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.

 

How to Live Well: A Closer Look of the Impact of Food, Nutrition & Health

How to Live Well: A Closer Look the Impact of Food, Nutrition & Health

 

Chronic disease is a serious problem. People get sick every year with easily preventable diseases, and spend more and more money to heal. We must learn to use the incredible scientific innovation and resources in our country to better combat these issues as a nation.

 

According to the CDC: Chronic disease is a public health crisis.

-          Deadly: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women

-          No one is safe: Diabetes affects 25.8 million people (CDC)

-          Expensive: 75% of our health care dollars goes toward the treatment of chronic illness

-          Growing Problem: 65% of all men and woman over 25 are overweight or obese.

For most people health is a choice, but you need the right information to make the best decisions. In the following article we will talk about how poor nutrition leads to chronic disease and what you can do to prevent it.

 

Section A

 

The Three Basic Molecules of Nutrition: Proteins, Carbs, and Fats

No matter what you eat, this is where it ends up. Basic nutrition is all about these three main components. Staying healthy depends on eating the appropriate amount of each. To prevent disease, it’s all about managing insulin and glucose, which all gets back to eating minimal carbs.

 

1. Proteins:

Proteins are the source of life itself. They do a lot of cool things, chief among them DNA assembly. Proteins also are used for food and energy, body repair and growth. They are what make up our skin, muscle, hair, and nails, as well as neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones. To make proteins useful, our guts break them down into what’s known as amino acids. And just try to eat too much of them- it won’t happen. The body won’t let you. The body has a mechanism for making sure you never, ever overeat them. 

 

2. Carbohydrates:

Technically, carbohydrates include everything from wood to grass to apples to bread.  Depending on how you link carbohydrates together, you can have anything from a bowl of pasta to a pine tree. Our body, however, has no use for bark. Unlike the multi-tool protein, sugar is only used for energy production.

 

It all starts with what are called “monosaccharides.” The two monosaccharides, or sugars, we will follow most closely are glucose (the main sugar used for energy in our bodies) and fructose (a relative of glucose). Everything boils down to glucose. Our bodies need to break down all sugars (whether they be disaccharides or polysaccharides) into glucose, which is the only form of carbohydrate that can pass through the gut wall to be used for energy. This is why if we eat too much of it, it can tax our bodies. It takes a lot of energy to whittle those sugars down into glucose-bites.

 

Also unlike proteins, our body has no mechanism for controlling our carb consumption. This is why we can just keep eating and eating all that pizza…

 

3. Fructose

Fructose is what you really have to look out for. While it is naturally occurring in most fruit, fructose is everywhere in processed foods. And it doesn’t do a whole lot besides make us sick. Fructose actually serves zero purpose- it can’t be used for energy by your body, and as we already know, carbs (sugars) only have that one purpose anyway. Fructose can cause obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It also can feed pathogenic bacteria in the gut, make us forgetful, and damage the liver.

 

3. Fats:

Fat has a really bad reputation these days. There are a lot of fad diets out there that tell people the best way to lose weight and get healthy is by cutting out fat. Actually, a good way to lose fat is by cutting out unhealthy fats. But fat itself is really good for us. Our body is designed to run on fat as a source of energy, which it converts into ketones bodies. Scientific research shows that diets rich in monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats actually reduce instances of obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

 

Just like protein, it’s impossible to overeat fat. Except the fat that you combine with, say, sugar, and chocolate flavoring to make, oh I don’t know, ice cream. It’s possible to overeat ice cream precisely because it has carbs (sugar) in it.

 

Section B

 

Hormones: Insulin, Blood Glucose, Glucagon, Leptin, Ghrelin, Adiponectin, Peptide YY, Cortisol and IGF_1

Besides the three main nutritional building blocks, our body also runs on a series of important hormones. Below are some of the most important hormones for understanding digestive function and health.

 

1. Insulin

Critical in regulating blood sugar, body fat, and aging, it’s important to keep insulin levels low by controlling carb intake and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Too much insulin can be extremely inflammatory. According to Dr. Cordain, 35% of all heart disease and blood vessel disease are related to mismanaged insulin and glucose.

 

2. Blood Glucose

Blood Glucose is basically glucose that has left the digestive tract and is now in the blood, traveling around to be utilized by the body. It’s important because red blood cells and certain parts of the brain need it and it alone to run properly. However, we are better off if we can run the body on mostly fat. Our bodies actually have the capability of making glucose from fats and proteins, so this blood glucose could come from carbs or from proteins and fats converted into glucose.

