Adrenal Fatigue

adrenalfatigue

Thousands of people suffer from constant fatigue that is not relieved by rest and sleep. This is the main symptom of adrenal weakness or adrenal fatigue syndrome. This article examines this extremely common syndrome – its causes, symptoms and the process of recovery of vibrant health with a nutritional balancing program.

WHAT ARE THE ADRENAL GLANDS?

The adrenal glands are rounded, disc-shaped glands about 3-4 inches across. One sits atop each kidney, located on either side of your lower back, just above where the ribs end. You may at times feel a sensation of pressure in this area when under stress.

The adrenal glands are essential for life. They secrete a number of hormones that prepare our bodies to respond to stress. These include adrenalin, also called epinephrine, noradrenalin, also called norepinephrine, cortisol and cortisone.The adrenal glands also produce aldosterone, estrogens, testosterone, progesterone, pregnenelone and DHEA.

These hormones regulate many body activities. Of greatest importance for this article is that the adrenal hormones, particularly adrenalin and cortisol, activate the body's fight-or-flight response. This consists of increasing the amount of glucose or sugar in the blood, raising blood pressure, and promoting increased energy production. There are many other effects of the adrenal hormones, but we will focus on these effects for now.

Of great importance to our discussion is that the adrenal glands are innervated and stimulated by activity of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic or automatic nervous system of the body. This is the part of our nervous system that activates when we must respond to threats to our life.

SYMPTOMS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

Common symptoms include fatigue and often depression, muscle weakness, nausea, dizziness, hair loss, tendency to constipation. Others may be a craving for sweets and salty foods, low blood pressure and low blood sugar. Low energy impairs every system of the body. Thus, secondary symptoms can range from impaired digestion, aches and pains to chronic or recurring infections.

Low cortisol symptoms. Low blood sugar, low blood pressure, low temperature, joint pain and allergies may result from low levels of cortisol. Multiple chemical sensitivity is an extreme allergic condition associated with adrenal fatigue.

Reduced cellular energy production. Depression and apathy are often the result of low energy production in the cells. Also, cortisol provides a natural 'high'. Thus, low cortisol can contribute to feelings of depression and even despair. Unsure if there is energy to get through the day, anxiety may occur. Irritability is common as one is less able to handle even minor stress.

Compulsiveness and obsessive-compulsive tendencies may be associated with adrenal fatigue. One may become addicted or very attracted to excessive exercise, sex, loud music or other forms of excitement. The unconscious goal is always the same, to stimulate the adrenals into activity.

Many areas of life affected. Adrenal fatigue affects every area of life. One may lose interest in friends, family and work. Relationships often suffer when one person in the relationship goes into adrenal exhaustion.
Unfortunately, many with adrenal fatigue function on anger and resentment. These act as adrenal stimulants, providing a negative energy with which to function. Most of the world, in fact, functions on the negative energy of anger.

Copper toxicity and adrenal fatigue. Elevated copper and low zinc related to adrenal fatigue impair the immune system. Chronic infections may develop. The stage is also set for the development of degenerative conditions. Cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases may be end-stage results of toxic accumulation and energy depletion. to read more about copper toxicity syndrome, click here!

Adrenal fatigue and metal toxicity. When the adrenals are weak, copper builds up in the body. Elevated copper enhances emotions. Panic attacks, bipolar disorder, mood swings and schizophrenia are related to copper imbalance. As one's energy level declines, other toxic metals build up as well. Mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, beryllium and others contribute to hundreds of physical and emotional symptoms.

CAUSES OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

Excessive stress, an important cause of fatigue, can be from many sources. Chemical toxicity and nutritional depletion are among the physical causes. Mental, emotional or spiritual stress may be a major factor. Financial, family or other stress may also contribute to adrenal fatigue.

Any excessive stress can deplete the adrenals, especially when weakened by poor nutrition. Working too much or emotional stress are two common causes.  Excessive stimulation, especially for children, is another cause. Fast-paced, high-stress, fear-based lifestyles are a sure prescription for adrenal fatigue.

Other stressors in cities are noise and electromagnetic pollution. Cell phones, microwave towers and appliances like televisions, microwave ovens and computers give off strong electrical fields.

Nutritional Deficiencies are a common cause. When under stress, the need for nutrients is much greater. Carbohydrates, when excessive in the diet, stress the adrenals. Diets low in protein may also create deficiencies. Inadequate or poor quality water affects oxygenation of the tissues.

Most diets are low in nutrients required by the adrenals. These include B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C and E, manganese, zinc, chromium, selenium and other trace elements. The reasons for this begin with how food is grown. Most food is grown on depleted soils. Processing and refining further deplete nutrients.

Habits such as eating in the car or while on the run further diminish the value derived from food. Also, allergic reactions to foods such as wheat and dairy products can damage the intestines and reduce the absorption of nutrients.

Toxic metals and chemicals often play a large role in adrenal fatigue. Everyone is exposed to thousands of chemicals in the air, the water and the food. Other sources are dental materials and skin contact with chemicals. Over-the-counter and prescribed medications add to the body's toxic load. Most people do not realize that antibiotics and many other drugs accumulate to some extent in the liver and other organs.

Toxins may also be generated within the body due to impaired digestion. When food is not properly digested, it either ferments or rots in the intestines, producing many harmful substances that are absorbed into the body.
A healthy body has the ability to eliminate many toxins on a daily basis. However, as adrenal weakness develops, the body's ability to eliminate all toxins decreases.  This produces a vicious cycle in which weaker adrenals impairs the elimination of all poisons, which then further weakens the adrenals.

