Most of the people I work with suffer from a certain degree of adrenal exhaustion, the adrenals being the so-called “stress glands”. Stress happens on several levels : physiological, mental, emotional; it grows exponentially among people living in modern society, with the inability to properly manage it.
The Function of The Adrenal Glands and Their Response To Stress.
The adrenals are two small glands, located above the kidneys. The outer area or cortex represents 80% to 90% of the gland and secretes adrenal steroids (cortisol, DHEA-S, aldosterone, and small amounts of sex hormones). The inner or medullary area comprises 10% to 20% of the gland and secretes the catecholamines (adrenaline and nor-adrenaline). Cortizol, DHEA and adrenaline are the hormones responsible for managing stress and adapting to the demands of daily life.
Normal cortisol levels should be raised in the morning and get down slowly throughout the day. The hormone that induces sleep, melatonin, is inversely proportional to cortisol, so when cortisol is high, melatonin is low to help you wake up, and when melatonin is high, cortisol is low to help you sleep. Adrenal exhaustion occurs when there is an imbalance in this cortisol rhythm, which causes it to be too high or too low, during wrong times.
Under stress, healthy adrenals increase their production of cortisol and DHEA to maintain health. They also secrete adrenaline, providing an energy boost when needed. If the stress becomes excessive and chronic, the adrenals can no longer keep up with demand and DHEA levels begin to fall, which causes adrenal exhaustion. As adrenaline increases during stress, digestive enzymes are simultaneously low, and blood sugar levels rise.
Essentially, under chronic stress, all the systems in the body needed for rest, repair and digestion are slowed down or even stopped.
Symptoms of Adrenal Gland Exhaustion.
Our body is built to cope with stress. For example, in the past, when our ancestors were threatened by a predator, the sympathetic response – the way of fighting or fleeing our body – was activated. This released cortisol and increased blood pressure and blood sugar to help manage the stress. Once the threat disappeared, cortisol, blood sugar and blood pressure returned to normal. But in modern society, most people are in a constant alert, in a constant “fight or flight” mode, and lose the ability to “disengage” from the stressful situation. Finally, the following symptoms and effects appear:
- unjustified fatigue that does not go away with sleep
- hard to wake up in the morning
- low immunity
- increased risk of infections
- the need for caffeine or energy drinks to support daily activities
- cravings for salty or sweet
- poor sleep
- low libido
- chronic allergies
- chronic inflammation
- poor memory
- low concentration
- menstrual cycle imbalances
- chronic pain
- slow healing of wounds
- dizziness upon standing up
- inability to manage stress
- irritability, nervousness, depression
- body weight problems
- increased risk of osteoporosis
- fertility problems
Causes of Adrenal Exhaustion.
A response to chronic stress that eventually develops into adrenal fatigue or exhaustion, has a negative impact on every aspect of health. Stress reaches a huge proportion due to the modern, chaotic and toxic lifestyle and is present in all chronic diseases. Thus, adrenal exhaustion is secondary to a chronic stress stimulus. These stressors can be:
- Intestinal dysbiosis (imbalance in bacterial flora)
- Food sensitivities
- Chemical sensitivities
- Chronic pain
- Dysglycemia, such as hypoglycemia and diabetes
- Environmental factors such as air, food and water quality, as well as exposure to toxins
- Fast lifestyle
- Poor social and family relationships
- Emotional stress
- Inadequate physical exercise
Actions to Restore the Function of the Adrenal Glands.
It takes time to rebalance the connection between the brain and the adrenal glands. It is important to remember that what works for one person does not always work for another.
Not only a demanding job or an abusive relationship are factors that contribute to the adrenal exhaustion and undermine the body’s protection mechanism. As described above, the factors are multiple and can start with what is happening on the physiological level: biochemical imbalances, toxicity with heavy metals and other synthetic compounds, inflammation that is out of control, chronic diseases, etc. but they can expand with what is happening emotionally or socially: toxic relationships, abuse, emotional imbalance, etc. or with lifestyle: chaotic sleep, irregular meals, etc.
So the more you try to “clean up” your life, on all levels, the more chances you have of eliminating the multitude of negative factors that can affect your ability to manage stress. My general and basic recommendations are below:
Establishing Your Healthy and Personalized Nutrition Plan.
Because we are all different at the biochemical level as we are at the fingerprint level, individualized nutrition is based on meeting the genetic, biochemical and nutritional requirements of each person.
The Metabolic Typing program teaches you essential knowledge about how your body works, how to interpret signals it sends every day, how to adjust protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios to gain maximum energy, and how to choose the cleanest and most suitable food for you. It teaches you how to regain that lost connection with Nature and the earth and how to discover the most effective ways to maintain your physical and mental health. This is not yet another “one type fits all diet” and it is not a “treatment”. It is not a disease and symptom oriented approach. It is an individual-oriented approach. This concept is meant to ensure an optimal level of health and to systematically “build” it, regardless of the negative symptoms that exist. It’s a valuable “know-how”, a lifestyle you can learn for yourself and then pass on to the next generation.
Including Nutrients and Adaptogenic Plants To Balance Your Adrenals.
As part of the personalized supplement programs that I develop for each individual, I add almost every time extracts from plants called adaptogens – meant to help the body manage stress and adapt. The best known are rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha, ginseng, eleuthero, cordyceps, shatavari, holy basil. There are other nutrients that have an adaptogenic role, such as magnesium and B vitamins, and these too might be included in your healing program.
Following a Therapy or a Sport to Reduce Stress and Restore Energy Level.
If your lifestyle, the way of thinking and the programmed patterns of behavior cannot be analyzed and adjusted, healing through nutrition is much more difficult and in many cases it is not possible. Patterns established in the limbic system need to be changed in order for deep healing to take place, and to restore adrenal function. Meditative practices, yoga, Qi Gong, breathing and other similar practices can have a powerful effect on patterns deeply rooted in the limbic system and should not be underestimated when you want a real cure and a long-term result. You can read more about these practices here: Favorite Body-Mind Therapies for a Better Health.