Undress Your Stress: Support your Adrenal Glands

By Karen Jensen, N.D.

"Adaptability is probably the most distinctive characteristic of life."-Hans Selye, M.D.

Stress is a very broad and often misunderstood concept. Put very simply, stress is what a person feels when life’s demands exceeds the individuals ability to meet or adapt to those demands. All living creatures are subject to stressors of internal and external origins and all respond to these stressors according to their individual mental, emotional, physical and spiritual stamina. In acute stress and in healthy individuals the stress hormones go back to normal once stress abates, however stressors in today’s world stress seem unrelenting. When the stressors overload the stress adaptive ability symptoms and disease can occur.


Stress and the Adrenal Glands

The adrenals release various stress response hormones that guide our whole body’s reaction to a stressor – the famous "fight-or-flight" response. They are thus the organs responsible for the "front-line" work of adaptation to stress. Our ability to adapt to stress depends upon optimal function of the adrenal glands and in particular the regulation of the main stress hormone, cortisol, the "hallmark of stress". Excess or deficiencies of this crucial hormone can cause a variety of physical symptoms, which if not treated, will lead to more serious chronic disease states and even death.

Earlier symptoms of adrenal stress include: fatigue, depression, cold hands or feet, dizziness, low back pain, asthma, allergies, sweet cravings, hormonal imbalances, irritability, headaches, colitis and other gastrointestinal problems, skin problems, and arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Research has shown that cortisol imbalances lead to blood sugar problems, weight gain, compromised immune function, infertility, chronic fatigue, bone loss, high triglycerides levels and heart disease. More recently studies have shown that breast cancer, memory loss and sleep deprivation are also associated with increased cortisol levels.

Most adrenal conditions are due to sub-optimal function and it is therefore difficult to diagnose mild to moderate adrenal compromise by using the standard lab cortisol tests. A more sensitive test that measures saliva cortisol has been used in stress research for over 10 years. This and other adrenal assessment tools are available through your naturopathic physician.

In my clinical practice I see a continual increase in the incidence of stress related conditions resulting from sub-optimal adrenal function. As a result I am continuously looking for nutrients and herbs to help support these little glands that are so crucial to optimal health.

AdrenaSense is a new product, contains the following herbs that have been proven to support stress reactions and normalize adrenal function.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) increases resistance of the body to chemical, biological and physical stressors. It has been proven to regulate the heart, enhance mental and physical performance, support the immune and hormonal systems and to have anti-depressive and anti-tumor activity.

Suma (Pfaffia Paniculata) is considered a regenerative tonic for the nervous, reproductive and digestive systems and is used to treat hormonal disorders, sexual dysfunction, sterility, arteriosclerosis, fatigue, diabetes, cancer and many types of stress.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) has been shown to normalize reactions to physical and mental stress and increase the body’s ability to withstand adverse conditions such as heat, noise, increases in workload and physical endurance. It promotes vital energy, reduces frequency of illness, protects against environmental pollutants, regulates blood-sugar, protects liver, and supports optimal adrenal function.

Schizandra Berries (Schizandra chinensis) is commonly used as a general tonic and to promote liver health and counters the effects of stress and fatigue. Studies show it has normalizing affects in cases of insomnia, nervousness and improves physical endurance, mental capability and is liver protective. It has also been found to have antioxidant and anti-bacterial affects.

Ashwagandha (Withana Somnifera) is used primarily as a general tonic to increase energy and to improve overall health and longevity. Studies have proven the powerful anti-stress effects, immune modulating, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. It improves sexual performance and has calming affects on the central nervous system, AdrenaSense is to be taken to prevent stress related illness on a regular basis and when there is an increase in stress in your life you can increase the dose.

Recommended daily dosage: 2 to 4 capsules

Vitamin C can support adrenal function and decrease high cortisol levels.

B Vitamin Complex especially B1 and B6 helps to normalize the cortisol rhythm.

Zinc, in doses as low as 25 mg can lower adrenal cortisol output by 40-60% for durations of at least 4 hours.

Take FemmEssentials to ensure you have all the cofactors necessary for healthy adrenal function.

The main remedy for stress adaptation is balance in your life; time for family and friends, rest, exercise, healthy eating, play and laugher, spiritual exercise (prayer, meditation, communing with nature, etc) balanced with work. The secret to health and happiness is our ability to adapt to the circumstances with which we live.

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