This is always a busy time of year, and we often feel as if we’re running on empty, or as if adrenaline is the only thing that’s keeping us going. I thought it would be an appropriate time to give you some information on the adrenal glands – they are arguably the most important glands in the body. They play a vital role, which has been described as producing chemicals that maintain life, nothing less.1 Your adrenal glands regulate your disposition, your efficiency, and even your personality. Whether they regulate well and help you, or poorly and harm you depends largely on what you eat. Therefore, you can help the adrenal glands function well by eating an appropriate diet.2 Of course, good strategies for managing stress are also very helpful.
The adrenal glands
The body has two small, triangular adrenal glands, one near the top of each kidney. The inner part (medulla) of the adrenal gland secretes hormones such as adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) that affect blood pressure, heart rate, sweating and other activities also regulated by the sympathetic nervous system. The outer part (cortex) secretes many different hormones, including corticosteroids (cortisone-like hormones), androgens (male hormones), and mineralocorticoids, which control blood pressure and the levels of salt and potassium in the body.
The adrenal glands are part of a complex system that produces interacting hormones. The hypothalamus produces corticotropin which regulates the production of corticosteroids by the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands may stop functioning if either the pituitary or hypothalamus produces insufficient amounts of the appropriate hormones. Underproductive or over-productive adrenal glands can lead to serious illness.
How the adrenal glands regulate stress – the fight or flight response:5
When you interpret a situation as stressful, your body physically reacts by going into a “fight or flight” status. This is due to an evolutionary process that prepares your body to fight, to be able to withstand injury from fighting, and to be able to flee with enough energy and ability to run from a dangerous situation.
- This occurs when the adrenal glands produce adrenaline (epinephrine) and release it into the blood stream. The more stressed you feel, the more adrenaline is in your blood stream, resulting in the increased heart rate often felt in such circumstances.
- The adrenal glands also produce noradrenaline (norepinephrine) which is a powerful natural vasoconstrictor, which causes the veins to become narrower. This increases the workload necessary for the heart to pump your blood through your body. It also results in higher blood pressure, common in people going through stressful situations.
Stressors that can tax the adrenal glands include:6
- Physical trauma
- Excess exercise
- Emotional trauma
- Chemical toxins
- Lack of sleep
- Anxiety, depression
- Poor diet
Risks of long term stress on the adrenal glands:7
Cortisol continually released from the adrenal glands in response to chronic stress can damage body tissues. Long term adrenal stimulation can lead to high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and it can deplete white blood cell levels, increasing your risk of infection. Over time, the adrenal glands can become unable to produce sufficient levels of cortisol to deal with ongoing stress.
Signs and symptoms of adrenal weakness or fatigue:6
- Fatigue, weakness
- Premenstrual tension
- Scanty perspiration
- Inability to concentrate
- Cravings for sweets
Note that some stressors (lack of sleep, depression, anxiety) are similar to or the same as some symptoms (insomnia, depression, nervousness), which may make it difficult to sort out cause and effect.
How can I avoid adrenal problems or weakness?
First, note that the fight or flight response is not all bad – it can still save lives, even though most of our stressors are less major. The key is balance, and not reacting to relatively trivial situations as if they were truly stressful, life or death situations.
Get adequate, good quality sleep. It is much easier to sort out the major from the trivial problems when we are well-rested, and to avoid over-reacting to trivial issues that are easy to mistake for something more important. (See our Newsletter, December 2010 for information on sleep.)
A good quality diet is extremely important.
- This includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, fish, chicken and eggs.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates, caffeine and alcohol.
- Limit salt intake, especially if your blood pressure is above 120/80.
- Potassium-rich foods are good (e.g. dulse, kelp, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds and other nuts, raisins), as are foods rich in magnesium (sunflower seeds, whole grains, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, oats, brown rice).
- Calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C rich foods are also recommended (broccoli, carrots, kale, parsley, turnip greens, collard greens, Swiss chard, egg yolk, oranges, grapefruit).
