Are Adrenal Problems Making You Tired and Zapping Your Energy?
You may already have adrenal problems if you consistently complain about a lack of energy. Anyone suffering from too much stress and not enough rest may have underlying issues that need attention. It's apparent that the pressures of every day life can eventually take a toll on your health.
Caregivers especially, never seem to catch a break on a consistent basis. Far too much of the time, there is no respite from everyday life that might recharge your energy levels and bring balance to your life.
If you’re tired of being tired all the time, you may have an adrenal imbalance. How would you know? To figure it out, its important to understand how adrenal glands function.
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What are Adrenal Glands?
Your two adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped endocrine glands located on top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland is approximately half an inch high and three inches wide.
Both adrenal glands are divided into an outer cortex and an inner medulla. The cortex and medulla of the adrenal glands secrete different types of hormones. The adrenal cortex is essential to life, but the medulla may be removed with no long term ill effects.
Adrenal Gland Functions
To understand how adrenal problems develop, it is helpful to know about the primary functions of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands play an important role manufacturing hormones.
The innermost section of each gland (the medulla) produces adrenaline (epinephrine), and noradrenaline (norepinephrine). There are no significant long term adrenal problems or side effects caused by a lack of hormones in the adrenal medulla. Hypersecretion, usually created by a tumor, causes prolonged or continual sympathetic responses by the body.
The outermost section of adrenal glands, (the cortex) produces hormones including cortisol, as well as DHEA, along with the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
The adrenal cortex consists of three different regions, with each region producing a different group or type of hormone. Chemically, all cortical hormones are considered to be steroids.
are secreted in the outside area of the adrenal cortex. The principal mineralocorticoid is aldosterone, which conserves sodium ions and water levels in the body.
are secreted by the mid area of the adrenal cortex. The principal glucocorticoid is cortisol, which increases levels of blood glucose.
The inner area of the adrenal cortex secrete Gonadocorticoids
, or sex hormones. Male hormones, androgens, and female hormones, estrogens, are secreted in minimal amounts in both sexes by the adrenal cortex, but their effect is usually masked by the hormones from the testes and ovaries. In females, the masculinization effect of androgen secretion may become evident after menopause, when estrogen levels in the ovaries fall.
The most important function of the adrenal glands is to help your body prepare and carry out the automatic ‘fight or flight’ response of the sympathetic nervous system by increasing adrenaline and cortisol levels.
Healthy adrenals instantly release energy stores for immediate use, increase heart rate and blood pressure, shut down digestion and other secondary functions of the organs, and heighten senses. However, since the hormones are programmed to respond to different types of daily stress, anyone suffering from chronic stress
can end up with adrenal problems. When the adrenals are chronically on alert, it can cause a variety of issues including severe fatigue, thyroid imbalances, weight gain, and insomnia
In the world today, most people are subjected to constant stress and stimulation. As a result, cortisol levels never decrease enough to create a state of relaxation. Over-stimulation from computers, tablets, cell phone use, and television, can lead to adrenal problems such as adrenal fatigue.
In this scenario, adrenal glands are constantly in the high alert mode.
The Damaging Effects of High Cortisol Levels
In normal situations, cortisol functions are protective and restorative. Ordinarily, cortisol converts fats and proteins into energy, helps you stay on alert, balances electrolytes, regulates heart rate and blood pressure, and counteracts inflammation
. However, sustained high levels of cortisol will gradually impair proper functioning of your entire body.
Sustained high cortisol levels:
- Break down healthy muscle and bone
- Impair healing and normal cell regeneration
- Slow down digestion, mental function, and metabolism
- Interfere with a healthy endocrine function
- Weaken immunity
The long term effects can harm body, mind, and spirit. Adrenal imbalance may be a factor in many conditions, such as fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism
, depression, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more. It can also be associated with other symptoms including acne to hair loss
. Normalizing cortisol levels helps restore adrenal balance. Easy to say, not so easy to do!
Two Types of Adrenal Problems
There seems to be an explosion, of women especially, complaining about chronic fatigue. In most cases, the adrenal glands are either hypo-functioning or hyper-functioning. In both cases, the adrenal glands are either making too much of the hormones they produce or not enough, in relation to what’s needed. This may not sound like cause for alarm but it is. The lasting effects of either imbalance can bring on long term medical and emotional problems.
Do You Have Adrenal Problems?
When the adrenal glands are not functioning correctly, you can have a condition that is known as adrenal fatigue, or even worse, adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue often develops after periods of intense or lengthy physical or emotional stress, when over-stimulation of the glands leave them unable to meet your body's needs.
Adrenal Problems - Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue (hypoadrenia) is NOT recognized by conventional medicine. It is therefore a term used in alternative medicine to describe a condition where the adrenal glands are exhausted and unable to produce adequate quantities of hormones, primarily cortisol. The condition occurs most often for women but can happen in both sexes. Adrenal fatigue should not be confused with recognized forms of other adrenal problems such as adrenal insufficiency or Addison's Disease.
Adrenal fatigue may cause nonspecific symptoms such as: general fatigue, insomnia, problems waking up, and sugar and salt cravings. In most cases, the need for stimulants is greater for those suffering from it than for the general population.
Each and every day, a wide range of physical and psychological stress, signal the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
When adrenal glands are constantly required to sustain high cortisol levels, they cannot respond appropriately. Adrenal problems not only affect short-term responses to stress, but the adrenals’ ability to produce and balance other hormones, (DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone), which are crucial to long-term health and well-being.
Symptoms of Adrenal Problems & Adrenal Fatigue
Symptoms include but aren’t limited to:
Excessive fatigue or exhaustion
Non-refreshing sleep (you get sufficient hours of sleep, but wake up tired)
Overwhelmed by or unable to cope with daily stress
Feeling rundown or overwhelmed
You are most energetic in the evening
Lowered sex drive
Low stamina, slow to recover from exercise
Sluggish recuperation from injury, illness, or stress
Difficulty concentrating, brain fog
Food or environmental allergies
Premenstrual syndrome or difficulties that develop during or after menopause
Consistent low blood pressure
Extreme sensitivity to cold
Headaches with physical or mental stress
Slow to start in the morning
Feeling full or bloated
Craving sweets, salt, cigarettes, or caffeine
Becoming shaky or light-headed if meals are missed or delayed
Cannot stay asleep nor fall asleep
Dizziness when standing
Transient spells of dizziness
Hemorrhoids, varicose veins
One of the most important functions of the adrenals is to balance blood sugar levels, which helps your body manage the daily ups and downs of needed energy. When blood sugar levels drop, the adrenals release hormones that cause the blood sugar to spike, and increase energy
. The adrenals also release hormones when you’re under stress, which is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
When you’re consistently under stress, it impairs adrenal gland function. Eventually, the glands run out of steam and stop producing sufficient hormones.
General Recommendations to Improve Adrenal Problems
Sleep and rest are so important to recovery. You must fit in both of these to balance life’s pressures!
Avoid negative people. Learn to say NO more often!
Commit to taking time off and having fun more often to help you find joy again!
Do not exercise until you drop. Instead, do restorative exercises like Qigong, meditation, deep breathing, walking, swimming, or ‘soft’ yoga. If you like to lift weights, keep it moderate with low reps.
Enrich your nutrition by consuming more phytonutrients, cut back on stimulants, and reduce refined carbohydrates and food found in a box.
Consider nutritional supplements that support adrenal function. Start with high-quality vitamins and mineral complexes rich in stress vitamins, calming minerals, and essential fatty acids.
Reduce stress levels as possible.
Make a list of your stressors, especially those that are ongoing or self-imposed, and avoid them when possible.
Remember the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Recommended Diet to Recover from Adrenal Problems
Magnesium and potassium are two recommended supplements to promote healthy adrenal function and to ease symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Magnesium is a vital catalyst for enzyme activity. Potassium promotes a healthy nervous system, which helps reduce stress.
