Herbs To Balance Your Stress Response
Certain herbs can help your body adapt to the demands of stress. This class of herbs is called adaptogens, which means they help your body adapt to stress. Several of these herbs have been studied for their impact on fatigue and chronic stress.
Rhodiola and Ginseng have the best evidence supporting their ability to reduce fatigue, stress, exhaustion, and to improve concentration and mood .
Eleuthero and Ashwagandha also have some limited evidence to suggest they help reduce fatigue . These herbs are generally available at health food stores or online retailers as capsules, tinctures, or extracts.
Testing For Adrenal Fatigue: What Are The Best Options
Have you ever left your healthcare providers office feeling like no one truly heard what you were trying to say? Have you been given a prescription as your only solution to managing chronic symptoms? Conventional medicine certainly has its strengths, but when it comes to chronic, often complex health issues it does not always have such a great track record. The conventional medicine approach is often to suppress symptoms, rather than investigating and treating their underlying causes.
This is where functional medicine has an important role to play. We take a closer look at the underlying imbalances that may be leading to symptoms and bigger problems, and focus on how we can resolve those underlying issues.
Who May Need An Adrenal Test
Adrenal tests are typically performed for patients who are exhibiting issues with their pituitary or adrenal glands, such as making too much or too little of the related hormones for instance. Patients who have had problems with bone growth, blood pressure, the function of their immune system, metabolizing of necessary nutrients, nervous system function, and stress response are likely to have this test prescribed by their physician. Also, patients known to have Cushing Syndrome or Addison Disease will likely receive Adrenal tests on a semi-regular basis.
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Diagnosis During An Adrenal Crisis
If Addison’s disease is left untreated, it eventually leads to an adrenal crisis. This is where the symptoms of Addison’s disease appear quickly and severely.
During an adrenal crisis, there’s not enough time to perform a synacthen stimulation test to confirm Addison’s disease.
If possible, blood will be taken and tested for any of the abnormalities listed above. While you’re waiting for the results, treatment may be started with steroid injections, and fluids containing salt and glucose.
Read more about treating Addison’s disease.
Why Is Cortisol So Important
Its normal for cortisol levels to fluctuate throughout the day. Let me give you an example.
In the morning, your body knows you need to get up and go, so your cortisol levels will naturally peak at around 8am. This ensures you get the burst of energy you need in order to start your day. Conversely, it makes sense that levels naturally drop in the evening when youre preparing your body for sleep.
During stressful periods, or at times when youre in fight or flight mode, your body knows to make cortisol to help you deal with the stress. While this response is vital, its also important that cortisol levels return to normal once the stressful event has passed.
Unfortunately, so many of us are leading such busy, hectic lives that this level of stress has almost become the norm. The truth is, for some people the stress response is activated so many times during the day that the body literally has no time to recover. The end result? You end up feeling totally depleted.
When your body is so pre-occupied with manufacturing cortisol, it has no reserves for making other important hormones and neurotransmitters like aldosterone, testosterone and epinephrine which are so invaluable for keeping stress under control.
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The Adrenal Fatigue Solution
Treatment for adrenal fatigue requires a great deal of cooperation between the physician and the patient they need to be able to work together as a team. Lifestyle adjustments may include getting enough sleep , limiting your exposure to computers and television just before bed and minimizing other stressors such as work or relationships. Dietary treatments include limiting sugars, white flour and caffeine as well as focusing on a diet of lean proteins and complex carbohydrates like vegetables. It is also important to maintain a stable blood sugar by eating small amounts of food every two to three hours. Nutritional support includes pharmaceutical grade multivitamins, antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium.
You and your physician may also utilize adrenal adaptagenic herbs and glandular products to help support the adrenals as they heal. In the most severe cases, where the activities of daily life are affected, bioidentical cortisol could be used in the short term along with the diet, lifestyle and nutritional interventions. The highly trained physicians at BodyLogicMD can help you identify and successfully treat your adrenal fatigue. And it all starts with the adrenal fatigue saliva test.
What Is The Treatment For Adrenal Fatigue
The treatment for adrenal fatigue is essentially lifestyle advice, including sleep, diet and exercise. Talk with your doctor to discuss how you are feeling so that your doctor can arrange tests if needed and also provide you with advice and support.
It is very important to reduce stress and improve relaxation. See also the separate leaflets called Acute Stress Reaction and Stress Management and also the leaflet called Relaxation exercises.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Avoid junk foods and processed foods. Also avoid or reduce coffee and any other stimulant drinks and reduce your intake of sugary drinks and foods. See also the separate leaflet called Healthy Eating.
It is very important to have enough sleep and to stick to a consistent sleep routine. For more information see the separate leaflet called Insomnia and the leaflet called Sleep diary.
