A Q& a With Dr Alejandro Junger
What exactly are the adrenals? And what systems in the body do they control?
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of our kidneys. They are involved in the production of the hormones that regulate the fight or flight reactions, adrenalin, and noradrenalin. The way I think about them is kind of like the power strip into which the organs are plugged for energy, much like your home appliances are plugged into a socket. If the adrenals are not working optimally, your organs will run low on voltage and not be able to run optimally.
What happens to the adrenals when were in a constant state of stress, i.e., fight or flight levels of anxiety? How can you tell if your adrenals are out of whack?
When we are in a constant state of stress, the adrenals are overworked, and much like anything that is overworked in the body, they can run into exhaustion. When this happens, we feel exhausted, and depending on what organs are most affected, the symptoms may vary. Common symptoms of adrenal exhaustion are a general lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, clouded mind, depression, weak immunity with frequent colds or other infections, and difficulty digesting. But pretty much anything else can go wrong when our adrenals are exhausted, such as infertility, low blood pressure, and anemia.
Is it true that caffeine taps out the adrenals? How much is acceptable?
Can you destroy your adrenals? Is it possible to revitalize them?
Vitamin C Replenishes Adrenal Function
The adrenal glands are rich in vitamin C which is used to produce all the adrenal hormones, most importantly cortisol. As stress begins and continues, vitamin C is used rapidly by the adrenal glands to make cortisol. As vitamin C is depleted, adrenal function declines and the only way to replenish these stores is to eat a diet rich in vitamin C and to supplement. In times of adrenal fatigue, getting a therapeutic level of vitamin C is usually necessary and this would be time for supplementation.
The dosage of vitamin C is to bowel tolerance, so start with 100 mg/day and work your way up to the dosage where you bowel moves.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue
Ultimately, adrenal fatigue comes from long-term stress.
When youre stressed, your adrenals release cortisol. If youre constantly stressed for a long time, youre constantly producing cortisol, your adrenals become less sensitive to how much cortisol they make, and your stress response and daily cortisol rhythm become irregular. Thats when you start to see swings in your mood and energy.
Here are some common causes of adrenal fatigue:
- Poor diet
All of these things stress you out and tax your adrenals.
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Ways To Support Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is becoming a common term in the modern world but what exactly is it? Lets start by looking at what your adrenal glands actually do.
Your adrenal glands allow your hormones to send chemical messages around your body, telling your cells what to do.
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and regulate many of your hormones. They essentially allow your hormones to send chemical messages around your body, telling your cells what to do. This includes your main stress hormone cortisol which is also your daytime energy hormone. Your cortisol is for giving you the alertness to get out of bed in the morning, so its a hormone you definitely need, but only in just the right amount.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a term used to explain that your adrenal glands have struggled to keep up with the demands of stress.
Adrenal fatigue is when your adrenal glands struggle to keep up with the demands of stress.
Nowadays, we experience the hormonal, physical and physiological changes that accompany stress, a lot more regularly and for longer periods of time, than our traditional ancestors. Our ancestors were only under threat from predators or famine several times a year.
Many people who experience prolonged stress run into adrenal fatigue at some point.
Many people who experience prolonged stress run into adrenal fatigue at some point. Lets take a closer look at how this happens:
Can You Get Tested For Adrenal Fatigue
The best way to get test for adrenal fatigue is via a saliva cortisol panel. The panel looks at your cortisol patterns throughout the day versus a blood test that only tests at one time during the day. Seeing the pattern of cortisol during the day will give you and your practitioner a good idea of whether adrenal imbalance is a factor for you.
As you read the list below, remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint. Fully healing the adrenals usually takes a minimum of 6-9 months and for some it can take up to 12 months. The good news is that even making just a few changes can help you feel better within weeks or even days.
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What You Can Do To Improve Adrenal Function
As a woman, there are several lifestyle changes that help support adrenal health and hormone levels.
First, youll want to manage stress. This is often one of the root causes of adrenal fatigue. How are you coping with stressful events? Are there things you can remove from your to-do list right now that will ease your mind? How supportive are your personal relationships with your partner, friends, or family?
Then, youll want to look at foods to add to your diet. Healthy fats and plenty of protein are key for adrenal health and hormone function. These help keep blood sugar steady. Many women arent getting enough protein, but dont realize it.
And most important, get plenty of sleep andif you need toschedule time to recharge. Stick to a nighttime routine and optimize sleep, while adding active relaxation like yoga or meditation to your week.
Need help relaxing? Serenease provides 6 types of magnesium to helpalleviate stress and tension.
Hydrate Your Body Well:
Water is extremely critical for balancing stress hormone production. When you are dehydrated, you will naturally stimulate stress hormone production. Drinking 8oz of water can be one of the best ways to tone down the stress response and put you back into a state of rest and repair.