Adequate physical activity is very important for relieving stress, and helping the body cope with its reactions to stress. (See our Newsletter May 2010.)
Talk therapy may be helpful if you are faced with a long term stressful situation. A therapist may be able to give you different perspectives on your problems, and help you to see your situation in a less stressful light.
Remember, we may not be able to control the situation we are in, but we do have control over our response to our situation. This is easier said than done, but keep in mind that you can control your response to whatever happens to you and try to see more positive ways to interpret situations that would have previously stressed you. If you can avoid stressful situations, so much the better, but that isn’t always possible.
I use several techniques to help clients deal with and resolve stressful situations. Please see our web site for more information (http://ramilashealingartsclinic.com/index), or call for an appointment (613.829.0427).
There are a number of Nature’s Sunshine Product that help with stress reduction and provide vitamins and minerals required by the adrenal glands.
Adrenal Support (CN). The adrenal glands are primarily responsible for offsetting the effects of emotional, mental and physical stress on the body. Modern dietary habits and stressful lifestyles have a deleterious effect on the capabilities of the adrenal glands. Your level of energy, muscular strength, blood sugar levels and ability to respond to environmental stressors are all affected by adrenal function. Adrenal Support is specially formulated to nourish the adrenal glands and to promote glandular secretion. The adrenal glands produce and regulate stress hormones, which prepare the body to deal with stressful situations. The adrenal hormones and their functions are linked to virtually all of the body systems. Thus, many physiological processes and bodily functions, including cardiovascular health, sex drive, pH balance, skin conditions, energy levels, mood and overall psychological outlook often correlate to adrenal gland function.
AD-C Combination Herb. Chinese herbal, regulates chi. Nutritionally supports the nervous system and encourages an overall sense of well-being.
Blood Pressurex contains a blend of natural ingredients that can help your body maintain blood pressure levels already within the normal range. Many supplements for hypertension target only one or two underlying functions. Blood Pressurex targets many underlying functions to provide maximum support and efficient control.
The main ingredients of this formula are the powerful herbs Coleus forskohlii, olive leaf extract, hawthorn extract and golden rod; the amino acid arginine; and the potent antioxidants vitamin E and grape seed extract. These combine to help inhibit cell damage (potent antioxidant properties), support and maintain blood vessels, encourage optimal blood flow, promote blood flow in the peripheral arteries and help to maintain normal blood viscosity.
Calcium Magnesium Plus Vitamin D. Calcium is essential to the health of bones, teeth and muscles, and plays an essential role in blood clotting and nerve health. Magnesium activates more than 300 enzymes in the body and, with calcium, affects nerve and muscle functions. Receiving adequate calcium is important to prevent osteoporosis. Calcium and magnesium have a natural affinity and when ingested together in proper proportion, they are utilized more efficiently by the body. Vitamin D is also an important co-factor in the utilization of calcium and helps increase intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus.
Calcium Magnesium Synerpro. As for Calcium Magnesium Plus Vitamin D above. This special SynerPro supplement also offers the benefits of the Protectors blend of vegetables and herbs for healthy cells and bioflavonoids for healthy capillaries.
Eight Herbal Combination. Nutritionally supports the nervous and structural systems. Contains the important herb, white willow bark, from which the pain-reliever, aspirin®, was derived.
HVP herbal combination nutritionally supports the nervous system. A sedative and tranquilizing formula.
Magnesium Complex. Magnesium is a vital element of the body, concentrated primarily in bones and within each cell. Magnesium is essential for calcium absorption, as well as for every biological function, including glucose metabolism and the production and balance of cellular energy. Magnesium, also known as the "antistress" mineral, is a vital catalyst in enzyme activity. Magnesium is involved in nearly every essential bodily function, from the beating of the
heart to the creation of bones and the regulation of blood sugar. It is so important that it is
called the "gatekeeper of cellular activity," signifying its critical role in cellular processes.
