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Adrenal fatigue – what is it, have you got it and how to fix it

Do you think you need your adrenals checked?

If your energy lags during the day, you feel emotionally off-kilter much of the time, you sleep poorly or less than seven hours a night, you can’t shed excess weight even while dieting, and you rely on caffeine or carbohydrates as “pick-me-ups” — these are all red flags indicating adrenal imbalance.

In all but the most extreme cases, we expect to see dramatic improvement in four to six months. For mild to moderate adrenal fatigue the turnaround can be faster.

Remember, you may feel as though you’re just too tired to make changes now, but by moving forward in incremental stages, you’ll build the strength you need to stay with it. You will love how you feel when you do!

Adrenal fatigue (Addisons disease) – Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue

Physiology

Amygdala (part of limbic brain) – hypothalamus communicates with pituitary gland, turns on adrenal gland – body is filled with cortisol & epinephrine.

On top of each kidney there is an (endocrine) adrenal gland, about the size of a large grape.

To understand how adrenal fatigue develops, it is important to understand the original, evolutionary function of the adrenal glands. The adrenals are walnut-sized glands located on top of each kidney, where they serve as important manufacturing centers for many of the body’s hormones.

The innermost section of each gland produces adrenaline and noradrenaline, the hormones named after them. The layers outside the center, called the adrenal cortex, produce several other hormones, including cortisol, as well as DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

The fundamental task of your adrenal glands is to rally all your body’s resources into “fight or flight” mode by increasing production of adrenaline and cortisol. When healthy, your adrenals can instantly increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release your energy stores for immediate use, slow your digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpen your senses.

Let’s emphasize two points about this healthy stress response. First, it takes priority over all other metabolic functions. Second, it wasn’t designed to last very long.

Function

They produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, how our body uses food, blood-levels of minerals, such as potassium and sodium, functions involved in stress reactions, and heartbeat.

Stress causes the adrenals to produce cortisol.

What are stressors?

A demanding job, raising a family, relationship issues, lack of sleep, financial pressures, improper nutrition, dieting, and unresolved emotional distress, losing a loved one etc

When our adrenal glands have to chronically sustain high cortisol levels, they become fatigued. The resulting adrenal dysfunction not only affects cortisol production, but also impairs the adrenals’ ability to produce and balance hormones like DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue

• Fatigue
• Feeling tired despite sufficient hours of sleep
• Insomnia
• Weight gain
• Depression
• Hair loss
• Acne
• Reliance on stimulants like caffeine
• Cravings for carbohydrates or sugars
• Cravings for salt
• Poor immune function
• Intolerance to cold

Related conditions

Adrenal fatigue is a likely factor in several medical conditions such as the following:

• Hypotension
• Fibromyalgia
• Hypothyroidism
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Arthritis
• Premature menopause

Stress of any kind — mental, emotional, or physical — stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the dynamic feedback system between the brain and the adrenal glands. Over stimulation of this axis have huge implications throughout the body.

The short-term result of a stimulated HPA axis is higher cortisol production from the adrenals. High cortisol (hypercortisolism) in the bloodstream can directly inhibit production of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) as well as conversion of T4 to T3. But cortisol can’t remain high forever.

Eventually, the adrenal glands reach exhaustion and not enough cortisol is produced (known as hypocortisolism), which comes with another set of problems.

Either way, with lower levels of T3 in the blood, your cells can’t produce a healthy biological response. This is when women begin to see hypothyroidism symptoms like fatigue, cold intolerance, weight gain, memory loss, poor concentration, depression, infertility, hair loss, and more.

The adrenal glands are one piece to the thyroid equation, but for some people, there may be something entirely different causing a sluggish thyroid.

Other factors in the hypothyroidism equation

On top of the physical and emotional stress women feel at menopause, there are several very real biological stresses on the thyroid to consider.

Low iodine levels. Iodine is the central ingredient in thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Trying to produce T3 and T4 without iodine is like trying to make an omelet without the eggs! We need about one milligram of iodine a week to form the required amount of thyroxine.

