Basal cortisol is found in the adrenal glands and plays a pretty important role in the fight or flight response.
The topic of increased cortisol levels and its effects came up in a class I was taking and the instructor said something which made my wheels start turning.
In children who are physically neglected, basal cortisol levels are higher than normal. The way he put it was, the switch that resides in those of us that turns on and off the hormones which aid us during those fight or flight moments is broken. So, when you get scared you experience that rush of adrenaline and once your body recognizes that there is no threat or need for the extra energy, etc. the switch turns off the pump of chemicals fueling your energy. If that switch is broken, well the brain keeps sending out those chemicals. So essentially, you are cleaning and think you are by yourself. You didn’t realize that one of the kids came home and they sneak up on you. Well, you shriek, jump and feel your heart rate accelerate. That adrenaline is pumping. You realize it is just one of the kids and you laugh and your body begins to slow back down. This is a normal reaction but for those with that broken switch, it takes alot longer for their bodies to return to normal.
My thoughts went like this, Josh was so sick when he was a baby. His very first appointment at three weeks he was admitted with bronchiolitis. I remember the nurse trying to listen to his little heart and pulling back with a concerned look. She turned to my doctor and said I think you need to listen. The doctor takes over and she is immediately concerned. The poor kid is so junky sounding they could barely hear his heart over the sound of his breathing. First hospitalization….So, it began….. He always seemed to be sick. He would have a loose bowel movement with every bottle before he was finished. Well, we switched his formula to a soy-based formula. A little better but still the same issues and his breathing remained the same. Before the age of one, Josh had been diagnosed with asthma. At no time did allergies come up. Josh was put on a nebulizer in which he was treated with a dose of pulmicort in the morning and one at night. This is similar to those Advair inhalers given to those with asthma as a maintenance medication. He also had albuterol respules for as needed. Well, I’m not sure if you know this, but pulmicort is milk based.
Do you see where I am going with this? At the age of eight I finally had him allergy tested. What was he allergic to? Milk and soy to name a few. So, his body was having an adverse reaction to the very thing that was supposed to be sustaining him. His food and then the medicine he was put on due to respiratory issues which were probably a result of his allergy. One of the things which can be found in those that are physically neglected is that they are hungry, all the time. So, to look at it from a different perspective, if what you are eating is causing a severe immune reaction from your body, wouldn’t you essentially be starving? I have four other children, all of which have been at the top of the growth charts for height and weight. Josh was just barely on it, to the point our doctor had him tested for CF(cystic fibrosis). In trying to take care of my child, we were putting his body under attack.
Well, traveling down this road, I decided to take a leaf out of Piagets book and do some of my own observations. Well, here is one observation which leaned in favor of my new theory:
I was sitting with Josh on one side of me and my older daughter, Ashley on the other side. Both children were doing their homework. Josh was doing his very quietly and contentedly. Ashley on the other hand was doing Math. Urgh, her least favorite subject. We were having a loud discussion how I would help her but not actually do the problem for her(which she was really, REALLY trying to figure out how to make me do, lol). My husband works third shift and was at the time sleeping. Well, our loud discussion woke him up. So, Dad came out of the bedroom and said to Ashley and I with a pointed look, ” Well you two don’t like to be very quiet.” Josh had been quietly doing his homework through all of this, but when this statement was made, he looked up and was like ” What?” Obviously upset. Dad smiled and said, ” not you buddy. You were very quiet.” Josh did not seem to hear this because that adrenaline was already pumping. He went from calm, content Josh to bouncing on the furniture, quite upset and unreasonable Josh in a matter of seconds and it took us an hour and a half to calm him down.
Ahha! I was armed with knowledge. Knowledge of the possible chemical reaction that had taken place and hopefully the means to retrain his brain. At this point we had already discovered his allergiens and eliminated them from his diet. So, now the last piece to this puzzle.
We used a method referred to as PLACE! Playful, Loving, Accepting, Curious and Empathatic. Have you ever tried to reason with an angry person? Chances are you have and you really haven’t gotten anywhere. Using this method can have remarkable results towards calming. If you are upset and believe something about yourself and you put it out there to someone and say, they come back at you and say that’s not true. They have just negated your feelings. They have told you you are wrong. Instead of putting you in a position to be more calm, they have succeeded in getting your back up. Now you need to defend your position. For those children who have a hard time relinquishing, this technique can be wonderful. Think of it in these terms, a child who has self-esteem issues. They say, Nobody likes me! To them, this is a true statement. If you say that’s not true, they can lose their trust in you and you can do nothing to help them. So how do you help them then without telling them that it is true. You EMPATHIZE! That has got to be a really heavy load to carry around. The feeling that noone likes you. You acknowledged the statement, their feelings and you told them you realize it is a hard thing to deal with. It gives them a chance to give a little more. I guess my point it that this method is less likely to spark that adrenalized reaction and can help teach a new way to face problems and emotions.

Enjoy life! Never give up hope!

Resources: http://www.qc.cuny.edu/Academics/Degrees/DMNS/Faculty%20Documents/Flory3.pdf

Disclaimer:  All posts on this site are a matter of opinion only and not intended to diagnose, treat or advise!

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