Magnesium Malate. Many people suffer from chronic muscle soreness, stiffness and fatigue, a condition known as fibromyalgia. Researchers have recently found that many people with these signs of discomfort respond to supplements containing malic acid and magnesium. This formula provides fuel for energy and nutrition for painful stiff, sore muscles and fatigue which may result from muscle breakdown in an attempt to create energy.
Pantothenic acid. This B vitamin is known as the anti-stress vitamin. Pantothenic acid can improve mental processes and help treat anxiety and depression. It can lower both cholesterol and triglycerides. Because the brain contains one of the highest concentration of pantothenic acid, mental symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue and depression can be the result of a deficiency.
Passion Flower. Spanish missionaries thought the passion flower resembled Christ’s crown of thorns and named it after the Passion of Christ. The plant, which grows widely in the eastern half of the U.S.A., is also nicknamed Maypop, descriptive of the popping sound made when the fruit is mashed. The herb is a mild yet effective sedative.
RE-X is a sedative and tranquilizing formula high in calcium, manganese, selenium, zinc and niacin.
Stress Pak. In our society, the sources of stress are all around us. Of particular concern to us in the modern world is the fact that these stress factors never let up and they don’t go away. When stress continues over a long period of time, certain essential nutrients can become depleted, and your body eventually gets run down and worn out. That’s why it’s important to do all you can to feed your body with proper nutrition during times of prolonged stress. Because of its effect on immune response, stress increases susceptibility to illness and slows healing. Clinical studies show a relationship between stress and lower resistance to infection. For example, people under stress are more prone to contract common colds. Stress Pak conveniently bundles together four different products, all formulated to deal with different
aspects of the symptoms of stress. The products are Nutri-Calm®, Stress J, Adapta Max and Nerve Eight.
STR-J [Nervous] provides nutrients that must be present for proper function of the nervous system. The formula contains one of the most favored herbs of Europe—chamomile. This combination is high in chromium, magnesium and vitamins A and C. Stress-J works well with other supplements like B-complex vitamins, bee pollen and extra vitamin C. It contains: Chamomile flowers, Passion flowers, Fennel seeds, Feverfew herb, Hops flowers, and Marshmallow root.
STR-C – A sedative formula with natural sources of calcium to calm the nervous system. Relieves muscle spasms often associated with anxiety.
Stress Formula Vitamin and Mineral Supplement - A vitamin B-complex formula in a base of calming herbs to nutritionally support the nervous system when under stress.
SynerPro B Complex Vitamins – B-complex vitamins are particularly important for the nervous system. They are also vital for good digestive function and enzyme reactions that control energy, circulation, hormones and overall health. SynerPro concentrate is a blend of various vegetable powders that provides extra nutrient value, prevents free radical damage, and increases immunity. These vitamins are also essential for the metabolism of fats and protein, and for the maintenance of muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as healthy digestive function. B-complex vitamins even play a role in the health of the eyes, hair, liver, mouth and skin.
Or you may prefer Vitamin B Complex plus Vitamin B6.
For additional information, please email email@example.com; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue sharing our newsletters with friends and family. Visit our web site at http://ramilashealingartsclinic.com/index for back issues of this newsletter, for additional information about products and to order products, and for information about our Clinic.
- Wilder B. Adrenal malfunction and how to improve it. http://www.healingnaturallybybee.com/articles/treat1.php Accessed November 8, 2011.
- Tintera J. What you should know about your glands. Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2000. Last updated June 5, 2009.
- The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home Edition. R. Berkow, M.H. Beers, A.J. Fletcher, eds. New York: Pocket Books, 1997.
- Endocrinology Health Guide: The Adrenal Glands. http://www.umm.edu/endocrin/adrengl.htm Accessed November 8, 2011.
- Sherwood C. How does the adrenal gland regulate stress? http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4963096_adrenal-gland-regulate-stress.html Accessed November 8, 2011.
- Adrenal weakness. http://www.naturalways.com/adrenal.htm Accessed November 8, 2011.
- Steely N. What is the function of an adrenal gland? http://www.ehow.com/about_4571567_function-adrenal-gland_.html Updated February 2, 2011, accessed November 8, 2011.