The Weekly Myth on TikTok.

The Weekly Myth on TikTok.where the symptoms of cancer and everyday life are combined and sold as a single product (which ashwagandha will definitely cure).The answers to these questions—which are likely to be affirmative given your human n...

Oct 29, 2023 - 01:00
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The Weekly Myth on TikTok.

The Weekly Myth on TikTok.

where the symptoms of cancer and everyday life are combined and sold as a single product (which ashwagandha will definitely cure).

The answers to these questions—which are likely to be affirmative given your human nature—are probably yes. However, for the time being, don't let them bother you. Instead, TikTok influencers would like you to think about the possibility that your cortisol levels are out of control and that you should purchase their supplements (link in bio!) to lower them. In addition to loving the taste of kale and becoming alert and slender at night and in the morning, you'll also experience other benefits.

As it absorbs the energy and fears of everything it touches, the concept of cortisol dysregulation has grown into a kind of mega-phenomenon. You can find advice on how to lose weight, maintain good sleep hygiene, massage techniques, and more by searching for cortisol on TikTok. Videos about menstrual cycle synchronization, gut health, mood disorders, healing from trauma, cortisol, when to take caffeine, and pretty much any other health concern a woman might google will be presented to her. I apologize, but this content is not intended for men. Nevertheless. ( ).

If you watch those videos through to the end, you will see a claim regarding every symptom or inconvenience you have ever encountered. They say it's all because of your elevated cortisol.

Anyway, what exactly is cortisol?

Let's take a brief break from TikTok land to discuss actual physiology. Our adrenal glands, which are located above our kidneys, produce the hormone cortisol.

Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline—the hormone that our body uses to prepare for combat—is the hormone that the adrenal glands are most well-known for producing. (Within the U. S. the scientific term for it is epinephrine. Both terms mean the same thing: epi + nephro in Greek and ad + renal in Latin, which means "on top of the kidneys.". ( ).

The adrenal gland also secretes small amounts of sex hormones and hormones that control electrolyte and water balance in addition to adrenaline and epinephrine. They also produce cortisol, which is relevant to our topic today. The hormone cortisol helps us deal with stress over the longer term, such as days to weeks or longer, whereas epinephrine is involved in the short-term "fight or flight" responses.

When you're unwell, expecting, severely dehydrated, recovering from surgery, or experiencing any other significant stress on your body, your cortisol levels rise. And these cortisol levels ought to rise—this is a good thing! Individuals who don't create enough cortisol in these circumstances run the risk of dying from an adrenal crisis.

Put another way, cortisol facilitates our bodies' proper response to stress, particularly extreme, potentially fatal physical stress. Anytime you've used hydrocortisone cream on a rash or taken a glucocorticoid medication (such as cortisone, prednisone, or dexamethasone), those are all forms of cortisol.

There are diseases like Addison's disease, where the body produces too much cortisol, and diseases like Cushing's disease, where the body produces too little. You should talk to your doctor about both of these matters, not your neighborhood TikToker; however, more on that in a moment.

TikTok users' opinions regarding cortisol.

The following are some more examples of the claims made by TikTok health influencers regarding symptoms of elevated cortisol levels, in addition to the ones we've already discussed.

waking up in the middle of the night. me. plus 4 a. me. in the evenings.

waking up exhausted and spending the night "wired," or overthinking.

food cravings, either sweet or salty.

Having love handles or stomach fat ("cortisol belly").

With a round face, a "moon face.".

cognitive issues such as "brain fog" or difficulty making choices.

experiencing agitation or anxiety.


fluid or swelling in the stomach, face, or other parts of the body.

gut problems (of any kind).

being unsteady because of a possible blood sugar spike.

What symptoms of "high cortisol" actually entail.

In actuality, neither the elevated cortisol nor any other cause can be identified by these symptoms. Certain things are so common and trivial that most people have probably encountered them at some point; after all, who hasn't occasionally craved candy?

The fact that these symptoms are popular among women who either seek out or promote weight-loss advice intrigues me greatly. Being low on energy (calories) is linked to a number of symptoms, including irritability, brain fog, stomach problems, lightheadedness or shakiness due to low blood sugar, and, for many people, an obsession with their fat, no matter how little or much of it. If you're constantly dieting, you may experience many of these symptoms.

