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Posts Tagged ‘adrenals’

is stress making you sick copy

You’ve probably heard it over and over: Stress raises the risk of disease. But how do you know if your stress is the disease-causing kind? It’s helpful to know some signs and about the adrenal stress test.

Severe stress can either cause you to be fatigued all the time, wired all the time, or a mix of both. Or maybe stress manifests as sleep issues.

It’s not uncommon for people to become so used to being stressed out they fail to realize it’s an issue. They have forgotten how not to feel stressed out.

Symptoms of fatigue-based stress

  • Fatigue
  • Slow to get going in the morning
  • Energy crash in the afternoon
  • Craving sweets, caffeine, or nicotine
  • Unstable behavior; moodiness
  • Shaky, light-headed, or irritable if meals are delayed
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Dizziness when moving from sitting to standing

Symptoms of wired stress

  • Excess belly fat
  • Insulin resistance (high blood sugar)
  • Insomnia
  • Not feeling rested in the morning
  • Women grow facial hair; men grow breasts
  • PCOS in women (polycystic ovarian syndrome)

How to do a lab test for stress

You can do an adrenal stress test to measure how well your body deals with stress using your saliva; it’s also called an adrenal salivary panel. Your adrenal glands are two small glands that sit atop each kidney that secrete stress hormones.

To get the most from the adrenal stress test, do the test a second time after following a health protocol for four to six weeks. This shows you whether you’re on the right track with your healing approach.

This is because stress in the body is always caused by more than just the stress that we perceive, for example low or high blood sugar, an infection, or autoimmune disease.

Adrenal health should improve as you manage these conditions. If things do not improve, it means you must keep searching to find out what is taxing the body.

Measuring your sleep-wake cycle

Another way to gauge stress with the adrenal stress test is to look at your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Are you alert in the morning and sleepy at night? An abnormal circadian rhythm is one symptom of adrenal stress.

Your primary stress hormone, cortisol, should be high in the morning and low at night on an adrenal stress test. Many people have a backwards rhythm causing fatigue in the morning and insomnia at night. Or, instead of a gradual decline of cortisol during the day, it may drop in the afternoon, causing an energy crash.

Where are you on the adrenal stress test scale?

By measuring several markers, the adrenal stress test can tell you whether you are in:

  • The “alarm reaction” of high adrenal hormones
  • Adrenal exhaustion and chronic tiredness
  • Somewhere in between

You do not necessarily have to progress from alarm reaction to adrenal fatigue. It’s possible to jump between phases, or stay in one phase for years.

The adrenal stress test also measures immune cells called total SIgA. This is a measure of how stress has impacted your immune system over time. If SIgA is low, it can mean you are more susceptible to food intolerances, infections, and weakened immunity.

Start with blood sugar stability to manage stress

One of the most common causes of chronic stress is a blood sugar imbalance  Addressing high or low blood sugar are vital to addressing chronic stress.

Various herbal and nutritional compounds, such as adrenal adaptogens, can profoundly influence adrenal function. Ask my office about the adrenal stress test and how you can support your adrenal health.

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adrenal basics copy

The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys that can make the difference between being bouncy and energetic or run down and burned out. This is because they release stress hormones and the hormone cortisol, which, among other things, gives us energy.

Unfortunately, the adrenal glands are under siege by our stressed-out modern lives. In addition to stress, blood sugar swings, gut infections, food intolerances, chronic viruses, environmental toxins, and autoimmune conditions tax the adrenal glands. The body interprets all of these as threats, causing the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones to raise blood sugar to meet the demands of the stress. What should be an occasional mechanism is a daily thing for most.

Symptoms of adrenal stress include fatigue, weak immunity, allergies, low blood sugar, being groggy in the mornings, crashing in the afternoon, sleep problems, and more.

Adrenal imbalances are one the most common health problems we see in functional medicine thanks to high-stress lifestyles, high-carb diets, and a toxic environment.