- Magnesium Glycinate or Malate - Green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, and salmon and halibut are good food sources. Magnesium is essential to the production of the enzymes and the energy necessary for adrenal activity.
- Potassium Chloride - Swiss chard, lima beans, crimini mushrooms, bananas, and potatoes, are good choices. Potassium assists muscle and nerve function, maintains electrolyte and acid/alkaline balance in your body, and lowers the risk of high blood pressure.
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, Vitamin E, and B Complex are critical in treating adrenal fatigue. Vitamin B5 is especially helpful because it activates adrenal glands.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) – Food sources include cucumber, avocado, turnip greens, tomato, yogurt. Deficiencies are characterized by fatigue, headaches, insomnia, nausea and abdominal discomfort.
Vitamin B Complex – All B vitamins are critical for the entire adrenal activity. Lower supplemental dosages after recovery and focus on the right foods instead.
Eat lots of organic fruits and leafy greens. Your adrenal glands will benefit from Brewer's yeast, brown rice, legumes and deep-water fish at least three times a week.
Consume a well-balanced diet – Focus your diet on quality proteins and fats, add starchy foods either pre and/or post workout, as needed too boost energy and restore balance.
Use Celtic sea salt in the foods you consume.
Supplements to Decrease Adrenal Problems
Acetylcholine - Supplements such as choline bitartrate and CDP-choline raise levels of acetylcholine, available without a prescription.
L-theanine – Helps produce the majority of its psychotherapeutic activity by increasing levels of extra-cellular GABA, the brain's sedative neurotransmitter and the pathway most used by most anti-anxiety drugs. The standard dose for the treatment of anxiety according to a 2005 study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, is 200 mg two to three times daily.
Ashwaganda root & leaf, Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, ginger root – Adaptogenic herbs can help normalize blood pressure and heart rate, regulate cortisol levels, and increase metabolic rate by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes for protein and fat.
Ginkgo biloba - a powerful antioxidant that helps to calm free-radical production and thereby protect the adrenals from free radical imbalances. Ginseng used together with ginkgo biloba helps restore poor circadian rhythm function (tired & wired/can’t sleep), by supporting brain and neurotransmitter function.
Conventional endocrinologists and tests cannot diagnose adrenal fatigue, because they are only prepared to diagnose extreme adrenal problems, such as Addison's disease, a potentially fatal condition where the adrenals essentially shut down.
A holistic practitioner can do an Adrenal Salivary Index/Adrenal Stress Index/ASI to evaluate your adrenal function and to diagnose acute adrenal problems.
Contact a naturopath, chiropractor, certified nutritional consultant, or other practitioner in your area to find out if they can run an adrenal salivary index test for you.
Fortunately, there are many natural steps you can take to help reduce adrenal problems and restore a healthy adrenal function. But to rule out the possibility of any serious underlying medical issues causing your symptoms, you may want to consider getting a full physical exam.
Anyone with more severe symptoms, or anyone who has reached complete adrenal exhaustion, may need more intensive intervention.
Stress is a powerful stimulant. Ignoring problems doesn't make them disappear! Remember, they can re-emerge at any given time so be aware when you brush off important issues that need immediate attention. Getting the help you need for adrenal problems is truly vital to your long term health and well being!
If you take some of the necessary steps to address adrenal problems, you should expect a dramatic improvement in four to six months. With mild to moderate adrenal imbalance the turnaround time may be even faster. Even if you feel like you’re simply too tired to make changes, making incremental changes is better than none at all. Once you start rebuilding your strength, you will love the way you feel!
Always consult your physician before using natural remedies, especially for anyone with preexisting conditions or anyone currently taking prescription medications. Although many efforts are made to ensure that the advice given on this site is professionally sound, the advice is not intended to replace a mutual relationship with a medical provider.
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The Real Deal on Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue / Adrenal Exhaustion
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