But iodine is not all that widely distributed in nature.

Despite iodine being added to our commercial table salt, American iodine status was recently deemed “marginal” by the World Health Organization. Given that many of the world’s crop-growing soils lack iodine, fewer people eat foods naturally rich in iodine, and more and more avoid iodized table salt, iodine deficiency is on the rise.

Exposure to environmental toxins — including halides, heavy metals, pesticides, and antibiotics in our air, food, and water — can also interfere with thyroid function. We all know it’s best to limit our toxic exposure wherever possible but increasing iodine intake and implementing a regular detox program to support the body’s natural detoxification pathways can also make a difference.

Food allergies and sensitivities — including those to gluten — can place tremendous stress on thyroid function. Many of my patients with hypothyroidism see positive results when they eliminate gluten from their diets. You, too, may want to give an elimination diet a try.

Food sensitivities may also promote autoimmune reactions in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid as though it were a foreign invader. When we have food intolerances occurring in the gut, the resulting chemical signals influence our DNA — including the DNA in our immune cells. Unfortunately, the messages carried by food stressors turn off the default “healthy” pathways and turn on those that lead to disease.

A long list of prescription medications can also impair thyroid function. Drugs like lithium, amiodarone, somatostatin, inhalers, and others have the potential to disrupt thyroid hormone balance at any level — from synthesis, secretion and transport, to how thyroid hormones act in our organs to regulate metabolism — with the unintended outcome of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. I acknowledge that prescription medications save lives, but we have to be mindful that their benefits often come at the expense of other systems in the body. Sadly, the targeted strength provided by many drugs can be overwhelming — in some cases destructive — to the thyroid.

Finally, insufficient nutrition may also affect thyroid function — but it’s a problem that’s easily addressed!

Selenium, for example, is needed for the conversion of T4 to T3, so if you’re selenium deficient, increasing this nutrient in your diet may make a difference in how you feel. And as mentioned above, iodine is essential for making thyroid hormones. Vitamin A, EPA and DHA, and zinc all act to improve T3 binding in your cells. By working with your body’s natural pathways, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and extra antioxidants can offer great results without the side effects. The bottom line is that when we give our bodies the gentle support they recognize, we often see positive results that last.


Nutrient-rich foods to replenish thyroid health

• Iodine (I): seaweed (e.g., nori), clams, shrimp, haddock, oysters, salmon, sardines, pineapple, eggs.

• Selenium (Se): smoked herring, smelt, wheat germ, Brazil nuts (just one nut provides ~139 mcg), apple cider vinegar, scallops, barley, lobster.

• Zinc (Zn): fresh oysters, ginger root, pecans, dry split peas, Brazil nuts, egg yolk, whole wheat, rye, oats, peanuts.

• Vitamin E: wheat germ oil, olive oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts.

• Vitamin A: dark green leafy veggies, liver, winter squash, cantaloupe, stone fruits, papaya, and cod liver oil.

• B vitamin complex: brewer’s yeast, wild rice, brown rice, whole wheat, beans, peanuts.

• Vitamin C: Red chili, guava, parsley, dark green leafy veggies, strawberries, papaya, citrus fruits.

• Support your adrenals. If this is the only thing you do, I promise it will benefit your health on many levels. Not only will supporting your adrenals lighten the burden on your thyroid, it will also help restore your energy levels and overall well-being.

• Introduce a quality multivitamin–mineral complex. All perimenopausal and menopausal women should take a mineral complex.

• Consider supplementing with selenium and iodine. You can do this through the foods you eat or with supplements, but if you do use selenium or iodine supplements, please work with a professional healthcare provider to monitor your levels appropriately. And when it comes to selenium supplements, I do not recommend taking more than 200 mcg/day.

The destructive effect of high cortisol levels

What is cortisol? In its normal function, cortisol helps us meet these challenges by converting proteins into energy, releasing glycogen, and counteracting inflammation. For a short time, that’s okay. But at sustained high levels, cortisol gradually tears your body down.

