How well you live and how good you feel depends heavily on your adrenal glands and if they are functioning properly. They help you prevent illness, overcome illness and are a major source of sex hormones. Adrenals are also known as ‘stress’ glands because they enable us to deal with all kinds of stress including internal imbalances, not just ‘work or family stress’. Adrenals are important because they influence every organ, tissue and process in our bodies, determining the breakdown of carbs and the conversion of fats. They also regulate our blood sugar and are in charge of the health of our gastrointestinal system along with many other essential areas in our bodies.
We’ve all known the feeling of being ‘pumped up with adrenaline’ when reacting to emergencies so what do our adrenals help balance?
- Allergic reactivity
- Energy function
- Glucose metabolism in muscles
- Brain function
- Sleep/Wake function
- Protein metabolism
- Our immune system
When an ‘alarmed’ message reaches our kidneys (fight or flight), the regions of our adrenals secrete adrenaline into our bloodstream, which prepares our body for intense action, boosts oxygen and glucose in the brain and muscles and suppresses other non-emergency bodily processes especially related to the immune-system and digestion functions. This suppression of immunity functions is one reason many people get sick after a stressful event.
DHEA is the most abundant product of our adrenal glands and it’s also the most abundant circulating steroid hormones in our bodies. When our adrenals are overworked and struggling to maintain high cortisol levels, they loose the capacity to produce DHEA in sufficient amounts, which is why my Integrative M.D.’s always test my DHEA levels.
When I was healing, I worked with my Integrative M.D, and discovered my body was shutting down due to toxicity, lack of sleep and stress. What did I do? I detoxed through I.V.’s with Dr. Morrison of The Morrison Center in NYC, got more sleep and was put on a heavy duty supplement regimen prescribed by my doctor to support my adrenals. Stress causes high amounts of cortisol and even though I was not under ‘work’ stress, my body was under stress working overtime trying to detox and rid my body of all the toxins stored inside. Cortisol causes our bodies to create more fat and gain weight; it also kicks up your appetite and prompts us to eat large quantities of sweets and simple carbs- foods that make our insulin levels plummet, which makes us hungrier and wanting to eat again and again. Many people who have adrenal fatigue have low blood pressure and get dizzy upon standing, which are symptoms I didn’t experience but many people do.
My tanking adrenals were due in part to my Hypothyroidism, which I inherited from my mother who is also hypothyroid. It’s important to have your doctor test your Reverse T3 and your Thyroid Antibodies because Western Medicine does not regularly run these tests for your blood work. These results will help your Integrative M.D. figure out if your thyroid is the issue or if there is another issue that is effecting your adrenals.
Adrenal fatigue often accompanies other illnesses, which is why this is often overlooked. It’s likely that adrenal function is involved in fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, auto-immune diseases, allergies and chronic fatigue because the adrenals are needed for the recovery from any disease- therefore the road back to health should be monitored by your Integrative M.D. and should include improving your adrenal function.
My Western medicine doctors always said my blood-tests were ‘Good’ and ‘Normal’ or ‘Fine’ but I never felt ‘Good’ or ‘Fine. I knew there was a reason for this and that’s why I kept digging for answers and going to new doctors (all out of network that my insurance never covered). Most adrenal issues are found with more accurate, personalized testing and working with specialized doctors who run Alternative Testing – not just the regular blood work that your general doctor does. They will address the causes and stimulate healthy glandular function with carefully selected supplements.
For years doctors viewed ME and my tests as ‘Black or White’ either I was ‘sick’ or ‘well’ according to them- but that’s not the case and adrenal fatigue is a matter of the gray areas that these Western medicine doctors do not look into. Biochemical Individuality is SO important and many of my doctors overlooked the fact that I had my own unique set point. I cannot stress enough that once the level of your adrenals is determined, it’s important to look UNDER the tip of the iceberg of the results you receive because it takes serious experience, many doctors and many skill-sets to pinpoint the causes of dysfunction and to advice successful treatments. Many doctors run ACTH testing, a 24-hour urine test, a saliva test for cortisol and other blood tests that measure your pregnenolone and DHEA. It’s also important to see if you have nutritional deficiencies through vitamin profiling tests or other tests.
Adrenal fatigue can be reversed and you can turn your life around and feel GREAT, again! Focus on the good, let go of certain things in your life and see the bigger picture by seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. There were SO many times that I wanted to give up but also so many times that I looked into my doctor’s eyes and my hope was restored again. I needed to supplement my body with natural compounds through I.V. vitamin therapy which significantly improved the functioning of my cells and organs (a non-invasive way of increasing blood flow and energy production to my adrenals)- leading me to profound results. I switched to eating ALL ORGANIC foods with nutrients and foods that have LOW traces of pesticides. I stripped my lifestyle of processed refined carbs, conventional meats/poultry (I only eat organic poultry now), dairy, soy, refined sugars, trans-fatty acids, alcohol and caffeine. Many patients with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) have adrenal fatigue and diet is key so eating more protein in smaller, frequent meals will help take the stress off your adrenals. Adrenals respond to infections, stress, asthma, allergies, etc. and they are constantly working nonstop so it’s important to make lifestyle modifications, increase your sleep and decrease your stress.
I cannot stress how important the biochemical individuality of each person is and how much it needs to be addressed by your doctor. There are safety issues that are involved, so working with an Integrative M.D is recommended and I would never, ever suggest doing anything on your own. I ONLY do what my doctors say because I believe them and truly love them as people. I tried a few herbs that were helpful (and prescribed by my doctor) such as Ashwagandha and vitamin C. I also focused on adding more Essential Fatty Acids in my lifestyle and increased my intake of ‘good fats’ such as ground flax seeds (I use the Barlean’s brand of organic flax seeds, which I love).
It is essential to work with a nutritionist and an Integrative M.D. because I am sharing general information that is not intended to be medical advice. This information is only given for informational purposes.
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I always love your creative approach to cooking and have enjoyed playing with many of your recipes and suggestions.
I also went to Dr. Morrison years ago until I found an integrative doc closer to home (I’m in NJ).
It’s so inspiring to hear about your journey. Keep up the great work!