On a daily basis, I recommend starting your day with 16-32 oz of water first thing in the morning and consuming a minimum of 8oz of water every 2-3 hours throughout the day. Your goal should be a minimum of half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
It is also great to add in fresh squeezed lemon or lime, essential oils or apple cider vinegar to add more anti-oxidants and enzymes.
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Other Conditions That Affect The Adrenal Glands
Certain conditions, such adrenal insufficiency , can prevent your adrenal glands from making enough hormones. Addisons disease is a rare but serious disease.
The symptoms of Addisons disease include fatigue, body aches, unexplained weight loss, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, loss of body hair and skin discolouration.
Addisons disease is recognised by doctors and can be detected through blood tests that show insufficient hormone levels. On the other hand, these tests are often normal in people who are told they have adrenal fatigue.
Ashwagandha Sometimes Called Indian Ginseng
Ashwagandha is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for someone suffering from long-term stress that is depleted. This herb also works like an adaptogen and can be utilized at any point during or before a stressful time for support.
Studiesshow it does have anti-stressor effects and supportsadrenalandthyroid function and the immune system andmood . Ashwagandha acts mostly to calm, and can help with sleep but for some, it may be energizing due to its effect on thyroid function.
Dosage 100-300 mg/day.
Try: This herb is part of our Wellena Adrenal TLC.
If youd like to drink your Ashwagandha, here is a simple recipe for an Ashwagandha Latte you can try.
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What To Avoid When Your Adrenals Are Fatigued
Sugar and high glycemic foodsinstead, choose sweet vegetables like carrots or beets which have low net carbs but lots of beneficial nutrients.
Caffeine & alcohol can interfere with adrenal function so its best to avoid these when adrenals are fatigued.
Stressful situations, relationships and work environmentswhile not always easy to change if youre experiencing adrenal fatigue, its an important part of maintaining hormone health.
Natural Supplements And Herbs For Adrenal Support
Chronic stress and fatigue are important signs your adrenals are overworked and in need of repair. If you’ve ever attempted to fix your symptoms with caffeine and sugar or even sleeping pills, you already know theres a big problem with that approach any momentary relief you get is followed by feeling even worse. Theres got to be a better way, and there is!
According to a growing body of research, key vitamins, minerals and herbs and other plant-based compounds offer powerful help to restore underlying adrenal function and protect the body from stress.
Some of these natural substances nourish adrenal glands and provide raw materials for healthy cortisol production. Others go a step further, interacting with the central nervous system and immune system to balance the bodys fight-or-flight response and make it easier to return to equilibrium and calm after a stress challenge.
Lets take a closer look at these compounds and how natural adrenal supplements can help.
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Strategies To Heal Adrenal Fatigue:
Here are the top strategies for healing adrenal fatigue naturally. You should always consult with your physician before stopping or changing medications or taking on new health strategies.
Additionally, you should be working with a functional health practitioner to help guide you through these strategies. This is not an exhaustive list and there are other natural therapeutic strategies that I and functional health practitioners will utilize to help individuals with adrenal fatigue.
The Myers Way Adrenal Fatigue Test
If you are unable to use a saliva test, or do not feel that formal testing is necessary, I have a basic symptoms checklist test in both of my books, The Thyroid Solution and The Autoimmune Solution, that will give you an idea of your degree of adrenal fatigue. You can also download a PDF version in the link below!
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How Supplements Can Support Adrenal Function
In order to produce the many hormones stored in the adrenal glands, the body requires a steady supply of certain nutrients.
The primary source of nutrients will, of course, be your diet. However, for those experiencing acute or ongoing stress, or who suspect their adrenal function may already be compromised, it can be highly beneficial to provide additional nutrients via targeted supplementation.
Keep A Gratitude Journal:
We often spend so much time focused on what is wrong and what we are frustrated by. Taking time each day to journal about what you are most grateful for can be one of the most powerful daily activities.
You can also incorporate this into your breathing, meditation and prayer practices where you remind yourself of what you are most grateful for. This will relax your mind, increase endorphins, reduce stress hormone production and stimulate parasympathetic tone in the body.
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Adrenal Fatigue Recovery: 17 Ways To Support And Heal Your Body
Do you have symptoms of adrenal fatigue and need info on how to start on the road to recovery?
I know that feeling all too well, my friend.
In fact, I myself have dealt with adrenal fatigue.
Let me save you a ton of time and tell you what Ive learned about adrenal fatigue after A LOT of trial and error and appointments with seven different doctors over the years.
Spend More Time Outdoors
Because I have a job thats indoors, I need to make it a point to get outside more often. I believe there is something coded in our DNA that gives each of us an affinity with the sun and fresh air so that we seek out these health-boosting influences. I also like to practice earthing, or walking barefoot outside, as much as I can to help de-stress. Something about that skin-on-earth connection feels literally grounding and refreshing.
