Stress affects everyone in different ways. We can feel stress in our bodies, but have you ever wondered how it can affect your body?
If you have trouble with anxiety, fatigue, dizziness, irritability, or high blood sugar, your adrenal glands stress may be starting to catch up with you.
Your adrenal glands are two little triangular glands that sit on top of each kidney. They're small, but crucial for your body's functions. And when you're stressed,these guys take a beating.
Let's take a look at what your adrenal glands do, how they keep you healthy, and how a naturopathic doctor can help.
The General Adaptive Response
When we're stressed out, we deal with it through a process called the "general adaptive response", which is divided into three phases:
First is the "alarm stage". You may have heard of the "fight or flight" instinct, and this is where your body gets ready to kick this in. You'll feel your heart rate go up, you'll start breathing faster, and your blood pressure and blood sugar will increase.
Next is the "resistance stage", and it starts almost immediately after the alarm stage. Once your body reacts to the stress, it adjusts itself to let you cope with the stress.
The final stage is called "exhaustion stage". At this point, your body has run out of energy to deal with your stress. This is when stress-related illnesses can show up.
Your adrenal glands produce a substance called cortisol. This stuff is critical to your ability to deal with stress and its effects. When your adrenals pump out cortisol too quickly, it can mess with your thyroid and slow down your metabolism.
If this goes on for too long, your adrenals lose the ability to produce sufficient cortisol, and that's when you hit the exhaustion stage. This puts you at risk for ulcers, heartburn, allergies, high blood pressure, and even autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Your adrenals also produce another hormone, called dehydroepiandrosterone. I know that's a ridiculously long word, so we call it DHEA for short.
DHEA helps regulate some of the other hormones in your body, including testosterone and estrogen. When you're exhausted, your DHEA levels drop, which can result in a lower sex drive, lower energy levels, and a decreased ability to fight infections.
Managing stress goes a long way to support the adrenal glands. Some factors that improve adrenal function include:
• Exercise, meditation, and a proper sleep cycle help immensely.
• Proper nutrition is also critical. Your adrenals need vitamins B2, B5, B6 and C to produce DHEA and cortisol properly.
• Herbs that are classified as "adaptogens", like Siberian ginseng, Ashwagandha, Fo-Ti, Rhodiola, and Holy Basil, strengthen the adrenal glands to improve their function during the resistance phase.
• Acupuncture can also be used to improve adrenal function.
Of course, any plan to mange stress and boost adrenal function should include a proper assessment by a qualified health practitioner.
Remember that your adrenal glands are just one piece of the puzzle of your body. By managing stress we affect all of our glands and organs in a positive way. This will help us on the road to balance and good health.
Until next time, this is Dr. Pat Nardini for "Your Wellness First".