Daily living in today’s world can cause a lot of stress to our adrenal glands. In fact, we take in more information and stimulus in one day than our caveman ancestors probably did in their whole lifetime. This undoubtedly affects the small triangular shaped endocrine glands that sit atop the kidneys, the adrenals. These glands are responsible for initiating our “fight or flight” response. The adrenal glands regulate our stress response through the synthesis of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Excessive cortisol in the body adversely affects thyroid hormone production.
The continuous over production of these hormones can also suppress immunity, negatively affect digestion, and increase both blood sugar and blood pressure. Over time, a sustained stressed-out state takes a major toll on our health. Prolonged exposure to chronic stress stimulates the immune system. And the repeated over stimulation of the immune system can increase our susceptibility to auto immune attacks, thus leading to autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
If you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, I recommend you request the proper panel of thyroid labs from your doctor as your adrenal and thyroid health are very connected.
Even a surgery, loss of a loved one, a divorce or financial hardships can all lead to adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue and Thyroid Connections
I know you’ve read about stress a thousand times already but I’m going one level deeper into why this constant reaction to stimuli affects things like our thyroid, digestion, hair and nails and our weight. It can also lead to inflammation and disease as mentioned earlier.
Our bodies, even though complex and highly sophisticated in its processes, have a very antiquated fight or flight response to stress. It doesn’t know your tensing up from a bad day at work or a hectic commute home. It only knows that it needs to produce adrenalin to either fight or flee that stressor. Focus and energy is redirected to primary bodily functions. These responses are normal but when continuous, given our busy and chaotic world of today, our secondary functions suffer because they are not getting the required nutrients and resources. Cortisol moves blood flow towards the brain and large muscles instead of toward the digestive tract, so digestion is compromised. This also results in a weakened gut barrier, leading to “leaky gut” aka intestinal permeability. More scientific info on that here in Section 4.
What else happens? Things like our hair and nails begin to deteriorate. Fertility takes a back seat. Our body holds on to sugar (glucose) instead of burning it. Why? Because the body still thinks it needs energy to fight or flee that tiger. The quickest source of energy is sugar. And because you’re actually not burning that stored sugar to fight or run, it turns into fat.
For those of us with compromised thyroid hormone, the effects are compounded. Cortisol suppresses the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which both control the thyroid. These glands help us convert T4, the inactive form of thyroid hormone into its active and usable form, T3. Excess cortisol also increases estrogen production. Excess estrogen is a known immune system aggravator and also inhibits the liver from converting T4 into T3.
Take the ‘Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue?’ Quiz
HPA Axis Dysfunction
Because the hypothalamus and pituitary glands are also involved, adrenal fatigue has come to be known as HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis dysfunction in conventional medical circles. Adrenal fatigue was wrongly, in my opinion, dismissed by many doctors. HPA Axis Dysfunction is when one or more of these glands are not doing what they need to be doing in response to chronic stress.
Are you starting to understand the detrimental and interconnected effects of stress on the body?
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Whenever you’re exhausted and tired all the time, have excess body fat storage, autoimmune issues… it is probably related to adrenal fatigue. Symptoms include:
- a tired but wired feel
- never feeling fully rested
- middle of the night wake ups with racing thoughts
- craving salt or sweet foods all the time
- vertigo or dizziness when standing or getting up from a laid down position
- long recovery time after intense workouts
- sensitivity to light, loud noises and crowds of people
- a feeling of overwhelm at the smallest tasks
- inability to concentrate
- food sensitivities
- abnormal reactions to carbohydrates
How to Reverse Adrenal Fatigue
We may not be able to remove all forms of stress in life, but we can try to control how we perceive that stress and how we respond to it. Controlling your thoughts and the way you react to things are paramount. Belly breathing and mindfulness are great techniques to combat stress responses. Here are other important things to consider:
- A low sugar and low processed food diet (gluten free is best) in order to avoid spikes in insulin and other hormones
- Taking the right supplements – A good quality Vitamin B complex, Magnesium Glycinate and Vitamin C. I am not a fan of many adrenal support supplements as they contain an adaptogenic herb called ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is part of the nightshade family and some people with autoimmune disease, such as myself, are sensitive to the nightshade family. Ashwagandha is also an immune system stimulant. So this is something to consider.
- Elimination of caffeine during the healing phase or no more than one small serving (must be before 10am)
- Elimination of alcohol during the healing phase
- No less than 7 hours of sleep, 8-9 or more is preferable
- Turning devices with blue light emitting screens (computers, mobile phones, tablets etc) off at least 1.5-2 hours before bed time
- Avoiding high intensity workouts as they can spike cortisol in the body
- Drinking the adrenal cocktail which includes nourishing pink himalayan salt
- Deep breathing/mindfulness/meditation and Self Care!
- Early to bed, early to rise (ie 10pm bedtime, 6 am wakeup) to help body sync up circadian rhythms
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How to Reverse Adrenal Fatigue Program
If you would like a structured program consisting of digestible steps (with video tutorials, meal plans, recipes, nourishing adrenal foods list etc) to take each week to reverse adrenal fatigue, please send me a message here.