Your adrenals are one of the hardest working organs in your body.
Yes, all your organs work very hard but in today’s “go-go-go” society, your adrenals do not get the care they deserve.
These grape sized organs sit on top of your kidneys and are responsible for your stress management. Before I say anything else, you might already be thinking:
a) Stress? What stress? I feel great
OR b) Please tell me more! I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown
OR c) somewhere around feeling good but you do think you might be stressed out.
Let’s start with those in group A. You feel great! You have no stress. The funny thing about stress is, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a to-do list you cannot finish. Your body reacts to all stress in the same way, it does not discriminate. Whether you have a mountain of work to get through or you consume lots of caffeine, sugar and alcohol, your body will treat stress the same way. But Alex, how can consuming caffeine, sugar and alcohol be stressful, its relaxing! Wrong, your body can be nutritionally stressed (lots of inflammation), you can be hormonally stressed (relates to adrenals), financially stressed, emotionally stressed etc. Whatever it may be, your body is perceiving some kind of stress and your adrenals are keeping you going.
Group B and C, here’s your explanation:
Our prehistoric ancestors needed to run real fast from the sabre-tooth! We saw and/or heard the threat, our body responded and we either fought or got the hell out. Where your adrenals come in to play is in the body’s response. when your body perceives stress, it releases cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. We’re not going into the anatomy here but it’s a nervous system response sent down from your brain to your adrenals. Adrenaline gets your heart pumping, increases blood pressure and dilates your pupils. Adrenaline and noradrenaline also move blood from the digestive system into the limbs because right now, digestion is not as important as getting ready to flight or flee. Cortisol is released to fuel your body with the energy (amino acids, fats and sugars) it needs to get away or stay and fight. Cortisol also has a negative impact on the immune system and other organ systems. Temporarily it will suppress the immune system to protect against infection but long-term, reduces your immune system function. When cortisol is high for a long time (when we’re stressed for a long time) it will also negatively impact your kidneys, your weight and your blood sugar levels.
All of these hormones are released in the alarm phase of stress; our body perceived a stress and it responds. The second phase is the resistance phase. The stress/stressor does not go away (bills are always coming, workload grows) so our body continues to respond and tries to cope with it by producing more and more hormones and actually taking away from our sex hormones (and sex hormone precursors) to do this! As this stage continues, we start to feel fatigued, depressed, we’re getting sick and rundown. When this phase doesn’t end, our adrenals (that have been supporting us for so long) are tired, and get fatigued. We have reached Adrenal Fatigue and we are burnt out. We have extreme exhaustion, low libido, poor digestion, low stamina and a slew of other symptoms. Our adrenals have had enough and can’t do it anymore.
Adaptogens are wonderful herbs that help your body adapt to stressors.
Adaptogens to not stop the response to stress (this is a normal function that SHOULD happen) but rather, they help your body cope with the response and help protect against the fatigue phase.
Rhodiola increases mental accuracy and reduces mental fatigue. It has been found to increase neurotransmitters responsible for well-being (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine) which make us feel happy. It helps support your body’s energy levels and helps you maintain stamina. Rhodiola is one of my favourites!
Excellent for hormone support and increased libido in both men and women. This can be purhcased in a powder or capsule form and makes an great addition to smoothies or elixirs.
Helps support adrenal function and thyroid.
Helps balance the production of cortisol.
There are also important vitamins that support your adrenals
Water soluble and important for energy production, B vitamins help your adrenals manufacture the hormones released under stress. The most important are B5, B6 and B12
The adrenal cortex is very rich in Vitamin C. This vitamin is also an antioxidant which helps protect the body.
A mineral that is important for over 300 processes and reactions. Magnesium helps support blood sugar levels, heart health and relaxation. When you’re stressed magnesium is important to help your body relax, keep your blood pressure in check and reduce headaches.
Bach et al. 2010. Prescription for Nutritional Healing