Children with autism have an ongoing stress response due to internal stressors such as inflammation, toxins, immune reactions, and infections, (Lyme Mold, PANDAS/strep) and more. They also have external stressors from sensory overload issues. The adrenal glands are responsible for helping regulate our stress response through the release of the hormone cortisol.

Often referred to as the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal axis (HPA). These each have their own job in this process. The hypothalamus, a part of the brain, keeps hormones balanced. The pituitary, also part of the brain, sends signals out from the brain such as thyroid stimulating hormone. The adrenals participate by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. It creates the fight or flight response.

Symptoms of cortisol imbalance:

The stress response, when overburdened, creates many health and behavioral issues. Symptoms are a manifestation of what is happening in the body. Learn how cortisol effects our:

  • sleep
  • energy levels
  • immune system
  • mood (aggression)
  • hormones
  • brain/memory
  • weight
  • blood sugar
  • food digestion
  • thyroid

…and much more.

How to help regulate cortisol and energy levels

Listen to my podcast interview with Dr. Anju Usman Singh, and learn how to regulate your blood sugar through diet, vitamin supplementation, and adaptogenic herbs such as ashwaganda and holy basil. The term “adaptogenic” means that it will help the body naturally “adapt” as it needs. They can assist in lifting energy when it’s down, or calming energy when it is too high.

A few foods and toxins that negatively effect cortisol levels are:

  • sugars
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • red and yellow food dyes
  • meats injected with hormones
  • environmental toxins that disrupt hormone balance,
  • nitrates
  • pesticides
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • imitation sweeteners such as aspartame

When testing cortisol levels be sure to test with urine, or my favorite, saliva. The test must be done at least 4 times throughout the day, as cortisone levels change. If only one sample is taken then you do not have a clear reading. It is commonly low in the morning so you may notice it being difficult to wake. It can be high in the evening so it makes it hard to go to sleep.

A few tips to help your cortisol levels throughout the day:

  1. In the morning solid licorice root extract can be helpful to give some energy.
  2. The adaptogenic herbs, ashwaganda and holy basil can be helpful to help calm in the evening before bed.
  3. COQ10 can help increase energy
  4. Ginseng can help give some energy in the afternoon but helps calm too.

Deep breaths and exercising can be very helpful to teach your child to self regulate with also.

Listen to my radio show interview with Dr. Usman on the stress response and how cortisol can effect your child’s health and behavior. 

Biography: Anju Usman Singh, MD, FAAFP, ABIHM, FMAPs, Hom-C

Dr. Anju Usman Singh is director and owner of True Health Medical Center and Pure Compounding Pharmacy in Naperville, Illinois.  She specializes in biomedical interventions for children with ADD, Autism, PANDAS/PANS, Down Syndrome and related disorders.  She has been involved in research regarding copper/zinc imbalances, metallothionein dysfunction, biofilm related infections and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. She serves on the medical advisory boards for TACA (The Autism Community in Action) and Autism Hope Alliance, as well as serving on faculty for MAPs (Medical Academy for Pediatric Special Needs).   Dr. Usman Singh received her medical degree from Indiana University and completed a residency in Family Practice at Cook County Hospital, in Chicago, Illinois.  She is board certified in Family Practice and Integrative and Holistic Medicine (ABIHM).

Dr. Anju Usman Singh’s websites:,

Dr. Usman’s compounding pharmacy,

Karen’s Free Autism Recovery Workshop

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