Are you a type A personality? A high achiever? SuperMom? People wonder how you can manage to do so much in a day or do so many things so well? Under lots of stress? You may be at risk of or are already experiencing signs of adrenal fatigue.
What are the adrenal glands?
Never heard of the adrenal glands you say? Well you’re not alone, 90% of the patients that I see with adrenal fatigue have never heard of them either. Why is that? Because the adrenal glands are one of the most overworked yet also overlooked glands in the body. They are equally important as the other endocrine glands, like the thyroid and the ovaries, but they are largely ignored by the medical profession.
The adrenal glands sit atop your kidneys and perform a variety of physiological functions, mainly those that relate to stress. The adrenal glands secrete a variety of hormones that regulate:
- Blood pressure
- Cardiovascular functions such as heart rate
- Immune response and inflammation
- Sex hormones
- Blood sugar
- Sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight)
- Parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, relax)
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
- Tiredness, despite adequate sleep
- Sleep difficulties, particularly waking throughout the night
- Hypoglycemia (drops in blood sugar) if you don’t eat regularly
- Weak, shaky, irritable or light headed if you don’t eat regularly
- Hormone imbalance or infertility
- Anxiety or inability to cope with stress
- Poor digestion or irritable bowel syndrome
- Allergies, asthma, eczema
- Inflammatory or auto-immune conditions
What blood tests can be done for the adrenal glands?
- DHEAs – DHEAs is a building block for testosterone and in turn, estrogen, it also helps with energy and libido
- Testosterone – testosterone helps with energy, drive, motivation and libido and is also a building block for estrogen
- Cortisol – usually done in the morning around 8-9 a.m. and in the evening around 6-8 p.m., or done as salivary cortisol at 4 points throughout the day. Cortisol is a hormone secreted under stress, excess cortisol can cause weight gain, but there needs to be adequate cortisol for normal conversion of fat, protein and starch to energy and for normal blood pressure.
- Aldosterone – aldosterone helps manage salt and water balance and regulate blood pressure
- ACTH – this is a hormone released by the pituitary that helps stimulate adrenal gland function
Naturopathic treatment for adrenal glands
Not surprisingly every culture has their own herbs for the adrenal glands, also known as adaptogens. These are herbs that help the body adapt to and deal with stress more easily. Well known adaptogens include ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha, schisandra and skullcap. In addition to helping support the adrenals with adaptogens, I always recommend replenishing the nutrients that are most important for normal adrenal gland function: vitamin C, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium.
What happens when you treat your adrenal glands?
- Better energy
- Better ability to cope with stress
- Less anxiety and depression
- Better blood pressure
- More stable blood sugar
- Reduced inflammation
- Better hormone balance
- Better digestion