Adrenal Support: The Missing Piece in Your Journey to Good Health?
If you've struggled with chronic fatigue, feeling "wired but tired", gaining weight despite efforts to lose it, or feeling less and less able to handle stress, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands are designed to do many things to keep you healthy, chief of which is responding to stress. Since the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and dysfunction are so diverse, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue and not even know it.
Could You Be Suffering From Adrenal Fatigue?
When you experience stress, your adrenal glands jump into action by producing several hormones which enable you to meet the challenge at hand. One of these is cortisol and it has far-reaching effects on your entire body: increasing your blood sugar, decreasing inflammation, and increasing your blood pressure. Initially, these actions are essential to your coping with the threat - whether real or perceived. Overtime, however, this response starts to literally breakdown your body.
While some of the ill effects of being under stress are easy recognize - feeling anxious, overtired, having difficulty sleeping or that feeling of a "knot in your stomach" - others are not. Here are just of few of them:
Weight gain in spite of efforts to lose it
Reduced sex drive
Lightheadedness when going from sitting or lying to standing
Unexplained hair loss
Increased susceptibility to illnesses like the flu
Constipation alternating with diarrhea
Food and environmental allergies
Sugar and salt cravings
Feeling tired in the morning despite getting a full night's sleep
Menstrual irregularities and PMS
By looking at the list of symptoms above, you can better appreciate the impact that adrenal fatigue and dysfunction can have on your health. That's because your adrenal glands produce many different types of hormones, from the "fight or flight hormone" adrenaline to DHEA - a substance necessary for the production of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone - to mineralocorticoid hormones that help regulate the balance of water and minerals like sodium, potassium and magnesium.
Last, but not least, your adrenal glands are part of a network of organs called the HPA axis which functions to keep your whole body in balance and functioning optimally. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA Axis) plays a major role in coordinating the stress response which is why it can be negatively affected by prolonged or chronic stress, leading to a myriad of symptoms, both mental and physical.
Putting All the Pieces Together
The root cause of adrenal fatigue or dysfunction is often multi-factoral. Stress comes in multiple forms - a prolonged illness (including Lyme disease), thyroid problems, a trauma, exposure to toxins, participating in extreme sports, or perfectionist tendencies - any and all of which can interfere with the proper functioning of your adrenal glands. That's why it's important for your healthcare practitioner to get a thorough history of your symptoms before prescribing a plan of treatment.
There are several laboratory tests to determine if adrenal fatigue or dysfunction is the cause of your symptoms. Because your adrenal gland produces numerous hormones and is a part of the HPA axis, identifying problems in adrenal function may involve looking at more than just one hormone level.
Here are a few steps you can take toward improving your adrenal function:
Get adequate sleep and go to bed by 10 pm are crucial first steps you can take . That's because our adrenal glands work to repair our body between the hours 10 pm and 1 am.
Avoid coffee and caffeinated beverages as these can stress your adrenal glands further.
Don't overdue it with too much exercise. Exercising too strenuously or not giving your body enough time to fully recover from a workout can actually weaken your adrenal glands.
Since adrenal fatigue can have many causes, healing it requires a plan tailor-made to fit your individual set of symptoms. Diet, supplements, and a graded exercise program all play a role in strengthening your adrenal glands. So does the treatment of any underlying illnesses. If you think you might be suffering from adrenal dysfunction, please contact us today. We'd be more than happy to help you reach optimal health.
Tomas, C, et al. A Review of Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Function in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. SRN Neurosci. 2013.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~