(Health Secrets) Adrenal gland exhaustion occurs when prolonged stress and the fight or flight reaction dissipates our adrenal hormones. It is a growing problem in most developed or developing countries because more and more is being demanded of us. We have obvious life threatening stress from war or the threat of war, famine, reckless drivers, chronic diseases, raising crime rates, and abusive relationships. But we can also be affected by constant low level stress arising from joblessness, dysfunctional work environments, and economic insecurity, as well as our personal psychology and world-view.
Stress and stress levels are unique to each person’s mind, body and spirit. Individual functioning should be respected not denigrated. Telling a person he/she has nothing to feel stressed about just adds to the stress the person is feeling. Self-acceptance of individual differences is a key step to wellness. Denying your own stress keeps you from putting in place a plan to support adrenal gland health.
Typical symptoms of Adrenal Gland Exhaustion
There are many expression of adrenal gland exhaustion. Here are the most common:
*Feeling tired for no reason
*Difficulty getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour
*Feeling rundown or overwhelmed
*Difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness
*Craving salty snacks or those that are sweet
*Feeling more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day
The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys. The adrenals synthesize the hormones corticosteroids, catecholamines, cortisol and adrenaline, and regulate the body’s stress response. Hormones are chemical messengers that initiate a biologic response. The biological response of the adrenal hormones is “fight or flight,” signaled by rapidly increasing heart rate and blood pressure, release of energy stores for immediate use, slowing of digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpened senses.
Healthy adrenal glands keep adrenal hormones at a level appropriate to optimal health. Normal levels of cortisol are essential to the body’s adequate response to stress and to support a healthy immune response. Unbalanced cortisol affects every tissue, organ and gland in the body. Balanced cortisol is essential for curbing inflammation.
Adrenal gland exhaustion occurs when high amounts of cortisol are produced for long periods of time to counter the effects of stress on the body, mind or spirit. The adrenals become exhausted from the constant demand for more cortisol, and eventually stop producing adequate amounts. Stressors add up, each contributing to the adrenal glands inability to meet escalating cortisol needs.
Adrenal gland exhaustion may result from chronic recurrent infections, which weaken the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to additional infections and physical stress. Chronic under production of cortisol and adrenal fatigue syndrome can also be caused or aggravated by the ongoing use of corticosteroids. Often Allopathic Medicine treats disease symptoms using synthetic hormones like prednisone. Such synthetic hormones are often prescribed for many illnesses in dosages that far exceed the amount of cortisol the body requires. This is a serious concern as heightened levels of cortisol can shut the adrenal glands down, suppress the immune system, and in some cases bring on psychotic-type behavior.
Life Style Indicators of Adrenal Gland Exhaustion
What is your energy level? Do you feel exhausted for no apparent reason? If there has been no prolonged physical exertion and you are exhausted and tired and when waking up, you may experience extreme fatigue in the afternoon typically between 3 and 5 PM.
Do you struggle to get through the day but have a burst of energy around 6-8pm? Is it easy to stay up beyond midnight regardless of when you woke up?
Is your thinking unfocused and unclear? You have difficulty processing simple information that you didn’t have problems with before? You may have difficulty with information recall and short-term memory, or lose your thought in the middle of a conversation.
Are you more susceptible to stress? Does most benign stress, such as a minor traffic jam cause you excessive frustration? Is your stress response higher than need be for the situation? Do you experience “road rage” or over react to minor offenses?
Do you feel more nervous and anxious recently? Stress hormones circulating in the body create a feeling of anxiety. Your hands may be jittery when you are nervous or under pressure.
Individuals with adrenal fatigue syndrome put on weight inexplicably. Weight gain is generally distributed around the midsection creating a thick layer of belly fat. There is an inability to lose weight, despite dieting. Restrictive diets and heavy exercise are counter productive and put the body under further stress, exacerbating the adrenal fatigue and weight problem.
Changes in appetite and or food cravings? The brain will try to use sugary, salty or starchy foods to medicate itself. Do you depend on caffeine to help pep you up?
Adrenal fatigue syndrome affects digestion and elimination, creating an alternating pattern between diarrhea and constipation.
Women may experience intensified premenstrual symptoms including very painful menstrual cramps. They may demonstrate an interrupted menstrual cycle that is heavy for the first few days, stops on the fourth day and resumes on the fifth day.
Other physical symptoms include heart palpitations, low blood sugar levels, unexplained hair loss, dry skin, low blood pressure, low body temperature, and mild depression.
Do you have diminished sex drive? Because the body’s hormones are synergistic and interactive across body systems, adrenal gland exhaustion can depress or cause complete loss of libido.
As adrenal function decreases every organ and system in your body is adversely affected. Carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and reproductive system are all affected.
Life Style Changes to Support Adrenal Functioning
*Take small breaks from stressful activity to lie down
*Purposefully increase/promote stress relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, and prayer
*Eat breakfast before 10 am
*Start the habit of eating 5-6 small meals rather than 3 large meals
*Set an early bedtime – 10 pm is ideal
*Sleep in until 9 AM when possible
*Consider having mercury amalgam fillings removed. Exposure to mercury (a neurotoxin) damages neurotransmitters and may cause Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
Dietary recommendations for Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
Adding these items to your diet can make a big difference in how you feel:
*Ground flax meal (healthy dietary fiber and omega-3 essential fatty acids)
*Extra virgin organic coconut oil
*Omega-3 essential fatty acids (wild caught oily cold water fish, sprouted walnuts)
*Mineralized salt (Himalayan crystal salt)
*Lightly cooked animal and vegetable proteins (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes)
*Dairy products with live, organic, active cultures (probiotics, yogurt and kefir)
*Unrefined low-glycemic carbohydrates (brown rice, sprouted grains, winter squash)
*Limit intake of high glycemic index fruits (apricots, raisins, banana, papaya, and mango)
*Vegetables and vegetable juices (kelp, sprouts, green and black olives, peppers, spinach, chard, celery, zucchini).
*Unprocessed nutrient dense foods such as sprouted nuts and seeds
*Purified water throughout the day
*Magnesium, Vitamin C and Vitamin B Complex
Eliminate or avoid:
*Refined sugar or artificial sugar-substitutes such as aspartame or Splenda. Use natural unrefined sugar, honey, molasses, and stevia
*Simple or refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, etc.)
*Potassium rich foods, which add to adrenal stress (bananas, melons, dried figs, raisins, dates, oranges, grapefruit, etc.)
*Excessive caffeine disrupts the body’s systems, causing insomnia and irregularity (constipation or diarrhea); although moderate amounts of caffeine may be beneficial
*Alcoholic beverages in excess since they hinder the functioning of the immune and energy production systems
*Fermented foods such as cheese and wine
*Fungi such as mushrooms
*Commercial fruit juices
*Carbonated soft drinks
*Yeast and wheat products (breads, crackers, pasta, etc.) that contain gluten
*Sodium nitrite found in processed foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon
*Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
*Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats
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Photo by Julian Stallabrass
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