IsoCort

IsoCort is a natural therapy for damaged and exhausted adrenal glands that are unable to produce adequate cortisol. Bezwecken, the manufacturer, sells this product primarily to alternative health care providers for resale to their customers. It is intended as a natural over-the-counter alternative to the medication hydrocortisone. It is simply swallowed much like most dietary supplements.

Cortisol is not a toxin. It is necessary to the proper functioning of the body. Cortisol is very helpful to health so long as it exists in balanced levels. Problems with cortisol are very common, and they have to do with the levels being too high or too low. IsoCort may help with cortisol levels that are too low, if it is used cautiously with test data to back up the timing and size of the doses.

Who May Benefit From IsoCort

IsoCort may help people who have poor adrenal function that has resulted in inadequate levels of cortisol. However, you must evaluate carefully whether you actually have low cortisol. You do not want to simply try the IsoCort for a while without adequate cortisol level test data because you could aggravate or trigger health problems if you did not in fact have low cortisol levels.

When cortisol or drugs that deliver it such as hydrocortisone are misused to cause cortisol levels to become excessive, they can cause health problems such as suppressing the ability of the adrenal glands to release hormones, particularly cortisol itself. This was a widespread problem when hydrocortisone was first introduced as many doctors were prescribing high dosages, such as 40 mg or more per day, that were far beyond what a healthy body would make on its own.

High cortisol levels can produce weight gain, mask pain from other conditions that may delay diagnosis of those conditions (autoimmune diseases, arthritis, etc.), suppress immune function, and even cause muscle and/or bone degeneration.

Chronic exposure to excessive cortisol can even damage the brain and may be connected to the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s neurodegenerative diseases.

Mainstream doctors abusing hydrocortisone gave the drug a bad reputation that it does not deserve when it is used properly. For whatever reason, it seems that alternative or integrative health practitioners who stick to no more than physiological dosages (no more than 20 mg per day of cortisol replacement, but preferably much less) often seem to be better versed on using IsoCort than mainstream doctors are at using hydrocortisone.

IsoCort Formulation Change

Reports are that prior to early 2011, the main active ingredient in IsoCort was freeze-dried extract from sheep adrenal glands. Various claims have stated that each pellet typically contained around 1.5 mg to 2.5 mg of cortisol in addition to other ingredients.

Sometime around early 2011, Bezwecken changed the formulation to use cortisol generated by fermenting yams. It is possible this may have improved the formulation by eliminating other hormones that might have been present in the sheep adrenal gland extract such as adrenaline (epinepherine). This new formulation has a label that states it contains “Fermented Plant Derived Cortisol, Echinacea Purpurea (6.0mg/pellet)”.

This seems to mean they are counting the cortisol and echinacea as having a total of 6.0 mg. It would be a lot more helpful if they would just come out and state how much cortisol is in the supplement.

It is not clear if this formulation change means the amount of cortisol per tablet was changed. Dosage instructions still list that 8 pellets per day as the maximum dosage, suggesting that they may have intended the amount of cortisol per pellet to remain the same.

When To Take IsoCort

Generally speaking, a patient advised to use IsoCort will be told to take much of the daily dosage around waking time and to stop taking any cortisol beyond a few hours before they go to sleep. For a patient who is told to take 8 tablets per day, the dosage advise might be to take four at waking, another two around lunch time, one more between lunch and dinner, and the last before dinner.

However, IsoCort dosages are best timed if you have data on the daily pattern of cortisol variations so that you can try to time the IsoCort tables to correspond to when you have low cortisol. To do this, you need to have multiple cortisol tests in one day (perferably at least four spread through the day) to be able to estimate the variation and spot low and high points.

When you are stressed out, from injury, illness, or psychological stress, you may need additional cortisol. Discuss this with your medical care practitioner. You may also be advised to wear a medical alert bracelet stating that you use replacement cortisol. This is important because in the event of an accident or incident that renders you unconscious, people who suffer low cortisol levels may need additional cortisol to save one’s life.

Saliva Diurnal Cortisol Tests Are Recommended

Confusingly, many symptoms of low cortisol and high cortisol are similar making it hard to know from the symptoms whether your cortisol levels are unbalanced. Even more confusingly, many of the symptoms overlap with other health problems such as low thyroid, chronic latent infection, digestive disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, and more.

Therefore it is very important to get your cortisol levels tested before starting any supplement or medication that has the potential to significantly raise or lower cortisol levels. It also helps to manage your dosages and track your progress if you know your cortisol level before you start any treatment so that they can be re-checked later to verify the treatment is having the intended effect.

Before you consider using IsoCort or any other type of therapy for adrenal fatigue outside of adaptogens (which tend to raise low cortisol and lower high cortisol), to maximize effectiveness and safety you must do testing to determine your cortisol levels.

Most mainstream doctors will run a single blood level check for cortisol. While this is accurate, it is often very misleading because cortisol levels vary widely throughout the day.

For example, the reference ranges used by one widely used lab (LabCorp) state the morning cortisol should be between 6.2 and 19.4 mcg/dL (micrograms per deciliter) and afternoon cortisol should be between 2.3 and 11.9 mcg/dL. So if you get a single result back and it shows 7.1 mcg/dL then your doctor may say “all is well” but it fact that may not be so. It could be that your afternoon reading of 7.1 mcg/dL is the only time of the day in which you have adequate cortisol and the rest of the day you have too little. Or it could be that you have very high cortisol at night but your morning and early afternoon levels are OK. This is why a single cortisol test is not enough to know what is happening in your body.