Chronic infections play a critical role in some cases of adrenal fatigue. Chronic infections may originate in infected teeth or gums, though they can be located anywhere in the body.  They contribute greatly to the toxic load of the body.  Infections also cause inflammation and stress that must be countered using the adrenal hormones such as cortisol and cortisone.

Stimulants damage the adrenal glands. They whip the adrenals. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol are among the most common stimulants.
Less obvious but no less important stimulants may include anger, rage, arguing, hatred, loud music, fearful news and even movies full of suspense or violence.

Other activities that may act as stimulants and must not be overlooked include vigorous exercise, sexual preoccupations, recreational drug use or other thrills.  These often provide a temporary "high", which is caused in part by the secretion of high amounts of adrenal hormones.  However, over time, this weakens the adrenals and can eventually lead to adrenal depletion and insufficiency.

Stimulant use, however, can also be a result of adrenal fatigue. While stimulants can cause or contribute to adrenal weakness, some who use stimulants do so because they are in adrenal fatigue already.
Stimulants are attractive to one in fatigue to provide temporary energy. This is an important appeal of the drug culture, both legal and recreational. It is also the appeal of loud music, sexual addiction, and even anger.

These activities or attitudes can provide enough adrenal stimulation to allow a person to feel better temporarily. This is an important reason why giving up one's addictions can be difficult. When one gives them up, one must face the fact that one is exhausted, depressed and often just feels awful due to adrenal fatigue. It is safe to say that most people addicted to stimulants or other drugs including cigarettes, cocaine, marijuana, and others has some degree of adrenal insufficiency.

Congenital Weak adrenals. Many children today are born with weak adrenals due to their parents' nutritional deficiencies. This is not a genetic problem. Instead, it is due to the nutritional  imbalances of the mother, in particular. These are passed through the placenta to the unborn child.

For example, if the mother is zinc-deficient, as most are, the baby is born low in zinc and often high in copper, cadmium or other minerals that substitute for zinc to a degree. Fortunately, this means the problem can be corrected, though it is better to prevent it, of course. By age three or four, these children are in adrenal fatigue. They are often sick, depressed and have difficulty in school. Some of these children react to the situation by becoming hyperactive,  compulsive, obsessive or by developing various other behavior problems.

On their hair mineral analyses, these children are often in a state of adrenal fatigue at this early age, a relatively new phenomenon, in our experience. By gently rebuilding their body chemistry, however, their behavioral and other disorders generally vanish in a few months to a few years.

DETECTING ADRENAL FATIGUE

Unfortunately, when a patient complains of fatigue, depression or other symptoms that are often related to the adrenal glands, most of the time the doctor does not ask the right questions and does not run tests of the adrenal glands.

Instead, patients are told to take a vacation, or given an anti-depressant, or told it is "in their head".

The right questions, however, would often be enough to assess the condition fairly accurately. These would include "How many hours of sleep are you getting?" , "Do you use caffeine or other stimulants"  and "What other symptoms are you having?".  Let us examine how this can often identify adrenal fatigue, even without other testing.

Signs and symptoms. A simple and quite reliable way to assess adrenal fatigue in a general sense is with signs and symptoms. A common sign, for example, is a low blood pressure in the absence of other obvious causes.
Usually, the person will also often feel fatigued, even though one sleeps well. If one is not sleeping, the problem may simply be a sleep deficit. One may not feel tired, however, if you drink coffee, other caffeinated beverages or use other stimulants.

Another common symptom is depression. Others include joint pain, cravings for sweets, pain in the low back area and perhaps excessive thirst or craving for sweet and salty foods. Together these symptoms can help one decide if one needs further testing.

Doctors ignore a simple adrenal test they could do in their offices called the Ragland Test or Ragland Sign. This is a very simple test in which the doctor takes your blood pressure while you are lying down and relaxed. Then the patient suddenly stands up and the doctor or assistant takes your blood pressure again. The pressure should go up. In those with weak adrenals, it often goes down and the patient feels weak, shaky and/or a little dizzy. It is a crude test, but it would be better than doing nothing , and putting people on more drugs that do not address adrenal fatigue at all.

OTHER ADRENAL GLAND TESTS

Blood, urine and saliva hormone testing. Many holistic doctors today are testing the levels of adrenal hormones in the blood, urine or saliva.  I do not use these tests, as a rule, for the following reasons:

1. They are not needed. We find the hair mineral test, when understood properly, provides plenty of information about adrenal activity and how to correct the diet and lifestyle, and recommend other healing modalities to rebuild the adrenal glands.

2. Cost. Hormone tests, in particular, are usually several hundred dollars and must be repeated at regular intervals. This is prohibitive for many people, especially compared to the hair mineral test.

HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS AND ADRENAL FATIGUE

Hair mineral analysis is a cost-effective and non-invasive test. We have used hair tissue mineral analysis to help assess the condition of the adrenal glands for more than thousands of clients. We are very satisfied with the results using hair analysis for adrenal assessment and to guide the correction of all types of adrenal imbalances.

Resources:

Gittleman, A.L., Why Am I Always So Tired?, Harper San Francisco, 1999.

Wilson, L., Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, L.D. Wilson Consultants, 2005, 2010.

Pfeiffer, C., Mental and Elemental Nutrients, Keats Publishing, New Canaan, CT., 1975.

Lawrence Wilson, MD 2012

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