If others are severe enough, they may indicate more serious health problems. For instance, if your typical face shape is round, you might believe that you have a "moon face," but that's not a huge deal. However, if your face has always been thin and then becomes round over a few months or years, that is a classic sign of Cushing syndrome, and you should consult an endocrinologist.

Once more, we are experiencing "adrenal fatigue.".

The labeling of these symptoms as "high cortisol" is recent, and it appears to have developed from the exact opposite. Adrenal fatigue was the biggest concern about five years ago or so. When Gwyneth introduced a vitamin pack especially to address it, do you recall?

The theory behind adrenal fatigue was that symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and cravings for sugar and salt were caused by your body burning out from too much stress and ceasing to produce stress hormones. Symptoms don't even match the presumed cause of adrenal fatigue, which has been thoroughly disproven by scientists. Does this sound familiar?

However, those symptoms do coincide—in a vague way—with elevated cortisol. Ironically, some TikToks refer to "high cortisol" as "adrenal fatigue," which is a misnomer. However, the high-cortisol myth assiduously absorbs other myths along the way, so it absorbed this one as well.

Another term that is currently in use is "HPA axis dysfunction," which is used by medical professionals as well as (possibly more frequently) by TikTokers who are making ridiculous videos. "Those letters stand for three bodily regions that are responsible for controlling cortisol levels:.

A portion of your brain called the hypothalamus (H) is capable of producing corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH, which instructs the pituitary.

The pituitary (P) gland, which is located directly beneath the hypothalamus, communicates with the cortisol-producing part of the adrenal gland by producing adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH, in response to CRH.

In response to ACTH, the adrenal (A) gland releases cortisol.

Elevations in cortisol lead to the production of fewer or no cortisol-triggering hormones by the pituitary and hypothalamus. There would be a problem if there was a malfunction in this system, such as a component not reacting to signals correctly. A broad phrase (rather than a particular diagnosis) for possible problems is "HPA axis dysfunction.". However, it is occasionally used as a stand-in for "adrenal fatigue" on TikTok. ".

high cortisol is caused by what TikTokers claim.

The focus of the TikToks is primarily on identifying signs of elevated cortisol levels rather than providing an explanation for the alleged hormone dysfunction that affects us all.

There are a few scapegoats, though. Given that cortisol is frequently (and rightfully) referred to as a stress hormone, TikTokers appear to believe that everyone who experiences stress or leads a busy life—basically everyone—is impacted by it. Some of these TikToks also discuss caffeine, but there isn't much proof to support the idea that drinking coffee in the morning is causing hormonal disruptions.

Yet the implicating exercise is where the scare tactics truly go crazy. Readers of Lifehacker for a long time may recall my coverage of the widely accepted TikTok fallacy that Pilates keeps you lean while HIIT (interval training) and weightlifting raise cortisol levels and cause fat. (That is untrue. Permit me to quote myself, if you would.

After high-intensity exercise, cortisol levels in the blood rise, but they quickly return to normal after an hour. Exercise physiologist John Hough notes here that after 11 days of high-intensity cycling, those fleeting cortisol spikes significantly decreased, demonstrating how quickly we adapt to high intensity exercise. (This is supported by more research. Put another way, as any athlete or trainer would have told you, the more practice we get, the better we become at handling physiological stress. From actual endocrinologists (hormone specialists) to scientists studying exercise and metabolism, the cortisol release that is triggered by exercise is simply not thought to be a significant factor in weight gain.

This myth is also linked to the belief that if you ovulate and menstruate, which many women who do not use hormonal birth control do, then engaging in high-intensity exercise during specific times of your cycle will cause your cortisol levels to skyrocket and result in the symptoms we previously discussed. This is also untrue.

what raises cortisol levels in reality.

Let's take a quick detour into reality here: There are serious, even fatal, medical disorders that result in elevated cortisol levels in the body.

Remember that cortisol levels are two to four times higher than normal during pregnancy, for example, and that this hormone is meant to rise in response to stress. Every day, it also rises and falls. It usually peaks in the morning, right around the time we wake up, and troughs at night. The degree of this variation, and even if it exists, differs greatly amongst individuals. If your naturopath or chiropractor believes that a measurement of this curve is sufficient to diagnose you with high cortisol, don't believe them. ( ).

Thus, mildly elevated cortisol brought on by everyday stressors is typically not a sign of illness. However, abnormally high cortisol is.