There is no evidence that supplements are of any value, and some supplements may be harmful.
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Vitamins And Minerals For Adrenal Support
Deficiencies of a few particular vitamins and minerals are correlated with fatigue symptoms. Iron deficiency anemia can definitely cause fatigue . Consider supplementing with iron. However, excess iron can cause side effects, so ask your doctor to assess your iron and ferritin levels to make sure iron supplementation is right for you.
Using supplemental B vitamin complex has been shown to reduce stress and stress perception .
Cortisol Testing For Adrenal Fatigue
Cortisol, released by the adrenal glands in response to stress, is the primary hormone we test for when looking at adrenal dysfunction.
Conventional practitioners will do hormone testing for some patients, including blood testing for cortisol, but they will disregard the results if they indicate a normal level. This sounds right, but the problem is that in the conventional standard of care, the range of cortisol levels that is considered normal is very broad! These tests are designed to flag severe problems, but they tend to miss all kinds of imbalances that do matter, especially when someone is suffering with chronic symptoms that get in the way of their day-to-day life.
The other problem with conventional cortisol testing is that it does not take into consideration the pattern of cortisol levels throughout the day. Understanding an individuals cortisol pattern over the day is extremely important in order to really get to the bottom of the state of their adrenal function and stress response. The cortisol blood test, as with many conventional blood tests, is a useful tool but just doesnt tell the whole story!
Saliva tests for cortisol, DHEA, and other hormone levels are great because theyre simple, non-invasive, and reliable, and they help us gather more specific information by making it easy to collect multiple samples over the course of the day.
Dried urine testing has also been found to be reliable and helpful when it comes to cortisol and other hormones.
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Distinction From Addisons Disease
Adrenal fatigue is closely related to, but not to be confused with, Addisons Disease, a disorder characterized by insufficient cortisol production due either to a pathology directly affecting the adrenals or a disruption of signaling between the brain and the adrenals. While symptoms of Addisons Disease are similar to adrenal fatigue, the primary difference is that adrenal fatigue is considered a possible result of the overuse of otherwise healthy adrenal glands due to stress.
The adrenals are necessary to have gluconeogenesis to take place in the liver, as well as the glycogen storage where it stimulates the production of blood glucose, says Dr. Wilson. So, most of the major symptoms of either adrenal fatigue or Addisons Disease are a result of either a lack of cortisol or a lack of blood glucose and the many effects that it has systematically throughout the body.
He theorizes, Unlike Addisons, adrenal fatigue doesnt have a pathological origin, with the exception of the overuse of antibiotics which may partially shut down the use of the adrenal glands. So, you do get different symptoms with versus adrenal fatigue, because youre talking about the difference between a body that cant secrete cortisol versus a body that isnt secreting sufficient cortisol.
When Normal Is Not Normal With Laboratory Testing
To illustrate how a normal laboratory test can be present in a body that is not well, let us consider the following:
Laboratory testing plays an important and significant part of assessing bodily function. It should not be disregarded. However, as you can see from the above, just because laboratory testing results are within normal range does not necessarily mean a person is free of illness. Many chronic illnesses, including Adrenal Fatigue, progress over time slowly. Sole reliance on routine blood serum laboratory tests for definitive assessment is a grossly incomplete approach to start in the case of Adrenal Fatigue.
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Q: Why Is A Multidisciplinary Approach So Important
A: After ruling out possible endocrine disorders, your endocrinologist can refer you to other specialists, including urologists, cardiologists, rheumatologists, allergists/immunologists and infectious disease physicians.
If youre diagnosed with POTS or another disorder, these specialists will work together to manage your health and develop a targeted treatment plan putting you on the path to symptom relief.
More Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue
There are a large number of other complaints that are associated with Adrenal Fatigue. Many of these are linked directly to one of the more common complaints listed above. Depending on which stage of Adrenal Fatigue you have reached, you may be experiencing a handful or a large number of these symptoms.
- Numbness in your fingers / Poor circulation
- Weight gain
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How Do We Test For Adrenal Fatigue
The choice method of testing for adrenal fatigue is through saliva. Saliva offers a great, non-invasive way to look at the adrenal hormones, namely cortisol, at various points over the course of the day. It is much easier to see how the cortisol levels vary and if they are following the normal pattern throughout the day. As a matter of fact, this is one of the methods that NASA uses for their testing. It is much easier than blood testing especially because physicians normally look at cortisol levels at four points in one day . An adrenal fatigue test by blood would usually require four separate visits throughout the day to have the blood drawn.
