Adrenal Exhaustion: When Stress Becomes Something More

Everyone gets stressed out at some point. We feel that rush of adrenaline as our heartbeat gets louder; we might feel irritable and on-edge; some nights, we can’t even get to sleep because of all the thoughts racing through our minds. Late nights at the office, traffic, family issues, little complications, and all the other pressures of modern life can really take their toll. For some of us, these feelings occur quite often. But how do you know if what you’re feeling is a typical, temporary case of being stressed out, or something more? Healthcare professionals are starting to notice a strong connection between stress and the adrenal glands—and how too much stress can turn into a debilitating problem.

First, here’s some information about the adrenal glands. On top of each of your kidneys sits a walnut sized gland that controls many of your body’s hormones. By choosing what hormones to produce at what times, your adrenal glands play a large role in regulating vital bodily functions such as: energy production for daily activities, muscle and joint function, bone health, immune health, sleep quality, thyroid function, and a healthy stress response.

When you get stressed out, your adrenals put you into “fight or flight” mode. They can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release stored energy for you to use, and sharpen your senses. To activate this response, the adrenals produce three main stress hormones: DHEA, adrenaline, and cortisol. These hormones can be very useful in short bursts. For example, when you’re in a situation with high stakes and you need to be on your toes.

But our bodies are not designed to continuously be in stress mode. When your adrenals produce high levels of stress hormones for too long, you might experience some very serious side effects. This is because the body’s stress response takes priority over all other metabolic functions. Remember all those important things that your adrenals are responsible for? They all get put on the back-burner so that your body can react to stress. As a result, your health is compromised. We call this Adrenal Exhaustion.

When cortisol levels are too high, you could experience everything from loss of bone density and spiking blood sugar levels to increased vulnerability to bacteria, depression, and more. Abnormal adrenal rhythms can make it harder for tissue to heal, leading to joint breakdown and chronic pain. You might have a hard time rising in the morning or feel lethargic during the day. High cortisol makes it harder to enter regenerative sleep cycles, and a lack of regenerative sleep can induce depression. Your immune system will be suppressed, and you might find yourself getting sick more often, especially with a cough. All this translates into several very common symptoms that can indicate adrenal exhaustion: low energy, behavior, mood, and memory problems, muscle and joint pain, weak bones, poor immune system health, low-quality sleep, hypoglycemia and salt cravings.

Some healthcare professionals estimate that as much as 80% of the population suffers from at least some form of adrenal exhaustion. Yet, conventional medicine avoids this diagnosis. Most mainstream doctors hear these symptoms and look for Addison’s disease—an adrenal disorder that causes weight loss, fatigue, low-blood pressure, and muscle weakness. It also only affects only every 1 in 100,000 people—making it extremely rare—and is related very serious adrenal malfunction, not stress.

But if you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of adrenal exhaustion, you probably know how frustrating it can be to feel so unwell, yet be overlooked by mainstream medicine. Luckily, there are many effective, natural courses of treatment and many find that their adrenal exhaustion is completely curable. Here are some of my recommendations for abating stress and helping your adrenals function at their full capacity:

1)   Please visit a healthcare practitioner to discuss your symptoms in full and rule out other possibilities.

2)   Ashwaganda is an Indian herb that reduces anxiety by lowering cortisol levels. It can boost your immune system and also help you sleep at night. You can purchase it from a trusted provider in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms.

3)   Eleuthero Root is a Siberian herb that also works to reduce stress hormones. Its known to sharpen the memory, combat fatigue, and speed up recovery from illness.

4)   Vitamin B5 helps the body convert food into fuel. We all need it to get through the day, so please make sure you’re getting enough of it. A deficiency in B5 could contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, depression, irritability, and more.

5)   Vitamin C is used up quickly during times of stress, so you need to make an effort to replenish it. You should aim for 2,000-4,000 mg a day.

6)   Simple stress reduction techniques, like getting some moderate exercise, taking time for yourself, and just resting when you can find the time.

It’s important for every single one of us to take time to rest in our busy lives, especially in times of stress. Again, if you’re experiencing lethargy, depression, frequent illness, chronic pain, low-quality sleep, low-blood sugar/cravings, or  general feelings of being physically and mentally unwell, then you could be suffering from adrenal exhaustion. You’re healthcare provider can put you on the road to feeling like your old self again.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

The Adrenal Glands: The Body’s Alarm System

The Adrenal Glands: The Body’s Alarm System

Adrenal Fatigue: What is it?