 

3. Glucagon

Released from the liver, glucagon allows us to access our body fat for energy which helps normalize blood sugar and energy levels between meals. Insulin and glucagon play complementary roles in the maintenance of energy levels by storing and releasing nutrients at the right time. While insulin facilitates the passage of nutrients into cells, glucagon releases nutrients in cells to be used or energy. Decreased blood glucose levels, among other signifiers, stimulate it. Under normal circumstances, glucagon is stored in the liver and muscle tissues for later use.

 

4. Leptin

Leptin tells us when we’re full. It regulates both appetite and metabolism. Produced by white adipose tissue (fat cells) and the cells lining the wall of the stomach, Leptin heads towards the central nervous system where it communicates directly with the brain.

 

5. Ghrelin

Ghrelin tells us when we are hungry and low on energy. It is greatly impacted by too little sleep and high levels of stress. It is produced all over the body- in the stomach lining, the pancreas, and other

tissues.

 

6. Adiponectin

Another hormone that tells us we’ve had enough to eat, Adiponectin also protects our arteries from oxidative damage. Though it is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue, it has been found that people with high levels of adiponectin actually have a lower percentage of body fat.

 

7. Peptide YY (a.k.a. PYY)

Another satiety hormone. Protein and fat release a lot of PYY, whereas carbohydrates release relatively little. PYY is a gut hormone that plays a synergistic role with leptin in helping us feel satisfied after a fatty (not carb rich) meal.

 

8. Cortisol

Cortisol does a lot of things, but in relationship to the topic of this article, w’re only going to talk about what it does with blood sugar. Made in the adrenal glands, cortisol raises blood sugar levels which can lead to fat gain. Spikes in cortisol occur through lack of sleep and stress. In fact, it’s often referred to as “the stress hormone.” It increases blood pressure and lowers the activity of the immune system. It can trigger the breakdown of muscle mass by converting protein into glucose. Too much cortisol can decrease insulin sensitivity, lower the bone formation rate, and diminish skin collagen and connective tissue. However, by and large cortisol is a helpful hormone because it serves as an anti-inflammatory. To avoid developing too much cortisol, avoid: intense or prolonged physical activities, caffeine, sleep deprivation, stress, and certain contraceptives.  

 

9. Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF_1)

Just enough IGF_1 aids in physical recovery, but too much increases our likelihood for cancer and our rate of aging. IGF-1 also helps kids grow, promotes cell maintenance and stress resistance. Exercise, stress and nutrition all affect IGF-1 levels.

 

Section C

 

Comparing Healthy and Unhealthy States: The Physiology of Digestion

Now we have met all the contributing players in the digestion/endocrinology game, we will begin to understand Type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis and, of course, our bodies homeostasis: wellness.

What happens to our bodies when we eat too much, too little, and just enough? In the next section we will use what we have learned to evaluate a “normal” fed state where we eat exactly as much as we need (isocaloric), a “fasted” state (hypocaloric) and an “overfed” state (hypercaloric).

 

What happens to the body in a “normal” fed state?

You’ve decided to marinade then roast some salmon. The protein in the salmon is broken down into individual amino acids. The amino acids can now go one of two ways. Either the liver will absorb them and use them for its own functioning, or the amino acids will circulate to the blood where they will help primarily with growth, repair, and energy production.

 

You’ve also decided to make some pasta with a white wine sauce to go with the salmon. Digestion breaks down the carbs into free glucose, and the glucose makes its way from intestines to liver. Its fate can go one of a few ways, too. Free glucose releases insulin from the pancreas, which activates glucose transport molecules. These glucose transport molecules facilitate blood glucose absorption by the liver, where it is then stored as a form of starch called glucogen.

What tips the scales in an “overfed” state?

 

Some people are able to eat everything they want and never gain a pound, while others just look at food and it creeps on their wastes. The secret is not calores-in and calories-out, but rather hormones and food choice.

 

All the satiety hormones we discussed previously in this essay are complex sensors which let us know when we are “full.” This is why hormones such as leptin are so important. Food choice is also very important. Certain foods affect our sense of satiety and can wreak havoc on various physiological functions.

