You may not know what your adrenal glands are or even where they are, but they perform a vital function and are key to so much that affects us .

Adrenal glands are our stress glands. We have two of them and they are positioned at the top of the kidneys. Their prime role is to regulate the stress response through the synthesis of numerous hormones.

When adrenal glands are healthy and functioning properly they secrete a number of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and these give our bodies the capacity to deal with the physical and emotional stress that we encounter.

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Each time we come across stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol into the bloodstream which enables us to deal with the fight or flight response. However, if we are exposed to significant amounts of stress over a protracted period then these delicate glands can become exhausted and not work as efficiently and our entire response mechanism at these crucial times is diminished.

The stress response:

When experiencing any physical or mental stress the adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream which serves the purpose of preparing us for the stress. Our pupils dilate, the heart rate quickens and sugar is sent to the muscles to deal with the stress.

So what are the three stages of adrenal stress?

1) Alarm stage

This is the initial stage. There is an overacting of the sympathetic nervous system where adrenaline and cortisol increase and blood is effectively diverted from the brain and sent to the muscles where it is deemed to be of more use at that moment.

2) Resistance stage

If under constant repetitive stress the adrenal glands will continue to release adrenaline and cortisol to deal with it. They are working flat out to cope with what they perceive to be an ever present issue and it is very hard work. At this point you can start to feel irritated and pressured.

3) Exhaustion stage

The inevitable outcome of Stage 2 is that the relentlessly toiling adrenal glands have are so over worked that they can no longer operate efficiently and to optimum effect. They are fundamentally worn out and exhausted and at this point the body is more or less defenceless to any more stress. The next result for the person will be the truly debilitating feelings of exhaustion, weakness, burn out and depression.

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The symptoms of adrenal dysfunction

– Difficulty falling asleep.
– Light-headed dizziness when standing up suddenly or often when climbing out of bed in the morning.
– Fatigue and general apathy.
– Being slow to start in morning.
– Grinding teeth and clenching jaw.
– Poor appetite (no breakfast).
– Digestive issues (low HCl, IBS…).
Craving for salt.
– PMS, menstrual problems.
– Low libido.
– Palpitations.
– Muscular aches and cramp.
– Depression.
– Poor concentration and memory issues.
– Insomnia.
– An inability to deal with stressful situations.
– Increase in body weight, especially around the waist.
– Headaches.
– Lack of resilience and tolerance to exercise and over-exhaustion afterwards.
– Autoimmune disorders.
– Lower back pain.

How to support your adrenal glands and keep them healthy! 

Adrenal fatigue diet – blood sugar balancing (cornerstone of adrenal support)

– Eat little and often – about every 3-4 hours.
– 3 main meals with snacks in between.
– Avoid refined carbohydrates.
– Increase whole grains.
– Good quality protein at each meal and snack.
– Increase high fibre foods (water soluble especially as slows digestion, absorption of carbohydrates, increase cell sensitivity to insulin).
– Increase essential fats such as oily fish, avocados nuts and seeds.
– Drink enough water/fluids.
– Avoid stimulants –alcohol, tea, coffee, cola drinks, chocolate.
– Don’t smoke!

Foods to avoid

Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause irritability and over stimulate the adrenal glands which also leaves the body less able to cope with stress. Crucially it can also prevent the absorption of some essential nutrients – zinc and iron.

Alcohol – Excessive intake depletes many vitamins and minerals, depriving the body and impairing the detoxification process of the liver and causing adrenal stimulation.

Sugar in excess impairs the function of the adrenal glands and has been linked with suppressing the immune system.

Supplementation

Vitamin B

When under stress the body needs more B vitamins because these are key to protecting the nervous system. Because they are not stored in the body it is important that they’re taken in suitable quantities at all times. Supplementation of a B complex is important for energy production. Good food sources of the B vitamins are: yeast extract, eggs, salmon, green leafy vegetables and whole grains.

Vitamin C – 2-3g per day

Vitamin C is vital to help the body cope with stress. Large amounts of vitamin C are stored in the adrenal glands and levels are significantly reduced when we are under stress. Great vitamin C sources are found in fresh fruit and vegetables. A daily supplementation of at least 1000mg of vitamin C is recommended.

Zinc – 15mg per day

Zinc is necessary vital for the production of the adrenal hormones and so we must ensure optimum levels of zinc are maintained in the body. Zinc is often lacking in today’s diets and therefore a zinc supplement can frequently be extremely beneficial

Magnesium – 300 mg per day

Magnesium helps to reduce the risk of adrenal exhaustion from chronic stress and is therefore absolutely key in adrenal gland maintenance. It is essential for production of enzymes and energy needed in adrenal cascade. It is vital to blood sugar control and also helps relax the nerves which can be very helpful in maintaining nervous health.

Herbs to help stress

Siberian Ginseng maintains healthy adrenal function by supporting and rejuvenating adrenal activity. It is an adaptagen, meaning it either helps to increase or decrease cortisol and DHEA. In simple terms it has calming effects.

Liquorice Root can help anxiety disorders and combat fitful, broken sleep patterns. It increases energy and can raise cortisol levels. It also helps diminish symptoms of hyperglycaemia.

Glandulars

Adrenal cell extracts from bovine or porcine can help with the restoration of adrenal function ,which is very useful in cases of adrenal fatigue/exhaustion. It encourages the secretion of a variety of adrenal hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenalin.

Digestive enzymes

Stress can play havoc with the digestive system by inhibiting digestive enzymes. This can lead to indigestion, heartburn, constipation, bloating, gas or diarrhoea. Supplementing digestive enzymes prior to, or during a meal, can help to eradicate some of the problematic symptoms.

Lifestyle recommendations

– Stress Management – meditation, prayer, deep breathing.

– Time Management – learn to sometimes say “No”!

– ‘Me Time’ – pamper yourself, massage, relaxation, hobbies.

– Enhance and cherish important relationships – family & friends.

– Identify ‘energy robbers’ in all aspects of your life.

– Appropriate Exercise – regular but not excessive or overwhelming – T’ai Chi, yoga, pilates, walking, swimming.

 If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue or would like to test your adrenal glands and stress levels then there is an easy saliva test you can do for £70.

Please get in touch at enquiries@missnutritionist.com or call 0207 3719 032 and we can send you a test kit. 

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