membrane anabolism you can stop the inflammation before it starts, rather than trying to actively suppress it. Cortisol may be the most anti-inflammatory agent there is but it's also the most counter-productive to ACTUAL healing and repair.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2014
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  14. adreno

    adreno 3% neanderthal

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    Well, I find things like pregnenolone, DHEA and the SSRI I'm taking particularly helpful. But also B vitamins, magnesium and antioxidants, and avoiding low carb dieting or fasting. Substances that reduce cortisol or aldosterone usually makes me worse.
  15. adreno

    adreno 3% neanderthal

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    I agree that it's good to take some carbs when you wake up early, but I'm not gonna set my alarm clock in the middle of the night so I can get up and eat carbs. Anyway what is the evidence that polyphasic sleep is natural? The vast majority of humans to not follow this sleep schedule, and I assume there is a reason for that.
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  16. Gestalt

    Gestalt Senior Member

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    There sure is. The advent of the mechanized age and labor efficiency! Squeezing maximal daylight working hours out of human laborers. :devil:


    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16964783

    Perhaps cortisol and food timing has something do do with it? :thumbdown:
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  17. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    I agree about the variation, but can't see the significance of the sleep patterns of various famous people without also knowing their health status and lifespans. Many famous, talented people have/had substantial physical and psychological problems.

    I slept badly for most of my life until I cut out gluten and reduced sugar and grains. I feel much better when I have slept for 7-8 hours at a time, which I often do now, with just a few brief awakenings for bladder emptying. I used to wake up ravenous, probably due to the blood-sugar swings that a high-carb diet tends to produce. If I didn't eat quickly I would get nauseous and at my worst I would retch and vomit. Not any more.
  18. Gestalt

    Gestalt Senior Member

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    I don't know about the other people but Tesla was healthy, mentally well and chipper to a ripe old age. This isn't just about famous/talented people, but rather how humans have slept throughout evolutionary history. Sleeping 7-8 hours at once is abnormal/atypical and unnatural in the greater evolutionary context as my previous post with abundant anthropological as well as medical evidence shows.
  19. adreno

    adreno 3% neanderthal

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    http://www.sleepdex.org/polyphasic.htm
  20. xjhuez

    xjhuez Senior Member

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    I don't know if it's my adrenals or blood sugar, but something wakes me up between the 4-5 hour mark every night.

    Typical night: hit the bed at 11 and immediately fall asleep (wife confirms it takes me 30 secs), sleep soundly until around 3-3:30 then spend the next few hours in awful, fragmented sleep. Occasionally I wake up anxious, but that's rare these days.

    RS hasn't helped at all, unfortunately.
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