Tag Archives: adrenal health

Is stress making you sick? Here are some ways to find out


You’ve probably heard it over and over: Stress raises the risk of disease. But how do you know if your stress is the disease-causing kind? It’s helpful to know some signs and tests to let you know.

Severe stress can either cause you to be fatigued all the time, wired all the time, or a mix of both. Or maybe stress manifests as sleep issues.

It’s not uncommon for people to become so used to being stressed out they fail to realize it’s an issue.

Symptoms of fatigue-based stress

• Fatigue
• Slow to get going in the morning
• Energy crash in the afternoon
• Craving sweets, caffeine, or nicotine
• Unstable behavior; moodiness
• Shaky, light-headed, or irritable if meals are delayed
• Inability to stay asleep
• Dizziness when moving from sitting to standing

Symptoms of wired stress

• Excess belly fat
• Insulin resistance (high blood sugar)
• Insomnia
• Not feeling rested in the morning
• Women grow facial hair; men grow breasts
• PCOS in women (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

How to do a lab test for stress

You can do a lab test to measure how well your body is dealing with stress using your saliva; it’s called an adrenal salivary panel. Your adrenal glands are two small glands that sit atop each kidney that secrete stress hormones.

To get the most from the adrenal salivary panel, do the test a second time after following a health protocol for four to six weeks. This shows you whether you’re on the right track with your healing approach.

This is because stress in the body is always caused by more than just the stress that we perceive, for example low or high blood sugar, an infection, or autoimmune disease.

Adrenal health should improve as you manage these conditions. If things do not improve, it means you must keep searching to find out what is taxing the body.

Measuring your sleep-wake cycle

Another way to gauge stress is to look at your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Are you alert in the morning and sleepy at night? An abnormal circadian rhythm is one symptom of adrenal stress.

Your primary stress hormone, cortisol, should be high in the morning and low at night. Many people have a backwards rhythm causing fatigue in the morning and insomnia at night. Or, instead of a gradual decline of cortisol during the day, it may suddenly drop in the afternoon, causing an energy crash.

Where are you on the stress scale?

By measuring several markers, the adrenal saliva test can tell you whether you are in:

• The “alarm reaction” of high adrenal hormones
• Adrenal exhaustion and chronic tiredness
• Somewhere in between

You do not necessarily have to progress from alarm reaction to adrenal fatigue. It’s possible to jump between phases, or stay in one phase for years.

The adrenal saliva test also measures immune cells called total SIgA. This is a measure of how stress has impacted your immune system over time. If SIgA is low, it can mean you are more susceptible to food intolerances, infections, and weakened immunity.

Start with blood sugar stability to manage stress

Although diet and lifestyle factors are important in managing stress, the most common cause of chronic stress is a blood sugar imbalance. Addressing high or low blood sugar are vital to addressing chronic stress.

Additionally, various herbal and nutritional compounds can profoundly influence adrenal function. For instance, herbs called adrenal adaptogens are very beneficial regardless of which stage you are in.

Ask me how you can support your adrenal health.

Is undiagnosed PTSD causing your chronic stress or fatigue?

PTSD high and low cortisol

Are you chronically stressed out, chronically fatigued, or both? Are you careful about your diet and lifestyle but nothing works? You may want to consider whether post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) plays a role in your poor stress-handling ability.

Studies show PTSD alters the body’s ability to regulate cortisol, our primary stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. People with poor adrenal function usually suffer from either low cortisol or high cortisol.

Altered cortisol levels increase the risk for developing chronic conditions, such as autoimmune disease, chronic pain, or chronic inflammation. Continue reading

Adrenals often wrong target with chronic stress

510 adrenals wrong target stress

When stress levels go too high, the first thing many in the alternative health do is support the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop each kidney and secrete stress hormones. Popular supplements include adrenal glandulars (adrenal tissue from animals), minerals, B vitamins, and a variety of herbs — all focused on boosting the ailing adrenal glands.

Although this is a sometimes a valid approach, more often the real target for support should be the brain. The adrenal glands simply take orders from the brain to manufacture and secrete adrenal hormones such as cortisol, our primary adrenal hormone. The brain has stress pathways that sometimes need support.