You should run a series of four cortisol saliva tests covering times from within an hour of waking to when you go to bed for the most accurate understanding of your cortisol levels. As they vary widely throughout the day in a diurnal pattern in which cortisol is typically the lowest at bedtime and highest at waking, having four (or more) measurements can allow you to draw a graph that estimates your cortisol throughout the day. Below is a a graph of saliva test results from ZRT Labs for one patient who has had problems with years of chronic stress leading to very low levels of cortisol.

Adrenal fatigue causes low cortisol levels

Example of a cortisol test showing why four samples are needed

This patient was previously tested with single blood tests and deemed to have “normal cortisol” because those tests fell within the wide conventional test ranges. But in fact the patient had too little cortisol most of the day. Additionally, the patient’s sleep cycle was so disturbed (shifted by several hours due to chronic sleep disorders) that afternoon blood tests should have been evaluated based upon morning test ranges. Mainstream doctors often do not consider this, but if you see an endocrinologist then you are more likely to get good advice on hormone problems as they have been trained in the confusing intricacies of the many hormones of the body that are often glossed over by general practitioners.

You should also consider having your DHEA and neurotransmitter levels tested. DHEA and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline (epinepherine) and noradrenaline (norepinepherine) are also made by the adrenal glands. Low DHEA can worsen symptoms of cortisol imbalances and can adversely affect other hormone levels such as testosterone and even estrogen. Abnormal neurotransmitter levels may also create symptoms much like imbalanced cortisol.

Best Uses of Isocort

The best use of this product is for those who suffer from consistently low levels of cortisol but are still capable of making some cortisol. People who have a total lack of cortisol often found in the condition Addison’s Disease might also benefit from Isocort, however they require special medical attention because zero cortisol levels can lead to very low blood pressure, coma, and even death.

Those people who often have low cortisol levels but sometimes experience high levels may be able to use IsoCort by taking it at times of the day in which their cortisol is consistently low.

Those who suffer from high and low cortisol levels probably should avoid the use of IsoCort. Instead, investigate adaptogens that normalize cortisol levels such as ashwagandha.

People with frequent low cortisol may also benefit from the use of licorice root as it blocks the actions of enzymes that degrade cortisol in the body. This helps the IsoCort and any cortisol the adrenal glands are able to make last longer. It may also help reduce the necessary dosage of IsoCort. Licorice root is considerably less expensive than IsoCort, so it may help to potentiate the effects of replacement cortisol. This may yield a savings over taking high dosages of Isocort. Some people with slighly low cortisol during parts of the day might even do well with just licorice root alone without IsoCort or any medications such as hydrocortisone.

WARNING: Treating a person who suffers from high cortisol levels with a product such as IsoCort or licorice root will likely worsen their health problems.

WARNING: Treating a person who suffers from low cortisol levels with cortisol-lowering products may also worsen health problems.

Recheck Cortisol Levels Periodically

When using cortisol boosting therapies, you should periodically recheck your cortisol levels. As an added safeguard, check your blood pressure and body temperature multiple times per day to monitor for changes.

Adjust your cortisol replacement dosages to keep the levels within normal ranges. For instance, if you find that your formerly low blood pressures and temperatures are rising to normal or even high levels, you may need to reduce your cortisol replacement because your adrenal glands are recovering and are again able to make enough cortisol on their own.

An added caution is that taking too much cortisol can further damage the adrenal glands. This is true of both IsoCort and the conventional medication hydrocortisone. It is best to start with a low dosage and gradually increase it based upon how it helps your symptoms and whatever side effects it may cause.

When starting IsoCort, some people report initial discomfort that may be tied to the body resuming normal metabolic processes that were suppressed due to low cortisol levels. For instance, some people report worsened nausea and even vomiting which is confusing because they are also common symptoms of dangerously low cortisol levels. Be especially cautious about such symptoms because they can also be caused by a sudden drop in cortisol levels due to illness, acute stress, or injury that causes an adrenal crisis that may necessitate immediate emergency medical care to save your life.

Related Articles

Related Supplements

Ashwagandha
Licorice Root

Further Reading

Cortisol

Acute Adrenal Crisis

Health Alert: Adrenal Crisis Causes Death in Some People Who Were Treated With hGH


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Comments

IsoCort — 6 Comments

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    • Jason,

      Combining licorice root and IsoCort is an excellent idea if you know you have low cortisol levels. Licorice root is quite inexpensive, IsoCort is more expensive. I think you may find that you can lower your overall cost and get similar effect if you take the two combined and lower the IsoCort dosage somewhat. It’s hard to say how much to lower it as this is going to vary from person to person, but say if you’re taking 8 tablets per day you might try lowering it to 4 or 6 per day instead while taking with licorice root and then adjust upwards or downwards from there based upon how you feel, your blood pressure and body temperature (both tend to change when cortisol becomes low or high), and cortisol tests.

      One method I’ve heard a person say worked fairly well for him is that he stopped taking IsoCort by around dinner time but continued to take licorice root all the way to bedtime to help cortisol coast at a little higher level throughout the night without it becoming as high as it would if another IsoCort was taken. I recall mention of taking around 8 to 10 licorice root capsules per day, with the IsoCort taken from morning to evening and the licorice root taken from morning to bedtime. This person suffers nighttime pain that may be related to low cortisol, but found that taking one last IsoCort at bedtime or shortly before sometimes interfered with sleep although it did help with the pain.

      In a healthy person, taking so much licorice root could produce cortisol levels that are too high and could boost blood pressure, but in somebody with low cortisol it probably would not do that.

      Alison

  4. This was a great and thorough article- THANK YOU. Too bad IsoCort is no longer available :-(. I tried Thorne Research “Adrenal Cortex” with little effect. Wondering if anyone out there has a found a good IsoCort replacement? In my 20/20 hindsight, I wish I bought out the last of the IsoCorts everywhere. Have you seen the recent prices on Amazon and Ebay?? Yikes… $160/bottle. What a shame.

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