By Tracie Yautz ND
In this health tip we will be discussing how well functioning adrenals can have you feeling more like Snow White instead of one of her dwarfs!
First, let’s learn a little anatomy. The adrenals are small glands that are a very important part of our endocrine system. The endocrine is a system made up of many glands including the, hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, pineal, and the reproductive glands, which include the ovaries and testes. The pancreas is also a part of this system, but we will discuss that in a future health tip when we cover digestion.
The glandular system is a communication system that regulates emotions, promotes growth, sexual identity, control body temperatures and assists in repairing broken tissue and helps to generate energy. It does this by using chemical substances called hormones.
The adrenals are also known as your stress glands. These glands are pyramid-shaped, orange in color and sit on top of the kidneys. They consist of two parts and each part consists of layers. The inner part of the adrenal is called the medulla and the outer section is the cortex. They secrete and regulate many of our most important hormones including; pregnenolone, adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol. In this article we will be focusing on the effect of elevated cortisol has on our body. When your adrenals are stressed and they secret elevated levels of cortisol for an extended periods of time instead of just in a “fight or flight’ situation, this sets off an autoimmune, inflammatory response which leads to fatigue, bone and muscle loss, depression aching joints, decreased sex drive and impaired immune system.
Sustained high cortisol can lead to adrenal fatigue. This create symptoms of fatigue, insomnia (restless sleep patterns, or difficulty sleeping), fuzzy thinking, depression, mood swings, cravings and weight gain (especially in the mid-section) or the inability to lost weight. The end result of continued high cortisol levels leads to adrenal exhaustion. We need ways to manage our stress which in turn will keep the adrenals function appropriately.
There are all kinds of stress: physical, physiological and environmental. Since we cannot avoid stress its’ imperative to learn how to deal with the stressors we have in our lives. It’s important to add that the stress doesn’t even have to be real, it can be perceived stress.
Here are some tools to help handle stress, and suggestions to nourish the over-worked glands.
Rest! Getting adequate amounts of sleep, an average of 7-9 hours is beneficial. When we sleep our body rebuilds and cleanses.
Have a period of quiet time. This could be to pray, meditate, read, do a hobby you enjoy, soak in a tub. Just 10-15 minutes a day is all you need!
Deep breathing can really calm the body! Doing deep belly breaths, breathe in for the count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four and hold for another count of four. Do a series of five of these and you will feel the stress leaving your body.
Light exercise like walking, tai chi, yoga, rebounding on a mini trampoline (gently bouncing) are all effective and won’t add additional stress to these already stressed glands.
Have a positive attitude! Keep a gratitude journal, laugh more, and enjoy life!
Water! Need another reminder of the importance of staying hydrated?
Food! Most people who have weakened adrenals wake up tired. Coffee and stimulants to the rescue, right? WRONG! Nothing hurts these glands more than caffeine and sugar. Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to completely eliminate coffee, but you may want to consider decreasing the amount of caffeine you consume to see if it makes a difference.
Quality fats are also beneficial to these glands, coconut oil, olive oil, flax seeds, walnuts to name a few.
Salt is essential as well. We are not talking about regular table salt but sea salt. Sea salt is high in minerals, another important component to healthy adrenals. In fact, many people with adrenal weakness crave salt. The body needs it, not in large amounts, but enough to feed these glands.
At times supplementation is necessary, but I want to make a disclaimer here; do not run out and purchase all the supplements I am about to mention. It’s important to address your needs with a natural health practitioner before taking any supplements.
Adding a quality mineral supplement can be necessary as well as vitamins C, B’s especially B5 which is pantothenic acid. There is a group of herbs called adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, eleuthro, Siberian ginseng (many of the other ginsengs are good as well), and rhodiola are all beneficial in balancing the adrenals. Licorice root is wonderful, but not for long term use for those with high blood pressure. Bee pollen is effective because it contains many minerals, B vitamins and 21 amino acids. There are also adrenal glandulars that contain freeze-dried animal tissues that help repair damage glands.
Aromatherapy can be another valuable tool. Essential oils such as; Roman chamomile, bergamot, and lavender and there are others, mixed in a carrier oil and rubbed on the soles of the feet or just sniff them out of the bottle, work very quickly.
Lastly, and one of my favorites, are Bach Flowers. Briefly, Bach Flowers are essences of different flowers (38 of them) that help to balance the body’s emotional state. These work on a similar principle as homeopathy. Dramatic results can occur using these flowers. I can formulate these to meet your specific needs using anywhere from one to six flowers.
No more Dopey, Sleepy or Grumpy! We can all be transformed into Snow White by nourishing these tiny little glands that have a huge impact on our well-being!