Sustained high cortisol levels:

• destroy healthy muscle and bone

• slow down healing and normal cell regeneration

• co-opt biochemicals needed to make other vital
hormones

• impair digestion, metabolism and mental function

• interfere with healthy endocrine function; and

• weaken your immune system.

Adrenal fatigue may be a factor in many conditions, including fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, and more. It can also be associated with a host of unpleasant signs and symptoms, from acne to hair loss.

The loss of DHEA production

When the adrenals are chronically overworked and straining to maintain high cortisol levels, they lose the capacity to produce DHEA in enough amounts. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an immediate precursor hormone to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

What that means is whenever DHEA is in short supply; women have a hard time balancing their hormones.

This happens because Mother Nature will always favour survival — our adrenals’ primary function — over reproduction — one of their secondary functions being production of sex hormones. And that’s why hormonal balance becomes increasingly problematic as stressed-out women approach midlife, when ovarian production of sex hormones declines naturally.

Over time, low DHEA leads to fatigue, bone loss, loss of muscle mass, depression, aching joints, decreased sex drive, and impaired immune function.

 

Tips:

1.     Clean your colon. One of the best things you can do is to support your colon by using occasional colon cleansing and doing a detox diet.

2.     Hydrate with living water.

3.     Add a fiber supplement, such as psyllium husks, to 8 oz. of apple juice in the a.m. and p.m.

4.     Consider a kinesiology balance.

5.     Herb/supplement support – Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Amino Acids, Multi Vitamins and Minerals like magnesium, EFA’s, Liquorice root, Ginseng, Gingo Biloba.

6.     Take a relaxing bath then get 7 hours of sleep and avoid all electronic equipment an hour before sleeping.

7.     Reduce caffeine intake and alcohol and ditch sweets.

8.     No microwave.

9.     Opt for healthy fats – coconut, olive, avodaco, nut oils.

10.  Gentle stretching like Yoga.

11.  Go outside, take a walk, travel. Avoid over excessive exercise.

Speak your truth

By the time we reach perimenopause, many of us find we’ve given so much to the world around us there is little reserve for ourselves. This is the time to speak up, to share your opinions, to explore the things that make your life meaningful. Don’t feel guilty about asking for — and receiving — more support. Though easier said than done for many women, this may be the perfect time in life to learn to say “no.” You deserve a break — and so do the cells in your body!

Your thyroid, your voice

In Eastern medical paradigms, the thyroid is associated with “sacred voice.” As a component of the fifth chakra, thyroid issues are linked with difficulty speaking our truth, following our dreams, or fully expressing ourselves. Anatomically, the thyroid sits right over the voice box, and one of the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction is a gravelly or “muted” voice. When the thyroid is underactive, it doesn’t hurt to step back and evaluate how well you’re expressing your individual needs, wants, and opinions to those around you.

Remember that your voice doesn’t serve to merely communicate — it is connected to your whole being. Likewise, your thyroid doesn’t simply produce thyroid hormone. It is connected to every cell in your body and subject to both physical and psychological influence.

Our holistic natural healing programme

Our program promotes natural hormonal balance with nutritional supplements, our exclusive endocrine support formula, dietary and lifestyle guidance, and kinesiology consultations and various support treatments.

 

References
(some of the above information on adrenal fatigue courtesy of http://www.womentowomen.com)
Adrenal fatigue — the effects of stress and high cortisol levels by Marcy Holmes, Women’s Health NP, Certified Menopause Clinician & Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

 

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December 10, 2018 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment


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*Advice and recommendations given in this website or in personal consultation by phone, email, in-person, online, or otherwise, is at the reader’s sole discretion and risk. Information presented on this website is not to be interpreted as a kind of attempt to prescribe or practice medicine. These statements and information have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. No product offerings are intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult with a competent, fully-informed medical professional or health practitioner when making decisions having to do with your health. You are advised to investigate and educate yourself about any health related actions and choices you make.


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