What your earwax could reveal about your stress levels

Cortisol, which is made in the adrenal glands, is commonly known as the stress hormone. It’s crucial for helping your body deal with stressful situations.

This steroid hormone is utilized by most of the cells in our bodies for a variety of functions, including:

  • Regulation of blood sugar levels
  • Regulating metabolism
  • Coordinates sleep cycles
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Assisting with memory formulation
  • Controls blood pressure in women
  • Responds to infections and stress
  • Has a controlling effect on salt and water balance
  • Supports the developing fetus during pregnancy

Since cortisol is vital for our cells and how we respond to stress, how do you know how much cortisol you have? A test can detect if you have Cushing’s syndrome which involves too much of the hormone or Addison’s disease which is caused by having too little.

 If your cortisol levels are moderately high over time, it can present many unwanted problems.

Symptoms of high cortisol

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irritable
  • Poor concentration
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle weakness
  • Acne
  • Weight gain (mid-section & face)
  • Thinning skin
  • Slow healing

Measuring Stress Hormones

Measuring cortisol levels can be traditionally obtained in three ways: through your saliva, blood or urine. These methods have questionable accuracy as hormone levels are known to fluctuate, and some methods are time-consuming.

With the recent spikes of COVID-19 throughout the U.S., it has been difficult to maintain social distance and facilitate important medical checkups.

In the U.S., telehealth has been around for many years, but it has become widely used since the coronavirus disease pandemic. The growth of telehealth was fueled by the inability to see patients in person at the beginning of the pandemic and the government’s move to relax regulations. Telehealth will continue to grow as this model has proven to be successful.

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Wearables and the power of artificial intelligence are also playing a pivotal contributor to telehealth as people are monitoring themselves more regularly. The use of wearables can increase exponentially due to gathering vital information at home without stepping into a physician’s office.

A new device shows promise and can now be used in the comfort of your home with reliable and stable results. Who knew our cortisol levels could be measured in ear wax? The lead researcher of this new device, Dr. Herane-Vives, tested several different cortisol sampling techniques and found the earwax samples yielded more cortisol than other methods. This method was easier to use, faster, and less expensive than other methods.

Due to this successful pilot study, Dr. Herane-Vives is setting up a company to bring his earwax sampling device to market and are investigating the potential for monitoring diabetes, and eventually, COVID-19 antibodies.

How to Reduce Cortisol Levels

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening
  • Become more mindful of your stressful thoughts
  • Learn to relax (music, yoga, massage, deep breathing)
  • Maintain healthy relationships
  • Enjoy the companionship of a pet
  • Tend to your spirituality
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Try fish oil and ashwagandha supplements

Sources:

Natural ways to lower Cortisol — Healthline

Earwax sampling could measure stress hormone — Eurekalert!

The growth of telehealth during COVID-19 and its future after: Dr Patricia Salber Interviews Dr. Joseph Kvedar — AJMC.com

Cortisol Test — MedlinePlus

Tracey G. Ingram, AuD

By Tracey G. Ingram, AuD

Tracey G. Ingram is a former Occupational Therapist, and presently a writer and Doctor of Audiology with more than 20 years of experience. She enjoys living a healthy lifestyle and feels health is a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing. She practices intermittent fasting, Pilates, yoga, hiking and daily meditation. She loves to share her experiences with nutrition, supplements and eating organic foods to help others improve their health.