Right up there with the obesity epidemic is an “invisible epidemic” – adrenal fatigue. Most clients I consult with are in some stage of adrenal dysfunction whether it’s the alarm stage, resistance stage or exhaustion stage.
Many individuals live stress-filled, fast-paced, sympathetic dominant lives with lack of down time, rest and relaxation. The body does not differentiate between real or imagined stressors, fearful emotions and thoughts. Many fail to take care of their basic needs such as eating healthy food, drinking clean water, and valuing the importance of restful sleep.
Adrenal fatigue affects close to 80 percent of the population and causes a multitude of health problems, from exhaustion and weight gain to decreased immune function. Adrenal dysfunction can result in mood disorders, insomnia, fibromyalgia, diabetes, cancer, fungal infections, hypertension, hypothyroid and kidney disease…the list goes on.
Most with weak adrenal function don't realize their adrenals are the cause of their symptoms, or that they can heal themselves naturally. The majority of conventional doctors ignore adrenal dysfunction unless it’s severe or part of an illness such as Addison’s (an underproduction of cortisol) or Cushing’s (an overproduction of cortisol).
The adrenal glands weigh less than a grape. They are two tiny, walnut-sized glands located above each kidney. The adrenals are the control center for many hormones including cortisol, adrenaline, DHEA, progesterone, aldosterone, estrogen and testosterone. Cortisol is produced in response to stressors such as pain and inflammation, glycemic control and psychological overload.
The primary role of the adrenal glands is to control your energy levels and keep you alive during stressful events. Studies have shown that for every minute you experience stress, it takes 60 minutes to remove the flood of adrenal stress hormones from your bloodstream. Chronic stress creates a continuous production of cortisol which in turn overproduces cell-damaging free radicals causing your body to break down.
What happens when cortisol levels are consistently high or low? Muscle and bone atrophy, digestion is impaired, normal cell regeneration declines, destruction of T-cells, the thymus gland shrinks, aging accelerates, and all other hormones and brain chemistry are disrupted, along with a weakening of the immune system.
Adrenal Fatigue is known to cause……
- Asthma, bronchitis, frequent colds
- Bloating and/or swelling
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Body fat levels (excessive belly fat) that don’t lower in response to a healthy diet and sufficient exercise
- Chronic heartburn or indigestion and digestive difficulties
- Cravings for salt and/or sugar
- Decreased or zero sex drive
- Dizziness when standing up suddenly
- Elevated LDL cholesterol (excess cholesterol is manufactured in times of psychological stress as well as dehydration)
- Excessive urination
- Having to have a cup of strong tea or coffee in the morning to get going
- Low capacity to tolerate or handle stress; Irritable; Mental fogginess; Mood swings
- Intolerance to Exercise
- Lower than normal blood pressure
- Osteoporosis and muscle atrophy
- Poor memory, acuity and concentration
- Severely cracked, painful heels (also an indication of essential fatty acid deficiency)
- Tend to be a night person
- Tendency of a “need” to wear sunglasses; sensitive to light
- Sensitivity and tenderness at low back under the 12th rib area
Your adrenals are your backup pharmacy. When the adrenals are depleted and chronically overworked, they’re unable to produce sufficient amounts of hormones. Cholesterol is a precursor to all hormones, and DHEA is a precursor to the hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Insufficient DHEA contributes to fatigue, bone loss, muscle atrophy, decreased sex drive, depression, achy joints, and impaired immune function.
Adrenal hormones act as important reserves after menopause or andropause. Therefore, if the adrenals are exhausted, menopausal/andropause symptoms will intensify. Before menopause or andropause, the adrenals produce 40% of sex hormones; after menopause or andropause, the adrenals produce 90% of sex hormones. The stronger your adrenals are, the easier your transition and symptoms into menopause or andropause will be.
For optimal health, vitality, longevity and fat loss, it is vital that the health of the adrenals are prioritized. Each person is individual in susceptibility to adrenal dysfunction based on their genetic make up. A child or fetus in the womb that experiences trauma whether physical, emotional, electromagnetic, environmental or psychological has a lower stress threshold in adult life. It’s important to remember that the nervous system, endocrine system and immune system are all interconnected.
- Addiction to stimulants
- Eating foods your body is sensitive to and cannot tolerate
- Insufficient rest and relaxation. Consistently staying up late at night (past 10:30 pm) and getting up early
- Long-term steroid drug use for arthritis, asthma, allergies, or MS which cause the adrenals to shrink in size
- Over-exercising and excessive cardio/aerobic exercise
- Persistent injuries that cause inflammation; chronic pain
- Prolonged stress
- Skipping meals and blood sugar imbalances
- Exposure to toxins
- Digestive dysfunction
- Liver dysfunction
- Unresolved emotions
Diagnosing Adrenal Function is important to determine the appropriate recovery protocol. Adrenal Function. Tests include:
- Rogoff’s Sign
- Pupil Constriction
- Ragland’s Blood Pressure Test
- Urine Sodium
- Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) testing via saliva is non-invasive and the most reliable. The ASI evaluates how well the adrenal glands function by tracking their 24-hour circadian rhythm. Saliva samples are taken four times/day for one day to determine your basic cortisol rhythm. In addition to the ASI, include a thyroid panel (TSH, T4 an T3 Uptake). Other tests to include: CBC, Metabolic panel, inflammatory markers: C-Reactive Protein and Homocysteine.
Adrenal burnout is almost entirely caused by a poor diet and a high-stress lifestyle. Keys to healing according to Dr. Mark Force include:
- Restore Neurological Organization
- Modulate the Autonomic Nervous System
- Optimize Fundamental Chemistries
- Restore Adaptive Reserve
Attention to lifestyle, neurotransmitters and diet must be addressed first in regards to adrenal dysfunction before any sex hormones such as progesterone, estrogen or testosterone are administered as these can be converted to stress hormones if the appropriate order of healing is not taken.
FACT: You can never overcome adrenal fatigue if your blood sugar is not stable!
FACT: You can’t nourish and support your adrenals (body) if your digestive system is in chaos!
FACT: You can never re-balance your estrogen, progesterone or testosterone if your adrenals are exhausted!
Part 2 – Heal Your Adrenals
Copyright © Paula Owens