Adrenal problems always secondary to something else

Adrenal health is always secondary to something else. Blood sugar imbalances are a very common cause of adrenal problems. The adrenal hormone cortisol raises blood sugar when it drops too low, which, when it happens repeatedly, exhausts the adrenal glands, as well as the brain’s control center over these functions. Constant cortisol production weakens the lining of the intestines tract, making it more susceptible to bad bacteria, inflammation, and leaky gut.

Other factors that can contribute to adrenal problems include autoimmune disease, food intolerances, chronic infection, chemical sensitivities, and hormonal imbalances.

Lab tests to assess adrenal health

We can measure adrenal function with a salivary panel. The most important thing to know about the panel is that one test is not worth much. It is the follow-up test that shows whether a protocol is improving your health. If it’s not, we dig deeper.

You take the test kit home and collect samples of your saliva in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, and at bedtime to measure cortisol at each time. It should be highest in the morning so you feel alert and lowest at night so you feel tired for bed. This is called your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Chronic stress eventually disrupts the circadian rhythm. An abnormal circadian rhythm can cause high cortisol at night and insomnia, or low cortisol in the morning, which makes it hard to wake up.

Adrenal problems can cause hormone problems

When adrenal stress is high, the body steals a hormone called pregnenolone from cholesterol to make more cortisol — a phenomenon known as pregnenolone steal. Normally, the body uses pregnenolone to make sex hormones such as progesterone and testosterone. As a result, pregnenolone steal causes hormonal imbalances such as PMS, infertility, male menopause, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Avoid adrenal Stimulators

If you are serious about restoring your adrenal health, avoid the things that tax it, such as sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, foods to which are you sensitive, lack of sleep, over exercising, over working, bad relationships, and other stressors.

Stabilize blood sugar to support adrenals

Stabilizing blood sugar is paramount to supporting the adrenals. This is especially true for those with low blood sugar who get irritable, shaky, or lightheaded if they go too long without eating. Eat a protein breakfast and then eat small meals frequently to keep your blood sugar from crashing. Avoid relying on caffeine or sugar for energy, and do not skip meals.

Schedule relaxing things

Find ways to relieve stress and remain calm. Learn some relaxation techniques, take yoga, walk daily, take time off, socialize, and other things that support your well being in a positive and healthy way. Just knowing you have something fun and relaxing planned is half the battle to lowering stress.

Ask my office for help in supporting your adrenal health.

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Why is menopause so hard for some women?

Question
I’m going through menopause and feel like I’m falling apart. I get severe hot flashes, mood swings that border on psychosis, and my brain isn’t working. Why?

Answer
As the ovaries begin to wind down production of the sex hormones the adrenal glands, our stress organs, are supposed to take over that job. Unfortunately by the time most women reach menopause their adrenal glands are worn out and not up to the task of making sex hormones.

Chronic stress taxes the hormones
In the face of stress our adrenal glands secrete adrenal hormones to help our bodies cope and adapt. However we were designed to call on this action only on an occasional basis. These days our adrenal glands are on constant red alert.

Factors that activate the adrenal glands include lack of sleep, being over scheduled, excess caffeine, inadequate nutrition from a poor diet, and too many sweets and starchy foods. Lesser known stressors include chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease, overgrowth of yeast and bacteria in the intestinal tract, leaky gut, and chronic viral or bacterial infections.

Hormones are vital for proper function of body and brain
As a woman nears menopause her ovaries begin to produce fewer reproductive hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. Women still depend on these hormones even after fertility for proper function of the brain, thyroid activity, immune system, and other systems in the body.

Because so many women enter menopause with fatigued adrenals, their adrenal glands cannot produce enough sex hormones or produce them in an appropriate manner. The result is deficiencies or swings in hormone production, which disrupts the function and health of other systems in the body. This causes the symptoms so commonly seen today, including hot flashes, memory loss, poor cognition, depression, strong mood swings, and more.

The best option is prevention
Natural medicine offers many solutions to help women transition through this period more safely and comfortably. However the best option is prevention. Ideally a woman will work to shore up her adrenal health, which is a whole-body diet and lifestyle approach, well before menopause.

Working preventively will help prevent or minimize the unpleasant symptoms associated with the transition into menopause.

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