Identifying & Healing Adrenal Gland Fatigue
Most people are completely unaware of the function of the adrenal glands, located at the top of both kidneys. Therefore, hence the term "adrenal,” which in Latin can be translated as ad- "near" and renes- "kidney". Your adrenal glands produce and release several different hormones that maintain internal fluid levels, maintain sodium and potassium levels, and mediate the stress response. The purpose of the secreted hormones is to evoke a specific response in other cells of the body which are located far away.
The adrenal cortex is the outer layer and is responsible for the production of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids, and androgens. The major glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal is cortisol. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone because the body releases it in order to help cope with stressful situations. It’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. These changes can be a quick burst of energy for survival reasons, heightened memory functions, a burst of increased immunity, lower sensitivity to pain and homeostasis.
After one experiences high-stress or a traumatic experience, it is vital to activate the body’s relaxation response so the body can return to a comfortable normal. For instance, the adrenal glands respond to stress by secreting aldosterone which tells the kidneys to retain more sodium and copper which are stimulating and provide a quick energy supply to power the sympathetic nervous system "fight or flight" response . At the same time, aldosterone tells the kidneys to eliminate large amounts of zinc and magnesium which are calming to the nervous system. The body doesn’t need anything calming in the nervous system if we need to be alert and ready for action, just as our "fight or flight" defense mechanism was designed to protect us from danger. However, the body cannot sustain these levels for too long or it becomes toxic to the system. These responses were designed to be temporary.
During stress, cortisol secretion varies among individuals but having too little or too much in your system can result in strange havoc on the body leaving one in a mess reaching for all the wrong things to remedy the situation. In our current culture, the body’s stress response is activated so frequently that the body doesn’t always have a chance to stabilize or relax, resulting in a state of chronic stress or Adrenal Fatigue/Adrenal Burnout. Adrenal Fatigue and Adrenal Burnout (not to be confused with Cushing’s or Addison’s disease) are medical conditions (although many still do not recognize it as so) where the adrenal gland fatigue causes an inability to produce adequate amounts of Cortisol, Cortisone, Aldosterone, DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, sex hormones and other hormones necessary to provide the energy needed for enzyme production, neurotransmitter production, fighting off infections, maintaining blood sugar levels, and the creation of energy through our metabolic processes of proper digestion and assimilation of dietary nutrition. This lack of production can also create a variety of other disturbances including anxiety, panic attacks, depression, insomnia, social withdrawal, sugar cravings, chronic fatigue, low libido, unable to cope, sensitivity to light, difficult to exercise, brain fog, fearfulness, IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), reduced memory, lack of lust for life, impatience and quick to anger.
Burnout may develop slowly or be caused by a single trauma. John F. Kennedy experienced burnout during World War II. Late one night, his patrol boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, killing most of the crew. He never recovered from the shock. For the rest of his life, he needed replacement adrenal hormones. If he had found the right practitioner, perhaps they would not have been needed.
If this article is getting your attention, don’t run to your doctor and get drugs. Instead, run to your naturopathic doctor and get a simple saliva test (runs about $120) that measures several parameters of adrenal function. Wait for the results and discuss healing with your naturopath. Various natural supplements exists to help you get back on track, one of which, “Mega Stress” by Priority One uses a combination of licorice root, b vitamins, adrenal concentrate, ginseng, inositol and more. Licorice root has been used for many centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and still features in a number of therapeutic interventions. Modern science shows us that the root of the licorice plant contains a compound called glycerrhizinic acid, which inhibits the breakdown of circulating cortisol at the liver. As such, it can enhance the potency of any cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. This makes it very useful in cases of adrenal fatigue.
If your adrenals need assistance to get back on track, your naturopathic doctor can design a plan to assist you and this could include cutting out the stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and sugar or a major lifestyle or outlook change. It may also include a liver detox. In addition, one might have accumulated many toxic metals, and toxic chemicals, which can trigger adrenal problems. This is another valuable test which your naturopathic doctor can do. At the end of the day, it’s important to relax, cleanse and renourish the entire body. Then the adrenals begin to function normally and one’s energy and life returns.
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