This is an excellent illustration of both the good and bad things the TikToks do. In the Washington Post's medical mysteries series, Bridget Houser was featured for her thinning hair, headaches, anxiety, and propensity for weight gain, which she overcame by increasing her exercise regimen. Her face grew sour. A number of medical professionals proposed that the reason for her symptoms could be stress related to her upcoming wedding, or as the symptoms persisted, her recent wedding.

In the end, it was discovered that she had cancer. A tumor in her lung was producing ACTH, a hormone that is typically produced by the pituitary gland, which is situated beneath the brain and in the head and regulates the body's cortisol levels. Unfortunately for Houser, rogue cancer cells occasionally manage to barge into that hormonal dialogue. Her symptoms disappeared and her cortisol levels decreased after the tumor was surgically removed.

Although they happen under extreme stress, similar symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cancer. Pathologically elevated cortisol has been observed in a number of situations, as this review article outlines.

addiction to alcohol use.

advanced stage of long-term renal illness.

severe depression, anxiety, and a few other mental illnesses.

Please see a real doctor if you believe your cortisol levels are high enough to be negatively impacting your health.

Tips from TikTok on reducing cortisol levels.

You have an abundance of answers from TikTokers after they persuaded you that you have a health issue. The majority of these responses result in financial gain for them: TikTokers with affiliate codes will gladly sell you any number of the hundreds or even thousands of "adrenal support" supplements that are available. You can also invest your money in classes that teach particular forms of massage or meditation, such as "trauma-releasing" floor exercises or EFT tapping, which involves tapping on "meridian points" on your body while concentrating on negative emotions.

There are many video clips on TikTok that demonstrate foods you should or shouldn't eat, as well as “adrenal cocktails” that you can make and consume every morning. TikTok is always happy to jump on the “food is medicine” bandwagon. You should take a lot of general vitamins (and occasionally B vitamins in particular) as well as supplements containing adaptogens, such as ashwagandha. Although there isn't any conclusive evidence linking these suggestions to adrenal health, eating protein and vegetables is still beneficial to our health. While it might not be necessary, it won't hurt to follow TikTok's advice to eat more kale.

In the same vein, TikTok videos will identify sleep disturbances as a sign of elevated cortisol levels and then suggest basic sleep hygiene practices as a potential remedy. If you don't get enough sleep, you should try to find a better way to fall asleep. Cortisol is an unnecessary middleman in this situation, whether it's involved or not. I should also mention that you might want to consider having your sleep apnea evaluated by your doctor if your sleep problems persist even after you establish a phone-free bedtime routine and go for morning walks in the sun.

Reasons not to pay attention to TikTok's advice on lowering cortisol levels.

TikTok claims that excessive cortisol is so serious that you have to treat it, and that treating it will transform your life; however, it's also mild enough that you can treat it on your own without going to the doctor. The two concepts don't really mesh well.

This combination becomes risky when actual medical conditions are involved. Consider what would have happened if cancer patient Bridget Houser had used TikTok to diagnose and treat herself. For another instance, women can be found discussing how your husband's "short fuse" is actually an indication of elevated cortisol levels in a certain area of TikTok. I apologize, but a video telling you what supplements to give your husband is not the kind of help you need if he struggles with anger management.

In the end, it's critical that you assess the severity of your symptoms and adjust your behavior if you believe you are experiencing high cortisol symptoms. Please feel free to do yoga or have a "adrenal cocktail" (orange juice and coconut water) if you're feeling low on energy. If not, it won't hurt to try. Perhaps it will be helpful.

However, you should see a real doctor if your symptoms are having a significant negative impact on your life or health. An endocrinologist can identify hormonal issues, but you might have better success by focusing on your symptoms rather than making assumptions about the underlying cause. Consider speaking with a sleep specialist, for instance, if you frequently wake up during the night and feel drowsy in the morning.

Lastly, if you're browsing TikTok and suspect you may be experiencing hormonal issues, there are a lot of “hormone balance coaches” that will offer to help you and arrange for a number of pricey tests to determine the cause of your problems. Visiting a doctor who genuinely knows their stuff is not the same as this. The tests that doctors order to diagnose hormone problems are typically not available to these hormone coaches, so they may order the incorrect kinds of tests. Kindly visit a legitimate physician.


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