The highly trained bioidentical hormone doctors within the BodyLogicMD network look for low levels of cortisol when trying to make the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue. For an adrenal fatigue test through blood to be accurate, it would require the assurance that the patient would not get nervous when they were having a needle stuck into their arm to get blood drawn. When you get nervous, your blood cortisol level may raise temporarily, which for the purpose of the test, may place cortisol levels into the normal range falsely. This may lead to a misdiagnosis. Collecting saliva is as easy as spitting into a tube. Although its not elegant, its certainly not stressful! So, it is more likely to see the true level of cortisol and make the appropriate diagnosis with the salivary adrenal fatigue test.
If Not Adrenal Fatigue Then What
Although HPA axis dysfunction is a better theory that adrenal dysfunction, recent prospective cohort studies suggest that there are no HPA axis changes present during the early stages of the propagation of fatigue, thereby confirming that it cannot be the cause. The same study also suggests a reversed direction of causation , which is further supported by the findings that modifying cognitive-behavioral components of the illness leads to normalization of the HPA axis. 16
If it is not HPA dysfunction, one explanation could be that a huge proportion of people who have these symptoms simply have what is termed chronic fatigue syndrome, which is medically recognized and presents with exactly the same symptoms as adrenal fatigue.
In fact, burnout syndrome, adrenal fatigue, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may all exist on a spectrum of energy and fatigue, and it is just a matter of the intensity/severity of symptoms. Instead of using confusing labels, it might be prudent just to call it fatigue.
Dysfunctions in any system of the body can cause fatigue but are usually due to environmental and lifestyle factors, including:
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What Causes Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is caused when your adrenal glands cannot cope when you are very stressed. The adrenal glands are an essential part of your body’s responses to any kind of physical, emotional or psychological stress. During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands can respond but not well enough to stop you feeling very tired.
Many different types of stress can cause adrenal fatigue. Examples of physical stress include any severe or recurrent infection or illness, having an operation, poor diet or a severe injury. Emotional or psychological stress may be caused by many situations, including relationship, family or work difficulties.
Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue
- Fatigue, exhaustion that doesnt resolve with sleep
- Dependency on stimulants
- Poor sleep, you may struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Brain fog and lack of mental clarity
- Cravings for salt or salty foods like meat and cheese or potato chips
- Feel constantly on edge or have a hard time relaxing
- Anxiety, racing heart/racing thoughts, nervousness
- Blood sugar dysregulation, shakiness/trembling
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The Iris Contraction Test
First described by Dr. Arroyo in 1924, this test measures the contraction of the iris in response to repeated exposure to dark light. In those with weakened adrenal function, the theory goes that the iris will be unable to maintain its contraction for long.
To conduct the test, sit in a darkened room, in front of a mirror. Take a flashlight and shine it across your eye, from the side of your face. In a hypoadrenal state, your pupil will not be able to hold onto its contraction for more than 2 minutes and thus will begin to dilate despite light repeatedly shining on it. In those with healthy adrenals, the contraction should last much longer.
What Should I Expect From My Adrenal Test
Adrenal tests begin by drawing a sample of blood from a patient in order for it to be analyzed by a medical laboratory. Patients are commonly asked to avoid strenuous physical activity prior to taking the test, and may even be asked to lie down 30 minutes before their blood is taken. There are also a number of medications which could affect the results of the test, such as steroids, so its important to speak with your physician about what medications you are currently taking preceding your test. Though there is a reference range for results common among Adrenal tests, some labs may have different ranges for you and your physician. Speak to your doctor regarding your results to get more information on how your results concern to you and your health specifically.
Questions regarding online blood testing or how to order a lab test?
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But Is Adrenal Fatigue A Real Disease
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce several hormones, among them, cortisol. When under stress, we produce and release short bursts of cortisol into the bloodstream. The adrenal fatigue theory suggests that prolonged exposure to stress could drain the adrenals leading to a low cortisol state. The adrenal depletion would cause brain fog, low energy, depressive mood, salt and sweet cravings, lightheadedness, and other vague symptoms.
Numerous websites mention how to diagnose and treat adrenal fatigue. However, the Endocrinology Society and all the other medical specialties do not recognize this condition. The Endocrinologists are categorical: “no scientific proof exists to support adrenal fatigue as a true medical condition.” This disconnect between conventional and complementary medicine adds to the frustration.
How To Test Your Adrenal Function
Your adrenal function is critical to help us adapt to stress and heal. When the adrenals are out of balance, it affects our energy, sleep, mental focus and hormone balance. Over time, we can develop a condition called HPA axis dysfunction, or adrenal fatigue, in which our adrenal glands are unable to keep up with the demands of the environment.
The adrenals are coordinated by regions of the brain called the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus has an antenna like effect in which it is constantly checking the blood stream for any signs of stress. When it notices changes it sends signals to the pituitary gland and the sympathetic nervous system which then activate the adrenals. This connection process is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
When the body is under chronic stress it creates a communication breakdown in the HPA axis leading to both adrenal overactivity and underactivity .
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