Too many of my patients show up in my office without their adrenals. Well, technically, their adrenals may still be intact, but often they are having troubles such as:
- Low energy/excessive fatigue
- Thyroid imbalance
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Muscle fatigue/soreness
- Anxiety or depression
- Poor digestion and/or multiple food intolerances
- Thinning hair
- Low libido or fertility problems
- Low blood pressure
- Dizziness upon rising
- Salt and/or sugar cravings
- Headaches, shakiness, and/or irritability if meals are delayed or skipped
- Afternoon energy crash (3–4 p.m.)
- Brain fog
The adrenal glands (specifically, cortisol) are responsible for the production and regulation of our stress hormones. They’re also responsible for the production of our sex hormones and neurotransmitters. Unfortunately, the chronic stress caused by our busy, overscheduled lives puts constant demand on our adrenals. This can lead to depletion, suboptimal function, and damaging imbalances in our energy, sleep, and mood.
What Causes Adrenal Stress?
- Poor diet: Consuming processed foods causes blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, and/or inflammation.
- Too much caffeine: Drinking more than one cup per day to maintain energy.
- Poor sleep patterns: Waking frequently during the night and/or not getting enough cumulative sleep over time.
- Overtraining: Getting too much exercise training without the proper rest days.
- Emotional stress: Experiencing ongoing chronic stress.
But don’t take my word for it. Check yourself out with this test you can do at home:
Ragland’s Adrenal Test
For this test, you’ll need a blood pressure cuff. Lie down and rest for 5 minutes. While still horizontal, take your blood pressure reading. Come to a standing position and take another reading.
If your adrenals are functioning sufficiently, your blood pressure should rise 10–20 points. If it drops, particularly by 10 points or more, adrenal insufficiency is indicated. Generally, the bigger the drop, the greater the adrenal insufficiency.
4-5 point cortisol via Saliva over 24 hours
If you are working with an integrative practitioner they may be able to identify the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and treat or support your system using the 4-5 point cortisol saliva test.
Treating Adrenal Fatigue
Here are 7 steps you can take to help restore your adrenals and get a grip on stress:
# 1. Regulate and manage thyroid stress. This will require regular monitoring of your thyroid hormones via blood tests. You will also need nutritional supplementation to support your endocrine system: adaptogenic herbs, B vitamins, amino acids (to support production of calming neurotransmitters), and protomorphogens (adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, hypothalamus).
#2. Stabilize blood sugar. Eat regularly scheduled meals and snacks. Avoid processed foods and consume high-quality proteins and fats at every meal.
#3. Pay attention to your metabolism. Work with a dietitian or nutritionist to identify what macronutrient combination works best for your metabolism.
#4. Avoid alcohol. It has an erratic effect on blood sugar levels.
#5. Practice sleep hygiene. Go to bed at the same hour each night, and rise at the same hour each morning. If necessary, try room-darkening shades.
#6. Manage stress. To manage or reduce stress levels, try calm, relaxing activities every day: read, meditate, exercise (yoga, stretching, walking, swimming). Also try breathing exercises or therapy sessions.
#7. Visit a holistic practitioner. If you don’t already have one, find a practitioner in your area who is trained in whole food supplements and herbs—and who knows how to apply them for endocrine support.
Restoring your adrenal health takes time and dedication. But it’s worth every new strand of hair and every great night of sleep.
Image from iStock/pixinoo.