We abuse our bodies in so many different ways but arguably, the adrenals are the most abused glands in the glandular system. Located just above the kidneys, the adrenals are responsible for so many important body functions. To understand why your adrenals are not working properly, you must first understand how and why they work.
The adrenals are composed of two functioning parts, the inner medulla and the outer cortex. The medulla secretes adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and norepinephrine. Adrenaline controls physical effort and prepares the body to face danger. This allows the body to increase the heart rate, increase the amount of sugar to the tissues so more energy is available to the body, and it also increases the blood’s ability to clot. Have you heard the stories of how a mom could lift a car off a child or could carry a man out of a burning building? This is a testament to major stress levels that signaled the adrenals to produce an excessive amount of adrenaline.
The cortex secretes the hormones aldosterone, cortisol, cortisone, androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). These are very important hormones that we generally ignore. Cortisol, in particular, plays a part in the metabolism of carbohydrates and the regulation of blood sugar. It also acts to reduce inflammation and slows the body’s use of cartilage. Anti-inflammatory products are flying off the shelves today as people are trying to find new ways to reduce inflammation. Our body has a natural response to this but we have damaged the system that performs it.
In general, the adrenals are important for many bodily responses such as regulating the immune response system which allows for speedy recoveries with less pain. The steroid hormones, from the cortex, reduce inflammation and work with the administration of the immune response. The adrenals help out in the muscle distribution of the body and also helps the body cope with day-to-day stress. In very serious cases, people can develop Cushing’s Syndrome or Addison’s disease which results in medication and/or surgery. I’m not talking about that here though. I would like to discuss the general signs of adrenal fatigue.
Most people do not know that they suffer from improper adrenal function because even on a low adrenal reserve, the adrenals will produce enough hormones to maintain an adequate state of health. It is when stress is induced that you will see the malfunctioning of the adrenals…which could lead to fatigue and even total collapse. The adrenals were created to react when stress comes upon the body. They brain sends a message to the adrenals that more hormones are needed to combat the stress. If this cycle continues, as in most high-stress situations, the adrenals cannot keep up with the supply therefore exhausting the supply of nutrients that feed the adrenal glands. In other words, you will be full of hormones and low on nutrients. Again, another key to point out is how nutrition plays a vital role in absolute health. Can you see how other parts of your body will be depleted of nutrients if your adrenals are fatigued? They will be ‘calling for backup’ and will rob the body of nutrients wherever they can.
The hormones that the adrenals produce give the body a wonderful, natural defense that serve a great purpose. However, if your body is constantly sending out signals to the adrenals to secrete more than a normal range of hormones, you will find yourself out of balance very quickly. If you are always stressed or worried, your body is going to rapidly fall into adrenal fatigue. This is when your body is constantly calling for the adrenals to engage, only to find them overwhelmingly tired. Fear, anxiety, and stress immediately engages the adrenals. So if your normal character is some what of a worry-wart nature, then you could expect to have some adrenal fatigue. In cases of reduced adrenal function you can experience some symptoms such as headaches, weakness, fatigue, recurrent infections, panic attacks, mental problems, sleeplessness, stress, blood sugar issues, dry and flaky skin and nails, and thinning hair.
Your body is a wonderful messenger, alerting you when something is wrong. For instance, if your body is producing too much cortisol, you might have an expanding mid-section. Measure your waistline at the smallest width. Men should be less than 40″ and women should be less than 35″ in circumference. If your measurements are above this number, there is a good chance the adrenals are over-producing cortisol, which forces body fat to appear in the abdomen. By following a low-glycemic-load diet you will be able to help maintain healthy cortisol levels.
More signs that point to adrenal fatigue is allergies to citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, pineapple, cantaloupe, and all bioflavonoids). This is why we talk specifically about B5 below. People can also develop allergies and sinus conditions. Sudden allergies or sinus issues that come upon healthy people should be an immediate question mark for over-worked adrenals. Sadly, people are often medicated for the symptoms and left to cope without even looking into other causes. This frustrates me! We need to be getting to the root of the issues and not providing customers for Big Pharma (soap box).
First and foremost, we need to talk about the elephant in the room…..stress. There’s no way around it. You will have to find ways to eliminate stress to chill out those adrenals. The body’s four major stress hormones are adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA, and norepinephrine. First thing in the morning is when the highest level of these hormones are released and the lowest is in the evening. Learning how to cope with stress and to release negativity is a huge step in disengaging your stress hormones. Breathing techniques, meditation, prayer walks, stretching, exercise, and calm music can all play an important role in stress relief.
Since we now know that adrenal fatigue will deplete your body of very important nutrients, it is very important to replace them. Water intake and nutrition play a vital role in your adrenal function. I look very closely into clients’ nutrition and water intake. After that, I will address sleep, pH, and exercise. After we dig enough into these five stepping-stones, we can usually come up with enough clues to proceed.
People with a diet that consists of particularly high levels of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and white flour will have depleted nutrient support anyway…especially in the B vitamins. Taking B complex vitamins plus pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and vitamin C are necessary for adrenal function. Corrective minerals are potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium.
Practicing natural health techniques show to be very supportive in the improvement of function of the adrenals. Sleep, stress reduction, being able to say NO, stretching and massage are all go-to techniques for the adrenal “fatigued”. Start with a few and find a way to adapt them into your everyday routine.
When our adrenals are not working properly, we have engaged a domino effect that will lead to many serious health issues. One component I love about natural health, is that we look at the whole body….just not a symptom. Learn to listen to your body and then receive the help you need to heal the WHOLE body.
I am not an expert on this and it is very important to be working with a doctor if you have serious health issues. Self-diagnosis is very dangerous. Please make sure you are taking the steps with your doctor that leaves you comfortable with diagnosis and treatment. I am passionate about natural health because I have seen the fruits of it. You are in control of your health…there are always options.
As always, if you would like more info on your glandular system, in particular the adrenals, natural health techniques, nutrition through low glycemic loads, and nutrient support, you can always leave me an IM or email.
Batch, A. Phyllis. Prescription For Natural Healing. New York: The Penguin Group, 2010
Lepore, Donald. The Ultimate Healing System. Woodland Publishing, 1985
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