 

If instead of eating the amount of salmon our body needs, we instead continue to eat, the protein is still broken down into amino acids. These amino acids will also still be either converted to glucose or burned directly as fuel. While proten can add to overall caloric excess, it is virtually impossible to overeat protein due to the potent satiety signal sent to the brain. Because of our bodies strong response to excess protein, its good to base meals around protein-rich foods, which will tell us to stop eating before we eat too much.

 

Now, if we start with the pasta before we eat the salmon, we’ve got a different story. If we eat too much pasta, digestion will still break down the carbs into free glucose, and the glucose will make its way from the intestines to the liver. However, we filled up our liver with so much pasta that now excess carbohydrates are converted to fat molecules called VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) within the liver. The fat is then released from the liver and heads out to the body to be used as fuel or be stored as adipose tissue.

 

1. VLDLs skyrocket

VLDL’s are the most inflammatory of the four cholesterol particles (LDL, HDL, IDL, and VLDL). Once released, VLDL’s move all over the body, including the brain. Once inside the brain, VLDL’s can make the hypothalamus (responsible for energy regulation inside the brain) leptin resistant, destroying our normal satiety signal and leading to future over-eating.

2. Insulin Resistance

 

This process happens in waves, much like the ocean eroding a sand castle. The liver becomes insulin resistant and blood glucose drives up higher. Insulin sensitivity inour muscle tissue is finally lost when the muscles can physically store no more glycogen. They are literally drowining in glucose. The blood sugar continues to increase, insulin skyrockets, and eventually even the fat cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is considered the half-way mark to Type 2 diabetes.

 

3. Cortisol Production

Once systemic, full-body insulin resistance occurs, the liver is overwhelmed. Blood glucose is turned into fats and VLDLs so quickly that fat cannot escape into circulation, and it builds up within the liver. This is the beginning of what is known as non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease. Even though the liver is literally swimming in glucose at this point, the liver is also insulin resistant so it actually believes that the body has low blood sugar. Your body is worried about the low blood sugar, because if it falls too low you can die. So your body starts producing cortisol, the stress hormone, and it’s like throwing gasoline in a fire.

 

4. Full System Meltdown

Cortisol is released to combat the perceived low blood glucose levels, even though your body at this point clearly has way too much.  The body begins to make more glucose by cannibalizing its own tissues. Muscles and organs are “burned” to make more glucose. Remember, the muscles are where the body deals with elevated blood glucose in the first place! So not only is our body producing more glucose, its also doing so by depleting our first line of defense when it comes to lowering glucose levels in the body.

 

This is why Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance is effectively a wasting disease of the muscles, while fat cells grow exponentially. Fat is stored in the abdominal region because of the high insulin, blood sugar, and triglycerides. This waistline fat is the telltale sign of insulin resistance. The stage is now set for chronically elevated insulin levels, and all the other complications that brings such as increased cancer rates, accelerated aging, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, obesity, and ultimately Type 2 Diabetes which is characterized by insulin resistance and chronically elevated blood glucose levels.

 

5. AGE’s and Physiological Degeneration

We’ve seen above how glucose can serve as a toxic substance, even though it is critical for bodily function. Sugars can oxidize and form “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs) which damage proteins, enzymes, DNA, and hormonal receptor sites. AGEs are a major cause of the symptoms we take to be normal aging, and can also cause several degenerative diseases.

 

6. The link toHigh Cholesterol

When glucose binds to low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol), it prevents the LDL from binding to receptors that tell the liver to stop manufacturing cholesterol.  As a result, the liver “thinks” there’s a shortage of cholesterol in the body and continues to produce more.  This is one reason why diabetes is almost always associated with high cholesterol levels.

 

Section D

How to Live Well: Digestive Health Ann Arbor

For most of us, health is a choice. Provided the right information and enough support, we can all achieve optimal health and wellness. If you or a loved one suffers from chronic diseases, food allergies, or wants to make sure they are living as healthfully as possible, it is important that they seek professional health. As we have pointed out in this article, following the right nutritional balance is crucial to living well. In order to find the right nutritional balance for you, you need a nutritional path tailored to meet your needs. For more information, please call Digestive Health Ann Arbor at (734) 726-0153

 

Digestive Health Ann Arbor now offers a complete Metabolic Health Assessment.  It is extremely comprehensive and provides considerably more information about the current state of your health then most doctors will provide.  If you are interested in a very detailed assessment of your health, please click here for more information. (All blood work needed for this assessment is covered by your health insurance).

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.