With more and more stress at home and at work, it is unsurprising that adrenal fatigue is on the rise. The pressures of life put many in a constant state of “fight or flight,” leaving our adrenal glands working overtime until they can no longer keep up. Adrenal fatigue is a direct result of this overworked, stressed, and rushed lifestyle, and can result in some serious health consequences in both the short and long term. Unfortunately, some medical doctors only treat patients for adrenal fatigue when these patients exhibit symptoms of Addison’s disease (extremely little adrenal function) or Cushing’s disease (hyperactive adrenal function). Addison’s and Cushing’s disease are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and only affect 2% of the population. However, some experts believe that over 80% of the population suffers from some level of adrenal malfunction. In the following article we will describe what the adrenals are, their role in the body, and some simple methods for determining how effectively your adrenals are working for you.

What are the adrenal glands?

The adrenals glands are walnut-sized glands located above the kidneys. Each gland is composed of two separate functional entities. The outer zone, also known as the adrenal cortex, is comprised of roughly 80-90% of the glands size and secretes adrenal steroids (Cortisol, DHEA(S), estrogen, testosterone, and Aldosterone). The inner zone, or medulla, accounts for roughly 10-20% of the gland, and is responsible for secreting adrenaline. Cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline are the three main adrenal stress hormones.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol helps us meet the big challenges of the day. It converts proteins into energy and counteracts inflammation. In short bursts, it is very useful. In urgent situations, cortisol can increase heart rate, blood pressure, release energy stores for immediate use, slow digestion and non-emergency functions, and sharpen senses. Our bodies are not meant to maintain these states for very long, nor enter into them very often.

It can be very detrimental when cortisol release is sustained at high levels for long periods of time. Over-production of cortisol means the underproduction of other necessary hormones. We remain stuck in a state of overdrive while our energy levels, bone health, muscle production, mood, joints, sex drive and immunity all suffer.

The Adrenal Rhythm

The human adrenal gland releases cortisol in a cycle with the highest value released in the morning, the lowest value released in the evening. This 24-hour cycle is known as the circadian rhythm. These hormones help supply us with the necessary energy we need throughout the day.

How modern life contributes to adrenal malfunction

Unlike our ancestors, we live in a state of constant stress. Instead of sporadic, immediate demands followed by rest, we live in a world of constant communication, fast food, environmental toxins, and worry. It’s no wonder that many adults suffer from adrenal malfunction. That’s why it’s important to keep on the watch for these 7 common signs and symptoms of abnormal adrenal function.

9 Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Abnormal Adrenal Function

1.      Low energy. Abnormal adrenal function can alter the cells ability to produce the correct amount of energy for the day’s activities. People who struggle to wake up and keep themselves going through the day often have abnormal adrenal rhythms and poor blood sugar regulation. Additionally, cortisol levels control thyroid hormone production. Fatigue and low body temperature, symptoms of hypothyroidism, can be attributed to adrenal malfunction.

2.      Behavior, mood, and memory problems. Cortisol regulates the electrical activity of neurons in the brain, greatly influencing behavior, mood, and memory. Symptoms include depression, decreased tolerance, clarity of thought, memory, and memory retrieval.

3.      Muscle and joint pain. Abnormal adrenal function can compromise tissue healing, often leading to breakdowns and chronic pain.

4.      Weak bones. The adrenal rhythm determines bone health. If our cortisol levels are too high, our bones will not rebuild well and will become more susceptible to osteoporosis.

5.      Poor Immune System Health. The immune system’s white blood cells follows the cortisol cycle. If the cycle is disrupted, the immune system cells will not receive the conditioning, nourishment, and instructions necessary to protect the body. These immune system failures can be seen in the lungs, throat, urinary and intestinal tract, leading to increasing susceptibility to infection and allergy onset.

6.      Asthma, bronchitis, or chronic cough. The lungs react poorly to stress. Asthma is often considered an emotional disorder because stress can trigger attacks.

7.      Un-restful Sleep. When cortisol values are high at night, REM sleep cycles are more difficult to achieve. Chronic lack of restful sleep reduces mental vitality, bodily strength, and can induce depression.

8.      Skin problems. Human skin regenerates when we rest at night. High cortisol values during the evening reduce skin regeneration.

9.      Food allergies, specifically to gluten. Genetic intolerances to grain can inflame the gut and spur an adrenal stress response. Since almost ¼ people living in the U.S. suffer from gluten intolerances, this is a common cause of adrenal malfunction.

If you or a loved one suffers from any of the above symptoms, it is crucial to visit a health practitioner. Some medical doctors prescribe pharmaceutical hormones for issues related to adrenal malfunction. Due to the pharmaceutical hormones' side effects many medical practitioners, such as those at Digestive Health Ann Arbor, are now instead turning to changes in lifestyle and diet, as well as bio-identical hormones. It is crucial that you find a health practitioner who understands how to incorporate a variety of treatments that work for your needs.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.