What Are the Adrenals?
Your adrenal glands are located adjacent to the kidneys and are responsible for synthesis and secretion of various hormones important for body function. For instance, several hormones important in the body's reactions to stress are made in the adrenal glands. The outer portion of the adrenal gland, known as the adrenal cortex, secretes steroid hormones including cortisol, a hormone that mediates various stress reactions. The inner portion of the adrenal gland, known as the medulla, secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine, the hormones important in the 'fight or flight' reaction to a threat or sudden stress.
When your adrenal glands become exhausted, you can experience weight gain, fatigue and low moods. The stressed-out adrenals will pass their workload on to the thyroid gland, often leading to imbalance of this gland where it may become over or under active. Weight can increase further or you may lose weight, you could experience headaches or constipation - it really depends how the thyroid is affected. Ideally, you don't want to push too hard and reach this stage of adrenal exhaustion. So if you feel you are experiencing this state, I suggest you seek professional naturopathic help to resolve it as soon as possible.
It is important to recognise if your cortisol levels are high or low. Low cortisol levels are the consequence of adrenal exhaustion or the exhaustion phase of the stress response. High cortisol levels are the result of the response to chronic stress and represent the adaptation phase of the stress response. A blood test can ascertain how adrenal function is working and the levels of the hormone cortisol.
Importance of Exercise
The adrenals pump out adrenaline, the hormone that drives the fear, fight and flight mechanism. This was needed by humans in centuries past for survival, but in our modern age with our more sedate lifestyles and inactivity, we don't need to draw upon it as frequently. This is why daily exercise is very important since adrenaline is being released each day and not being used as it was when we had to hunt for our survival. When you exercise and move the body vigorously, you draw on the stores of adrenaline and this process can assist in releasing stress. When excess adrenaline builds up in the body you become irritable, anxious, impatient, perspire more and can be quick to anger.
When your adrenals are balanced you reap the benefits of abundant energy, drive and motivation. You also fight off or recover from any illness much faster than someone with depleted adrenal glands.
Nutritional supplementation, homeopathic and herbal remedies are very valuable in restoring normal cortisol levels and balanced adrenal function. These remedies are available through professional naturopaths and homeopaths, since self-prescribing could create more problems.
Steps to Healthy Adrenals
Some simple things you can start doing yourself to maintain healthy adrenal function:
- Understand your limits. Become aware of your stress threshold and stay within these limits. Don't over compete!
- Get 7-8 hours sleep each night
- Drink 1.5-2 litres of spring/filtered water a day
- Eat citrus fruits twice a day, and increase all foods containing vitamin C, such as parsley,leafy vegetables, salads, all fresh fruits
- Meditate daily
- Introduce yoga, or tai chi into your life activities
- Avoid cane sugar
- Avoid all caffeine-containing beverages or limit to one cup tea/coffee a day
- Avoid any recreational substances
- Avoid cigarettes
- Avoid alcohol except occasional red wine
- Aim to resolve any external stress factors: financial, relationships or work related etc.
The pressures of modern life and demands people experience in the workforce with longer hours are taking a huge toll on the physical body. I have met many people in numerous organisations who are simply drained and lack zest and energy. The long 14-15 hour days have depleted adrenal stores in many, often leading to weight gain and depression. This can create insomnia, a feeling of being tired after waking from a restless sleep, blood sugar disorders, high/low blood pressure and a general unwell and jaded feeling.
Many younger people and business executives push themselves continually, becoming over-adrenalised, stimulating high activity of the adrenals to the point of exhaustion and complete burn out. These over-achievers will certainly pay the price of adrenal overload. Increased mental activity can deplete your adrenal reserves far more than physical work over the same length of time.
If you find yourself tossing and turning all night since you are hyped up and overactive, waking with a need to thrash at it again, you will eventually just flop into non-activity, with no stamina. You may experience nervous disorders, shaking, headaches and constipation, since you are more likely to be uptight and tense from the constant overdriven state you have put your body through.
A common trend with younger people is to consume stimulating caffeinated drinks, enabling them to party for longer, often into the next day and evening without any sleep for two days or more. If this becomes habitual, the adrenals and nervous system will be totally depleted and the consequences are not what you would want to experience. Chronic fatigue can result with lowered immunity, making you less resilient to viruses and bacteria. Your energy levels will take a considerable time to improve and fatigue is a constant companion.
You are far better off taking a B complex vitamin, eating fresh healthy food, and ensuring your iron levels are balanced. If you wish to drink alcohol, limit it to just a couple of red wines if you want to have plenty of energy to party!
This is a very simple disorder to resolve with the correct protocol of remedies and treatment, including lifestyle and attitude changes. If you leave it too long and continually push past your limit, you will encounter many other endocrine problems, which reflect on your hormonal activity. All natural remedies prescribed are easy to take and you can expect to see improvement in three to six months, depending on severity.
Sydney-based Lyn Craven is a practitioner of naturopathy, nutrition, medical herbalism, Bowen therapy, Reiki energy healing and meditation, and is a corporate health presenter/consultant with 19 years' experience in natural therapies. Lyn has recently created a Meditation CD for anxiety, stress and self healing.
Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804