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Increase Your Stress Tolerance
Though stress doesnt fatigue your adrenal glands, it does have documented effects on your mental wellness, memory, immune system, digestion, sleep, and hormones, and can absolutely cause fatigue .
Adaptogens are herbs that help your body tolerate stress better and support good energy levels. Rhodiola , Eleuthero , and Ginseng have been shown to help reduce fatigue, stress, and exhaustion . Licorice root is commonly recommended to help with fatigue, but there is virtually no research to confirm this.
Lifestyle changes to increase your sleep, and to manage your stress can help you feel less overwhelmed and fatigued by day-to-day stress. Going to bed early, handling sleep problems like sleep apnea, and practicing stress reduction activities like yoga, meditation, exercise, and time in nature can help too.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue And How Does It Make You Feel Older
Can your adrenal glands actually get worn out and start making you feel old?
First, its important to understand that the term adrenal fatigue isnt the best name for whats actually going on with your adrenal glands when theres a problem. Your adrenals control your bodys response to stress, and production of the stress hormone, cortisol. But as a result of a poor diet, a high toxic burden, and chronic stress, their role in the complex hormone symphony can be compromised.
Trouble with the adrenal glandsand the hormones they producecan and does contribute to signs of aging.
Cortisol production happens in the adrenal glands, along with the release of other hormones. When youre under stress, your adrenals release more cortisol to help your body deal with whatever problem it perceives. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, metabolism, inflammation, mood swings, and sex drive.
However, what became known as adrenal fatigue occurs when the communication between the brain and the adrenals is dysfunctional, leading to your stress response being stuck in the on position.
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Adrenal Fatigue Hurts The Thyroid
To recap what we discussed earlier, adrenal glands produce hormones that impact your major metabolic processes, just like your thyroid. Chronic stress puts your adrenals on overdrive for extended periods of time leaving you in a state of adrenal fatigue. The flooding and eventual plummeting of stress hormones has many negative impacts on the thyroid. It slows thyroid production and inhibits your ability to convert thyroid hormones to their active form causing hypothyroid symptoms.
Zinc B Vitamins And Magnesium:
Be sure to optimize your zinc and magnesium levels. Both of these nutrients work to improve blood sugar signaling problems. Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest sources of both zinc and magnesium.
Additionally, make green drinks or use super green powders and consume healthy organic meat products. This combination of foods provides a lot of bioactive B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.
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How Is Adrenal Fatigue Treated
Your alternative health practitioner may treat adrenal fatigue by recommending that you quit alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and cigarettes, eat certain foods, exercise more and get more sleep. All of this advice should make you feel better.
Some practitioners may recommend you take supplements and vitamins for adrenal fatigue. Always check with your doctor before you take supplements in case they are harmful for you or might react with your other medicines.
If you have unexplained fatigue or exhaustion that doesnt go away, see your doctor. Your doctor will probably ask you about your symptoms and run some tests to rule out other health problems. Treating an underlying issue, such as iron deficiency or a low thyroid level, can help reverse fatigue.
The Importance Of Seeking Treatment For Adrenal Fatigue
If youre suffering from adrenal fatigue, its important to seek immediate help from a qualified medical professional. Left untreated, an overproduction of adrenal hormones due to stress can have a significant effect on the body.
Because adrenal hormones impact the production of white blood cells, adrenal fatigue can result in a weakened immune system and a reduced ability to fight off foreign invaders. Further, adrenal dysfunction can result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and even panic attacks. Seeking medical attention is the best way to avoid long-term physical and emotional consequences related to your condition.
Not all medical professionals recognize adrenal fatigue as a valid medical condition, so it will be important to find a practitioner experienced in addressing this disorder. While it’s always advisable to consult with medical professionals, a complex condition like adrenal fatigue cannot be treated by simply taking a course of prescription pills. Instead, it will likely involve a combination of lifestyle changes and the strategic use of supplements, such as essential amino acid blends formulated to provide adrenal support.
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S To Improve Your Adrenal Function
If youve ever struggled through adrenal fatigue, youll never forget how difficult it was to navigate.
Even being a dietitian and trainer and having the knowledge to optimize adrenal health I have firsthand understanding of the challenge.
I was in my mid-20s, and I had just transitioned from working a demanding schedule in a Life Time club as a trainer and coach to a role in the corporate office. I was struggling with disrupted sleep, low energy, and intense sugar cravings. For the first time in my life, I had gained weight in my midsection.
During this same time period, Life Time was launching a menu of comprehensive lab testing assessments for members to better understand their metabolism and shape their plan. As part of my role at the time, I would be doing lab reviews with participants to help personalize their programs. To better prepare for this task, I was able to go through the entire experience myself.
It couldnt have come at a better time.