- Stage 1: The adrenals begin by responding to stress by increasing the secretion of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol;
- Stage 2: When stress is chronic or persistent (driving in traffic, kids being bratty, being sick or ill, not eating properly, exercising, your significant other and you fighting) it causes excessive production of certain hormones, especially cortisol, in an attempt to minimize the damage to the body, caused by the stress;
- Stage 3: When the glands can't make enough cortisol to keep up to Western societies major stresses, they become fatigued and cortisol levels drop excessively low.
Cortisol's most important function is to HELP THE BODY RESPOND TO STRESS! Any kind of stress, be it physical (surgery, illness), emotional and/or environmental, by converting proteins into energy, fighting inflammation and releasing glycogen for energy (which in turn your muscles aren't getting). It also helps fight infection, maintain blood pressure (boss yelling at you, driving in traffic, not making enough money), and REGULATE METABOLISM of fats, proteins and carbohydrates (this is why I am so PICKY about your meal plan and proper eating). When your body works away at these stresses for a short time, that's fine, the body will respond well BUT if there is CHRONIC stress, your cortisol levels will remain high, then the cortisol attacks the body and weakens the immune system. The result ADRENAL FATIGUE! Statistics show that approximately 80% of people in North America experience adrenal fatigue at least once during their lifetime. It can last anywhere from a few days, to a week and for others it can linger for months or years. You can ask your doctor to perform a simple test, the ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) challenge test. When this hormone, which is made by the pituitary gland is injected into the body, an increase in adrenal hormone should occur. If it does not, adrenal fatigue is probable.
As discussed, stressors such as nutritional deficiencies, chronic physical and/or emotional stress, exposure to environmental toxins (e.g. secondhand smoke, household solvents, pesticides, food preservatives), use of stimulants (e.g. caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sugar, cocaine), chronic infections, especially respiratory (e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia) and genetics, can all play a roll in adrenal fatigue.
Fatigue can leave you tired, muscle weakness, swollen fingers and/or toes, low blood pressure, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, intolerance to cold, sleep disturbances, depression, and allergies, among other symptoms. The good news; it can be prevented and treated successfully using a natural approach!
Prevention and Treatment:
As hockey coaches say your best defense is your offense. With that said, your best offense is nutritious diet, adequate sleep, conscientious stress reduction and management and avoidance of toxins (alcohol, smoking, drugs). Temporary adrenal stress can easily be address with lifestyle changes and supplementation. In permanent causes, removal of the pituitary or adrenal glands, congenital adrenal hyperplasia or Addison's disease, require hormone replacement but can also benefit from nutritional supplements. The biggest prevention is learning to manage, control and minimize your stress.
- Vitamin C. Recommended 3,000 mg daily can help reduce elevated cortisol levels, psychological stress, and blood pressure.
- DHEA. As mention earlier, stressed adrenals lose their ability to produce adequate DHEA. Supplementation with DHEA may also help protect against overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Have your levels tested before beginning supplementation. The typical recommended dose is 20-50mg per day.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid). Plays a key role in adrenal health and is necessary for the production of cortisol. The recommended dose is 1,500mg daily.
- Magnesium. This mineral plays a major role in adrenal function and you should supplement with magnesium aspartate. Recommended dosage 100 to 300mg daily.
- L-theanine, Asian Ginseng and Melatonin. Please contact me for further information if the above treatments show no significant improvement after 6-8 weeks. I can also provide recipes and more information.
PTS, RHN, OAS
*Food and Healing by AnneMarie Colbin