What is an Adrenal and Why Do I Care?

Adrenal FatigueYou have probably heard of adrenal fatigue but like many folks are wondering what exactly is an adrenal and why would it get tired. You actually have 2 adrenal glands. They are located on top of each kidney and are about the size of a walnut. Though tiny, they are powerful hormone producers and unfortunately in our society are greatly overworked.

Your adrenal gland is actually composed of 2 parts; the cortex and the medulla. For the purposes of this conversation we’re going to focus only on the cortex because that is where your stress hormones are made.

The Reason for the Adrenal

Your adrenal exists to help you survive. It is your ultimate fight or flight organ. We’ve all heard stories of the 95-pound mother who literally flips the 2-ton car over to rescue her child; that was her adrenals at work. The adrenals can pump out huge quantities of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine when you are frightened or scared and need that sudden burst of energy to save yourself or others.

Unfortunately, in today’s world our stress levels are so high that our adrenals are under constant strain. In fact, if our adrenals responded like our muscles do to exercise, we would be walking around with a couple of softballs on top of our kidneys instead of walnuts! But our adrenals are not muscles and they cannot compensate by getting bigger due to increased demands; they simply overheat and then burn out.

Signs of Overheated Adrenals

When we are in fight or flight mode the body shifts its energy to only those systems that are required for our immediate survival. As a result, in the short run: our memories fog, our ability to heal decreases, we become more irritable, have sugar cravings, engage in binge eating, raise our blood pressure, our cholesterol and our blood sugar. In the long run we end up with: diabetes, increased infections, thin skin, easy bruising, muscle weakness, sleep disturbances, the “spare tire” or “love handles” our spouses love, as well as long-term hormone disruption particularly for thyroid and sex hormones. And we haven’t even mentioned things like increasing our rates for: heart disease, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, PMS and panic disorders.

From Overheated to Burned Out

Sooner or later your overheated engine is going to simply fail. When that happens you may still have many of the symptoms of an overheated adrenal but in addition you may now be experiencing things like: crushing fatigue, low blood pressure, emotional imbalances with lack of motivation, decreased libido, lack of stamina, alcoholism and drug addiction (in an attempt to boost your spirits), feeling overwhelmed by minor problems as well as having major thyroid problems that just don’t get better even with the right medication. Overheated adrenal will cause adrenal fatigue.

How to Put out the Adrenal Fire

When your adrenals are running like an over-revved engine they burn through nutrients at an increased rate. Particularly there is a marked increased need for vitamin C and the B vitamins. In fact, gram for gram of organ weight your adrenal glands need more vitamin C than any other organ in your body. Stress also depletes B vitamins rapidly. In addition, though, you also need support for your major and trace minerals. In addition to your calcium magnesium and zinc you also need increase amounts of selenium, copper, sodium and manganese. Because an overworked adrenal robs the body of DHEA, appropriate replacement of this hormone is very important. There are also adaptogenic and calming herbs that can help take your foot off your adrenal accelerator. And finally phosphatidylserine can help reduce the amount of stimulation your adrenals get from your brain. You should consult your physician regarding proper dosing of these supplements for your condition.

How to Recover from Burnout ( Adrenal Fatigue )

In addition to all the things mentioned for putting out the adrenal fire your doctor could consider using adrenal extracts, licorice (if you don’t have hypertension) or even low doses of cortisone to ensure that your body has the minimum requirements to balance blood sugar, promote neurotransmitter production, increase immune function and improve mood.
Regardless of whether you have adrenal fatigue, IV nutrient therapy can also be a major benefit in helping you recover proper adrenal function and balance. Finally, it is of the utmost importance that you learn calming techniques whether it is meditation, walking in nature or if you’re like me sitting on the dock fishing. Whatever you find relaxing and non-stressful is a major component to your adrenal recovery program. Remember, life is not a busy contest!
Come see us at Lowcountry Male/Aqua Vitae Spa and let our specialists help rebuild your engine and guide you out of your adrenal fatigue.