Have you been running on empty for way too long? Do you feel exhausted, depleted, emotional and foggy? Sometimes in our busy world, it seems that we believe that this is ‘just the way’ and we keep on trudging. However, let me tell you, there are many ways to support stress management and as Naturopathic Doctors, it is our job to make sure that your tank has as much fuel as possible.
Introducing, your adrenal glands:
There are many parts of the human body that are well known, they are like the celebrities of the human body. Everyone knows about the heart, the brain, the bowels etc. however, there are some hard working parts in the body that are much smaller, but deserve some serious limelight and recognition.
Let’s shine a little light on a gland that works REALLY hard for us. In fact, some may call it the ‘stress gland’. (On top of jobs/school/parenting/financial stress, our body perceives even more things as ‘stressors’ too, including – infections, food allergies, pollution, too much coffee, etc!)
In this ‘crazy, busy’ world we live in, this gland really needs some extra love! The adrenal glands though small, are mighty. Measuring only a few inches, the two adrenal glands are located on top of our kidneys and bear a whole lot of bodily responsibilities. On top of regulating stress reactions, the adrenal glands are responsible for many vital bodily functions. These glands are layered like an onion with each layer being responsible for specific functions. In this blog, we are going to zone in on one specific layer which is responsible for a hormone called cortisol.
While the adrenal glands are such hard workers, unfortunately in the world we live in, they are rarely rewarded for their hard work. Instead, they are overburdened and weakened often leaving us flat-lined and desperately seeking answers to questions like, ‘why are we so tired all of the time’? Here is a picture of what adrenal fatigue may look like.
Some of the (many) adrenal fatigue symptoms:
- Does it feel literally impossible to peel yourself out of bed?
- Do you crave coffee to kick-start your energy?
- Do you ever find that your energy takes a dip between 3:00-4:00 pm?
- Do you have trouble waking up and then get a ‘second wind’ at night?
- Do you have poor focus?
- Do you crave salt?
- How about sweets?
- Does it take forever to recover from being sick?
- Do you get HANGRY?
- Do you find that you constantly feel a sense of brain fog and your memory is just not what it used to be ?
- How about generalized weakness?
- A tendency towards increased fears, anxiety, depression?
- Low libido?
- Are you constantly getting sick?
- (This list could go on and on!)
If you checked yes to some of these symptoms, you may be experiencing a very common problem known as ‘adrenal fatigue’. While each of these symptoms (especially fatigue) may be explained by a plethora of things (B12 deficiency, iron deficiency etc.), this snapshot of the adrenals may very well be a part of the picture and is a great conversation to have with your naturopath! It was important for me to write this blog because I believe that ‘you cannot correct that which you don’t see’ and sadly enough, some of us believe that exhaustion is ‘just the way’ of our busy world. From my perspective, there is lots that can be done to improve energy and vibrancy.
Is there testing to ‘assess my stress’?
Yep. Along with a couple of physical exams, my go-to lab testing is a saliva based hormone assessment. Since healthy cortisol levels vary on a curve throughout the day, this testing looks at the hormone at a few points during the day to get more thorough data. (Since the adrenal glands are intricately connected to other hormones, your Naturopath may want to assess other hormones and markers too.)
Here are some of the natural treatments we may talk about:
Naturopathic medicine uses herbal formulas called adaptogens to help bring the adrenals back into balance. These formulas do just what their name says, help people to ‘adapt’ to changes. Adaptogens help regulate both internal stressors and external stressors (changes in climate, constant stress and fatigue etc.) and to keep the body feeling ‘level’. (Some say that adaptogens were developed because the plant itself had to withstand many environmental stressors as it was grown. Therefore, it has cultivated in itself the properties that we need to withstand our environment).
The number of plant adaptogens available are numerous and so uniquely beautiful. Some examples include: schisandra, licorice, ginseng, holy basil, ashwaganda, astragalus, reishi (and many more). Your naturopathic doctor will consider many things in picking your personal adaptogen/adaptogen blend including – what other properties does your body need at the moment? Do you need a more ‘nourishing’ adaptogen or one with a little more ‘zest/strength’? Are you pregnant or breast feeding? What is your blood pressure? Etc.
The adrenal glands depend on good nutrition for proper function. Some vitamins that they depend on include B vitamins and vitamin C. There are also many other minerals & trace minerals to be considered. Part of holistic treatment means that we will be diving into your diet and food choices to make sure that your body has all of the nutrients it needs to thrive.
No combination of herbs, nutrition and or supplements will do the trick if you do not have the tools in place to support a healthy stress response and peace of mind. At your appointment we will discuss a healthy mindset and various tools to deal with stress. These may include a meditation practice, a gratitude practice and utilizing more resources and support systems, as a few examples.
While we can’t deny that stress is a part of our every day lives, its impact on our bodies and minds is our choice. How we approach day-to-day stressors can be improved with practice and the right supports. It would be my honour to guide you in your health journey.
Wishing you a peaceful week ahead…
Disclaimer: This website is not meant to diagnose, prevent or treat disease. Please talk to your healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment or regimen in relation to diet, exercise, supplements, herbs, lifestyle etc. and or modifying your current medications, dosages and health care plan. This website is not to be interpreted as medical advice.