A Little Tired These Days? Try Supporting Those Adrenal Glands! by Misty Rae Cech
Healthy adrenal glands … something we rarely think about, but our fast-paced lifestyles push these little organs to the limit. Overtaxed by stress, stimulants, sugar and a variety of habits, our body’s energy control centers are easily maxed-out, resulting in fatigue, depression and even weight gain. In a holistic health, wellness and fitness program, awareness one’s lifestyle and its effect on these important hormone regulators is worthy of attention.
The adrenal glands are each no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape. They sit like a tiny pyramid on top of each kidney, their name ‘ad’ + ‘renal’ means ‘over’ or ‘above’ the ‘kidney’. The glands are important control centers for regulation of many of the body’s hormones, either secreting directly or controlling the release of cortisol and adrenaline, DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone, which are essential to ones health, vitality, and overall well-being. The adrenal hormones support and affect every tissue, organ, and gland in your body. Their primary purpose is to enable the body and mind to deal with various forms of stress including injury, disease, and other pressures. The adrenals largely determine the energy response of your body to every change in one’s internal and external environment, in fact, every cell in your body responds to signals from the adrenals.
An estimated 75-80% of Westerners suffer from ‘Adrenal fatigue’ at some point in their lives. Adrenal fatigue is a described as a collection of signs and symptoms classically known as a “syndrome” that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Signs and symptoms may include severe fatigue, lightheadedness upon standing, depression and irritability, lack of sex drive, exhaustion and general malaise, loss of appetite, food cravings, and dark circles around the eyes. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, various other situations contribute to adrenal fatigue including life crisis, trauma, lifestyle, and chronic illness. Other factors that contribute to the depletion of adrenal health include certain lifestyle choices such as improper diet, substance abuse, too little or irregular sleep or rest and increased or other on-going life-style pressures.
One of the essential functions of your adrenal glands is to draw all your body’s resources into “fight or flight” mode by increasing the production of adrenaline and various other hormones. When the adrenals are healthy one’s ability to respond to situations appropriately is enhanced. This renewed freedom allows for a whole host of possibilities given a stressful situation. When healthy, your adrenals can instantly increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release energy stores for immediate use, sharpen your senses, slow digestion and various other secondary functions. This function is extremely important in emergency situations – poorly functioning, overtaxed adrenal glands can lessen your ability to deal effectively with crisis situations. Another aspect of healthy adrenals is the ability to endure long periods of physical exertion such as seen in marathon running, swimming, long distance cycling, and similarly, the day to day responsibilities of parenting. When supported by healthy adrenals, one’s natural energy supply is balanced. It is your adrenal glands job to react to stress in a balanced manner so that one’s response is appropriate to the situation and not injurious.
The hormones produced by the adrenal glands closely affect the utilization of carbohydrates and fats, the conversion of fats and proteins into energy, as well as the distribution of stored adipose (fatty tissue) on the body (especially around the waist), blood sugar regulation, and healthy cardiovascular and gastrointestinal (digestive and absorptive) function. Interestingly, at mid-life (menopause in women), the adrenal glands become the primary source for sex hormones circulating throughout the body in both genders. So in essence, overworked adrenal glands pretty much put a damper on your sex life – quashing your interest and putting a spare tire around your belly. Maybe their health is worth looking into!
The following are some natural suggestions for nourishing and rejuvenating adrenal health: We’ll start with an easy one; an adequate intake of water. This is a must in all natural health, wellness and fitness programs as it helps keep the kidney flushed and cleanses the body so it has less toxins to deal with, hence less stress. I use the formula .6 x body weight = ounces of water per day for my clients. This is a number that should be moved towards over time. For example if weigh 150 pounds your daily water intake would be 90 ounces. .6 x 150 = 90 ounces. If you are currently drinking 40 ounces of water per day and your (ideal) daily ounce intake is 90 ounces, increase gently to your ideal ounces of water over the next month or two.
Next is peace and quite. Take 10 minutes of time to sit in silence at both the beginning and the end of each day. Find a quiet place in your home or outside near a tree or natural source of water. Sit in a comfortable position and gently follow the rhythm of your breath. Allow yourself this sacred quiet time each day as an opportunity to nourish and assimilate, ground and rejuvenate your energy. Adequate fresh air, deep breaths, and movement. Spend time in nature-walking along the ocean, at a park, on a well traveled trail. Take full deep breaths and inhale in the healing power of the natural world. Take time to look at the trees and flower as well as the sky and various birds and so on. Enjoy this time outside as healing and nourishing. All this will give your adrenal glands a break and let them build reserves for future needs.
As for dietary recommendations, decrease (or preferably eliminate) intake of processed sugars and increase intake of natural earth sugars from root vegetables such as yams, carrots, turnips, and beets. Processed sugars truly poison the body every time they are eaten and causing stress to the system. Sweets are a hard habit to break, but you’ll notice a significant increase in balanced energy when you’re able to reduce their intake. Next, ingest adequate amounts of essential fatty acids. Various sources include fish oils, evening primrose oil, borage oil, hemp oil, coconut oil, and flax oils. Research which sources are best for your needs. Essential fats are precursors to many hormones in the body and will support your overall well-being. Finally, do your best to cut out caffeine from all sources. Even green tea, which is wonderful for you in moderation, can upset sleep patterns and add pressure to an already stressful lifestyle. Coffee is high in other stimulant compounds which seem to truly aggravate those already in tense situations, and cola and so-called ‘energy’ drinks may be the worst contributors to adrenal fatigue of all with their combination of processed sugars and refined caffeine.
As for some soothing treatments, taking time for baths using Epsom salts or apple cider vinegar (a tablespoon of either is sufficient) will help to pull out fatigue and ‘acidity’ from the your mind and body. Light a candle and read a book or simply soak in the warm water imaging your worries and stress washing away as you renew, strengthen, and ‘purify’ your energy. Consider adding a few drops of pure Lavender essential oil to your bath and allow the relaxing aroma to help you relax and refresh. A favorite essential oil bath blend: 4 drops Lavender essential oil, 1 drop Rose essential oil. Rose oil is often used for the decreasing stress and depression, while Lavender has a calming and mood lifting effect.
The following essential oil blend used directly over the adrenals first thing in the morning and then again in the (early) evening can help to nourish, strengthen, and rejuvenate the adrenals. This is described in Advanced Aromatherapy, by Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, one of America’s leading medical aromatherapists. In a 30 ml (one ounce blue cobalt or amber glass bottle) add Black Spruce 2 ml, Pine essential oil 1 ml, Cedarwood essential oil 1 ml, and fill the remainder of the bottle with Hazelnut carrier oil (unless allergic to nuts-then choose another appropriate carrier oil). Use about 1 ml (20-30 drops) at a time and rub into the adrenal area at the bottom of your ribs on your back.
Finally, get some real deep sleep. The two hours before midnight is consider essential time for sleep for rejuvenating sleep. Start consciously moving your bedtime towards the bewitching hour of 10 pm and notice the shift in health. A couple of drops of Lavender essential oil on your pillow can help with sleep, as been show in many studies. If you need, try an herbal formula to help you rest, or a small dose of melatonin. Try finishing your last meal as early as possible, too, as going to bed on a full stomach lessens the quality of rest.
Your adrenal glands are a crucial part of your health and a positive outlook and approach to your life. By considering these few lifestyle factors and natural remedies, you can significantly improve your adrenal gland health, and perhaps remove yourself from the majority of the Adrenal Fatigue statistic!