Stress has been described as “what a person feels when life's demands exceeds the individuals ability to meet or adapt to those demands”. It is our body’s reaction to a challenge and whether we recognize it or not, all living creatures are subject to stressors from both internal or external factors, and we all respond to them according to our individual mental, emotional, physical and spiritual states & abilities.
What Are Adrenals?
Adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and release hormones into the blood stream in response to stress in order to guide our bodies reaction. Adrenaline is secreted in response to short term triggers and cortisol is part of our long term stress response, hence why it is known as our “chronic stress hormone”. The adrenals also secrete both male & female sex hormones and become prime producers in women when ovaries retire during menopause, playing an important role in the ease of this transition. In addition, they secrete aldosterone, which regulates sodium/potassium levels in the body.
The Stress Response
Stress is not meant to be a bad thing as it serves a basic survival function. Hormone fluctuations are part of a natural stress response and are meant to eventually fall back to normal and recover once the stressor is removed in temporary situations and healthy people. However when stressors and/or the inability to manage them overload our bodies, symptoms and disease can occur. Living in a constant state of chronic stress depletes nutrients and as the body continues to release cortisol, sustained elevated levels can lead to taxed adrenal glands and health problems.
Your ability to adapt to stressors depends on optimal function of the adrenal glands and cortisol regulation!
Stages Leading To Exhaustion
- Alarm Reaction/”Fight or Flight” -> adrenaline and cortisol are high as an immediate reaction to a stressor. Vitamin C, B’s & Magnesium are depleted, blood sugar/glucose and pressure is elevated, metabolism speeds up, muscles contract, and digestion & immunity are paralyzed.
- Resistance Phase -> adrenaline drops and cortisol remains high. Symptoms of taxed adrenals begin to appear.
- Exhaustion Phase/”Burnout” -> both adrenaline and cortisol are low as adrenals crash and lose their ability to secrete hormones.
What Stresses The Adrenals?
Adrenals respond to stress of any kind, whether psychological, physical, chemical, or environmental. Excess caffeine, poor diet (high sugar/refined/processed/fried), blood sugar fluctuations, alcohol or drug intake, food sensitivities, chronic inflammation, smoking, internal or external toxins, lack of sleep, dehydration, temperature extremes and trauma can all cause a stress response! Note that alcohol, nicotine and caffeine may mask symptoms of underactive adrenals.
Symptoms of Taxed Adrenals
Our adrenal glands show specific symptoms when they’re starting to slow down. Do you find yourself struggling with any of the following?
Fatigue & energy crashes, depression & anxiety, cold hands or feet, brain fog & poor memory, dizziness, low back pain, poor sleep (constantly waking up at 3 a.m.), hair loss, sweet or salt cravings, mood swings & irritability, headaches, low libido, menstrual irregularities, weight gain & resistant fat, frequent infections, digestive issues, water retention, dry skin, etc.
What Are The Effects of Adrenal Stress?
Adrenal fatigue can be responsible for blood sugar issues and insulin resistance, compromised immune function, infertility, chronic fatigue and insomnia, bone loss/osteoporosis, slow metabolism, muscle breakdown, hormonal imbalances (estrogen dominance, worsened menopause, low thyroid), arthritis, asthma, allergies, sluggish liver, high triglyceride levels, arterial damage and risk of heart, digestive, skin and inflammatory conditions.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are ingredients that assist the body in adapting to and coping with stress by supporting the adrenal glands. They have a normalizing effect, helping the body maintain a constant internal state and support immunity, fight fatigue, improve mental ability, increase resistance to and counteract the negative physical and emotional effects of stress. Examples include Ginseng, Suma, Rhodiola, Ashwaghanda, Schizandra, Astragalus, Bacopa, Licorice, Holy Basil, Mushrooms.
- Avoid Triggers & Stressors!
- Key Supplements
- Prevention Pack: Multivitamin, Probiotics, Essential Fatty Acids (i.e. fish oils)
- Important Nutrients - B-Complex (esp. B5), Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc & Vitamin C
- Calming Supplements: Consider specific herbs (Valerian, Passionflower, Lemon Balm, Hops, Skullcap, Kava Kava, Chamomile, Lavender) that quiet the nerves, promote restful sleep, increase focus and calm anxious states.
- Extra Tip: For fast-acting stress relief, try calming L-Theanine or GABA!
- Nutrition Guidelines: Eat a wholesome diet full of nutrient-rich foods (i.e. produce, sea salt, fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, etc.), ensure adequate protein and drink plenty of water!
- Lifestyle Factors: Regular moderate exercise & stretching, manage blood sugar, stress management, relaxation/breathing techniques, consider counselling & acupuncture.
-This column in sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -