Adrenal Fatigue: When You’re Too Tired to Enjoy Life!
Coping With Stress
Stress is highly prevalent in today’s lifestyle, the mere drive to work can stimulate your adrenaline in the light of the traffic congestion. Stress induces the body’s fight or flight response, due to the secretion of adrenaline, a hormone from the adrenal gland. However, your response to stress can be altered with excessive or deficient hormone secretion. This can occur due to constant demands placed on the body in the varied forms of stressors, causing adrenal fatigue. These include any type of disturbance, whether physical, mental or emotional.
Stress Makes You Fat
Excessive adrenal activity manifests as abdominal fat gain, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and elevated blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Prolonged stress has a profound impact on many organ systems, especially the heart, blood vessels, adrenals and immune system. Adrenal exhaustion causes the individual to feel ‘stressed out’, fatigued and become prone to allergies.
Stress & Disease
Many conditions are strongly linked to psychological stress, including asthma, auto-immune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, the common cold, adult onset diabetes, depression, headaches, hypertension, immune suppression, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual irregularities, PMS, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and ulcers. Some of these conditions can be caused by food allergies, as psychosocial stress decreases the levels of secretory IgA, an antibody which protects against the entrance of foreign substances into the body at the gut surface.
The key to stress management is HEALTH PROMOTION. This can be implemented in many ways to counteract the effects of stress. Stress reduction can be effected through various relaxation techniques, such as meditation, progressive relaxation, autogenic training, prayer, self-hypnosis and biofeedback.
Exercise Affects Mind & Body
Although exercise is a physical stressor, it provides several physiological benefits. Exercise stimulates more efficient cardiovascular function by improving heart contraction and decreasing heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. As well, exercise improves oxygen and nutrient utilisation in all tissues. It also increases endurance, energy, self-esteem, and enhances your mood and frame of mind. With respect to increasing your ability to cope with stress, exercise facilitates this by reducing the secretions of adrenal hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Support Key Systems
It is of utmost importance to support the key systems to achieve optimal health. Thus, we see the impact of stress on the adrenals, but the immune system and the nervous system are also affected under chronic stress. Botanicals (herbs) used are of varied functions. Astragalus, Panax ginseng and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng) facilitate the body to adapt. Adrenal tonics, such as Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice) and Borage officinalis revive the adrenal gland. Immunostimulants include Astragalus, Echinacea, and Ligustrum lucidum (Privet).
Calm the Nervous System
Nervines calm and normalize the nervous system. These include Avena sativa (Oats), Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower), Scutellaria lateriflora (Skullcap), Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola), Hypericum perfoliatum (St. John’s Wort) and Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm). Adrenal and thymus glandular extracts can also enhance adrenal and immune function, and are often found in conjunction with the respective essential nutritional factors.
Homeopathy is the use of natural substances of multiple dilutions, and is believed to provide an “energetic” stimulus to the body’s inherent healing ability. A constitutional remedy is usually determined by a naturopathic physician or a homeopathic practitioner, through a consultation interview to provide an individual’s entire symptom picture of the mental, emotional and physical nature.
In terms of combating the effects of stress, optimal nutrition plays a major role to obtain optimal health. Certain nutritional factors are necessary to manufacture adrenal hormones and support the immune system. Vitamin C, B6, B5 (Pantothenic acid), potassium, zinc, magnesium and antioxidants are required in higher levels than dietary allowances and may be taken supplementally. Pantothenic acid is of primary importance as its deficiency manifests as adrenal atrophy (shrinkage) causing fatigue, headache, insomnia, nausea and abdominal discomfort. It can be found in whole grains, legumes, salmon, liver, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Avoid Bad Fats; Substitute Good Fats
Attention must be paid to balance the good vs. the bad oils, to promote the body’s own anti-inflammatory pathway. Obtaining essential omega 3 & 6 fatty acids (found in olive and flax oil, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds) is as vital as reducing consumption of red meats and dairy products, high in arachadonic acid, since the latter promotes the inflammatory pathway. Trans fats, found in dairy products, margarines, and fried foods, should also be avoided due to their similar effect.
Protein & Carb Ratios Affect Hormones
Protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios directly influence the amounts of two vital hormonal regulators, insulin and glucagon. Insulin secreted in response to caffeine and/or excessive carbohydrate intake (e.g. sugar, alcohol, white flour) can not only stimulate fat formation and prevent fat breakdown, but also increases hunger, mental confusion and favours pro-inflammatory processes. Sugar also depresses the immune system, which is already affected by high stress levels.
In contrast, glucagon mobilizes carbohydrates into the blood for energy, fat from its storage tissue - adipose, to decrease body fat, promotes healing and repair, decreases hunger and increases mental clarity, alertness and endurance. Thus, to balance the insulin and glucagon levels optimally, protein and carbohydrate amounts should be approximately equal at each meal. Remember, fat in the diet is required, but ultimately only essential fats should be incorporated, as discussed above.
Identify & Eliminate Food Allergens
Avoiding food allergies is critical to reducing the stressful load on your body. Food allergies compromise digestion and immunity through inflammation in the bowel. Over time this causes Leaky Gut, scientifically know as intestinal permeability, which can lead to a variety of symptoms and severe conditions. The greatest stress reduction to your body would be to identify and eliminate your food allergies, which can be determined through a blood test, via a Naturopathic Physician. Variety in the diet is important as constant repetition of any food can precipitate an allergy to that food.
You Are What You Eat
Ideally, a health-giving diet includes plenty of pure, uncontaminated, filtered water between meals and a variety of protein sources, such as cold water fish (tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, cod, sardines etc.), soy products, legumes (bean family), nuts and seeds (protein and good fat). Whole grains are more digestible, less allergenic, a good source of protein, carbohydrates and fibre, and are lower in calories than refined grains, such as wheat. Examples of whole grains are amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, spelt, triticale and wild rice. Essential fats can be obtained from fish, olive and flaxseed oil, walnuts, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
The essence of the answer to combating stress lies in your realization that optimal health is attainable when you respect and address all aspects of your being - mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.
This article is for educational purposes only and does not advocate self-diagnosis. Due to individual variability, consultation with a licensed health professional, such as a naturopathic physician is highly recommended, prior to starting a natural treatment plan.
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