Adrenal Health

What is the biggest stress in your life?!  Stress causes a physiological response in the body that occurs in seconds when a stressful stimulus occurs due to the release of norepinephrine from the adrenal glands causing the body to go into “fight or flight”. After that stress response occurs much more happens in the body like an increase in cortisol. Increased cortisol levels can have beneficial and negative effects on the body especially if it is constantly elevated or flat-lined.
 

Physiology

  • The adrenal gland is a tiny little organ that sits on top of the kidneys
  • The adrenal gland has 2 major sections called adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla
  • In the adrenal cortex is where steroid hormones are produced such as cortisol, aldosterone, and androgens (DHEA + testosterone)
  • In the adrenal medulla is where catecholamines are produced such as epinephrine and norepinephrine
  • The function of the adrenal glands it to help the body deal with stress 

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Hormone’s Function

Cortisol 

  • “stress hormone”
  • Helps with the production of red blood cells
  • Helps reduce inflammation
  • Helps regulate blood sugar levels

Aldosterone 

  • Plays a huge role in controlling blood pressure
  • It controls the balance of sodium and potassium in the body
    • Its ability to hold in sodium allows water to follow, which keeps blood pressure maintained

Androgens

  • Helps with the development of sex organs and 2° sex characteristics
  • Precursor to estrogens

Catecholamines 

  • Put the body into “fight or flight”
  • Increase glucose (sugar) in the blood
  • Increase basal metabolic rate

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Adrenal Conditions

There are several adrenal pathologies including Cushing’s syndrome, hyperaldosteronism, adrenocortical insufficiency, Addison’s disease, and adrenal tumors but what I want to focus on is HPA axis dysregulation more commonly known as ADRENAL FATIGUE!!!!

Do you have a difficult time waking up in the morning and not really “wake up” until 10am!?! Then to get a lull in the afternoon between 2-4pm? But then that energy boost comes at 6pm but then you soon become tired at 9pm but resist sleeping and get a second wind at 11pm and then can’t fall asleep…. does this sound like you? If so you may be suffering from HPA axis dysregulation!

Common symptoms of HPA Axis Dysregulation:

  • Lack of energy
  • Mild depression
  • Low libido
  • Muscular weakness
  • Increased PMS + mood swings
  • Altered blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds
  • Hair loss
  • Sugar + salt cravings
  • Irritable + anxious
  • Weight changes

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Labs to Assess Adrenal Function

  • DHEA-S
  • Cortisol
  • ACTH
  • Good tests to consider for HPA axis dysregulation symptoms:
    • Thyroid function (TSH, free T4, free T3)
    • Ferritin
    • B12
    • CBC + differential
    • Blood sugars

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Nutrition for Adrenals

Foods to LIMIT

  • Sugar (processed + refined)
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Pop
  • Processed food, fast food + fried food

Foods to ENJOY 

**A whole food, organic balanced diet

  • Lots of fruits + vegetables
  • Nuts + seeds
  • Healthy fats (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocado, omega 3)
  • Grass-fed lean meats + wild fish
  • Whole grains
  • 2-3L of water a day (keep hydrated!!)

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Lifestyle for Adrenals

  • Deep belly breathing
    • This allows for the massaging of the vagus nerve, which is connected to all your internal organs
    • This will help the body switch to parasympathetic mode “rest + digest”
  • Sleep
    • Try and sleep before 10pm — in TCM every hour of sleep before 12am counts as 2 hours of restorative sleep for the body!
  • Stress management
    • Leaving unhealthy relationships
    • Meditation
    • Vacation
    • Spending time in the forest
  • Exercise
    • Low – medium intensity
    • Include a variety of exercises (yoga, stretching, weights, cardio, swimming)

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Nutrients for Adrenals

  • Vitamin C
    • Most important vitamin for the adrenal gland
    • Helps with the adrenal hormone production
    • Antioxidant to the adrenal gland itself
  • B vitamins
    • Helps with the hormone production
    • Deficiency in B5 can lead to shrinking of the adrenal gland
    • Modulates the stress response
    • Helps to provide energy to the body
  • Magnesium
    • Most important mineral for the adrenal gland
    • Essential for the production of enzymes and energy needed for the production of adrenal hormones
    • “spark plug for adrenal gland”
  • Herbs:
    • Rhodiola rosea (Arctic rose)
    • Withania somnifera (Ashwaghanda)
    • Panax ginseng (Koren ginseng)
    • Glycyrrhiza galabra (Licorice)
    • Eleutherococcus sinticosus (Eleuthro)

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So many of us suffer from HPA axis dysregulation… just know that this is NOT normal and you don’t have to live like that. Be nice to your adrenals and you will have more energy then you could have ever imagined!

XO

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