Originally published September 24 2009
Fight the Energy Crisis: Support Your Adrenal Glands
by Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D., citizen journalist
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(NaturalNews) Stress, illness and poor nutrition can take a toll on our health, and the adrenal glands are often hit the hardest. If you're short of energy, it may be a cry for help from your adrenal glands.
Feeling sluggish and cranky? Is mental fog making it hard to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes? Having trouble losing weight? It might be time to check up on your adrenal glands. These tiny organs, located just above the kidneys, are the body's very own Rodney Dangerfields. The adrenals get very little respect, even though they're responsible for secreting the lion's share of invaluable hormones that are essential for so many of our normal bodily functions.
As part of the endocrine system, the adrenal glands are true workhorses. When they're in proper working order, this dynamic duo plays vitally important roles in a number of functions in the body, including blood sugar and carbohydrate metabolism, health of the cardiovascular system, central nervous system operations, the immune system and hormone production. In addition, the adrenals produce more than 150 different hormones, including adrenaline (sometimes called epinephrine), cortisol, norepinephrine and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), the major stress hormones in our bodies. And that simple fact is why they need our support.
Since the human body is not equipped to handle a constant barrage of stress, the adrenal glands are designed to have part-time jobs. But the demands of our current world have made stress an ongoing, accepted part of daily life. The result? A non-stop stream of stress hormones flooding the body, eventually leading to adrenal fatigue and even total burn-out.
Think about it -- these little organs, which together weigh less than one ounce, are the body's first responders in times of stress, making it possible for us to react in times of danger, whether physical, emotional or even imaginary, as is the case with worrying.
So when your car stalls on the railroad tracks just as you spot an oncoming train, the adrenal glands mobilize the body's resources by releasing a stiff shot of adrenaline to rev up your metabolism -- a not-so-subtle wake-up call telling you to get out of the car and off the tracks. That's why adrenaline is linked to the well-known "fight or flight" reaction; it helps mobilize our muscles in response to threats.
Similarly, the adrenals pump out cortisol to regulate blood sugar and help metabolize carbohydrates. But under a constant barrage of stressors, cortisol production can spiral out of control. And "a constant barrage of stressors" is precisely what so many people are living with today.
The adrenal glands are truly impressive, able to secrete balanced, life-saving doses of complex hormones on demand. But they can't tell the difference between that oncoming train and the nightly news report on the financial meltdown that just ate a big chunk of your 401K. Or the mortgage statement showing your payment is about to double. Or the 101 other things -- including family or relationship difficulties, too little sleep (see accompanying article in this issue for more on that), yo-yo dieting, chronic illness and unresolved emotional issues -- have put stress levels over the top. To make matters worse, the Standard American Diet (SAD) of fast and processed foods- high in sugar, salt and "bad" fats- weakens the adrenal glands even more.
As stress accumulates, so does cortisol production, taking a huge toll on the adrenals, as well as the rest of the body. Before long, the overworked adrenals are struggling to keep up with the over-the-top stress levels, and their role in secreting and managing other important hormones suffers.
Not surprisingly, when the adrenal glands aren't fully functioning, fatigue, reduced immunity and a host of other symptoms may occur. At the most extreme end of the spectrum, the result can be Addison's disease, a chronic state of adrenal exhaustion requiring ongoing medical care and medication. Adrenal fatigue (or adrenal insufficiency, as it's sometimes called) is less severe, but it can create serious complications and interfere with daily life. Not surprisingly, many experts believe that adrenal fatigue is under-diagnosed and far more common than anyone realizes.
Fatigue is usually one key symptom of adrenal fatigue, but it's far from the only one. Here are other common signs that adrenal glands may be suffering:
SYMPTOMS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE:
* Muscle weakness
* Feeling tired despite sufficient hours of sleep
* Weight gain
* Depression, anxiety or other mood disorder
* Hair loss
* Dizziness when standing
* Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
* Loss of appetite
* Craving salt or fatty foods
* Extra effort required to perform daily tasks
* Reliance on stimulants like caffeine
* Poor immunity and frequent illnesses
* Intolerance to cold
* Feeling overwhelmed or crying easily for no apparent reason
If three or more of these symptoms apply, it's time to see a doctor, since there are other conditions that need to be considered as well. Diagnosing adrenal fatigue can be done in one of two ways, either with saliva cortisol testing or cortrosyn stimulation test.
Fortunately, exhausted adrenal glands usually do respond to treatment. Learning simple stress management techniques can restore energy by easing the strain on these overworked glands. And supplementing with vitamin B complex, co-enzyme Q10 and DHEA, as well as selected herbal relaxants, can go a long way toward maintaining healthy adrenal functions.
Diet and lifestyle changes can also be useful. Individuals with adrenal fatigue should eat balanced meals (40 percent protein, 30 percent carbohydrates and 30 percent fat) every three to four hours.
Making time each day for moderate exercise is also helpful. In addition, don't feel guilty about scheduling a daily time out to rest, so your body can heal and repair the damage. Finally, look into herbal and non-prescription supplements that are designed to give the adrenal glands the support they need. Good stress management techniques, fresh, nutritious food, adequate rest and the right supplements can give the adrenals -- and you -- a new lease on life!
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson, ND, DC, PhD. (Smart Publications, 2002)
Werbach MR. "Nutritional strategies for treating chronic fatigue syndrome." Alternative Medicine Review 2000 Apr;5(2):93-108
Bentler SE, Hartz AJ, Kuhn EM. "Prospective observational study of treatments for unexplained chronic fatigue." Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2005 May;66(5):625-32.
About the authorLeigh Erin Connealy, M.D. has specialized in Integrative Medicine for over twenty years, using conventional and natural methods to determine and discover the "root of the cause" in her clinic, Center for New Medicine in Irvine, California, each and every day. Many people come in to the clinic from all over the world with severe chronic illnesses that conventional medical protocols have been unsuccessful treating. She realized early on that she can truly change lives through education as well as treatment protocols.
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. and her medical staff strives to look at the whole person while exploring the effects and relationships among nutrition, psychological and social factors, environmental effects and personal attunement. Out of frustration of trying to find the right products to help her patients she formulated the perfectlyhealthy brand of products. All perfectlyhealthy products are clinically tested. For more information on recommended products, please visit www.perfectlyhealthy.net or www.perfectlyhealthy.com.
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