When stress becomes chronic and intense, the adrenal glands flood the brain and body with too many stress hormones. This exhausts the adrenal glands and eventually they fail to make enough cortisol. When this happens you don’t have the energy to handle even mild stressors, such as a common virus or a bad day at the office. As a result, fatigue sets in and your overall quality of life diminishes.

Although the adrenal glands may need support, the best thing to do is target your brain health for stress support. This will not only help you feel better but also slow down brain degeneration. Chronic stress has been shown to literally cause the brain to atrophy  or shrink. In turn, a degenerating brain stresses the body, creating a vicious cycle.

One of the first things to look at when supporting brain health is whether it is getting enough of the basic nutrients it needs, such as essential fatty acids and methyl B-12. Are you low in vital brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or GABA? Are you sending enough oxygen to the brain with good circulation, which is best boosted by exercise? Do you have anemia or blood sugar imbalances that rob the brain of good health and function?

Nutritional compounds that support healthy stress responses and target the brain include phosphatidylserine  which dampens the effects of the inflammation caused by stress on the brain.

Herbs called adrenal adaptogens also have a powerful effect on stress pathways in the brain. They include Panax ginseng extract, ashwagandha, Holy basil extract, Rhodiola rosea, and eleuthero. They have a synergistic effect when used in combination — ask my office about adrenal adaptogens.

Too much stress inflames the brain, which compounds stress and ages the brain too quickly. A common symptom of brain inflammation is brain fog. If your entire body is inflamed or if you have an unmanaged autoimmune condition, it is very possible your brain is also inflamed.

Another way chronic stress promotes brain degeneration is by constricting blood vessels and blood flow, depriving the brain of oxygen.

The best way to address stress is to cut unnecessary stressors from your lifestyle. It’s also important to address lesser known factors that are still very stressful, such as poor diet, unstable blood sugar, inflammation, food intolerances, or poor circulation.

Stress is your body’s way of trying to warn you that you’re in danger and putting your well being at risk. Ask my office for ways to mitigate the effects of stress on your health and wellness.

Poor sleep habits raise the risk of dementia

dementia-circadian-rhythm-adrenal-cortisol-alzheimer'sAre you a night owl who can’t fall asleep? Are you half dead in the morning without several cups of coffee? If so, you may have an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.

Our “body clock,” or circadian rhythm, regulates our sleep/wake cycles.

A healthy circadian rhythm has you alert in the morning, tired at night, and able to sleep through the night.

When it becomes imbalanced your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases increases.

Dementia and circadian rhythm share same area of the brain

The area of the brain that governs the circadian rhythm, the hippocampus, also plays a role in short-term memory and learning. The hippocampus is the first target of degeneration in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Continue reading

Why is menopause so hard for some women?

Question

I’m going through menopause and feel like I’m falling apart. I get severe hot flashes, mood swings that border on psychosis, and my brain isn’t working. Why?

Answer

As the ovaries begin to wind down production of the sex hormones the adrenal glands, our stress organs, are supposed to take over that job. Unfortunately by the time most women reach menopause their adrenal glands are worn out and not up to the task of taking over the production of sex hormones. Continue reading

Why can’t I lose weight?

Question

It seems all my attempts to lose weight and get rid of my belly fat fail. Is there hope for me?

Answer

Absolutely. Normal attempts at weight loss can fail if you’re battling any metabolic disorders.

When you are doing all the right things but still not losing weight you may have some health issues sabotaging your efforts.

Issues that can hinder weight loss:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Food intolerances
  • High cortisol
  • Insulin resistance
  • Continue reading

Is life really overwhelming, or are you just stressed out?

Question

I feel totally overwhelmed by life and like I can barely cope. I can’t quit my job, give away my children, or afford a cook and a housecleaner. Is there anything I can do for my stress levels?

Answer

Sometimes you can dramatically alter a stressful life simply by addressing your own stress physiology. By supporting the body’s stress mechanisms the same daily duties seem less taxing.

Are you in adrenal overdrive or adrenal fatigue?

Americans are notoriously stressed out and frequently produce either too much or not enough of the stress hormone cortisol, both of which impact how you perceive stress.

A hectic lifestyle and lack of sleep aren’t the only things that contribute to adrenal dysfunction. Other factors include a diet high in starchy, sugary, and processed foods, leaky gut, gut infections, hormonal imbalances, and chronic inflammation.

Continue reading