Integrative and Functional Medicine

Dr. Grace Slavin, D.C.

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Stress and Adrenal Dysfunction

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The difficulty with adrenal fatigue is that it is often overlooked, but the effects can greatly interfere with life and health. Some of the effects include: fatigue, mental fogginess and struggling with memory; moodiness; hormonal imbalance or depletion; dizziness or light-headedness when standing suddenly; compromised immunity, strong cravings for sugar, salt and unhealthy fats; continual muscle tension leading to unhealthy blood pressure levels; and an inability to relax completely.

There are some steps to take to manage adrenal fatigue, however. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding sugar, sugar substitutes, junk foods, alcohol and stimulants is a good starting point. You’ll also want to make sure your diet includes enough vitamin B12, vitamin B5, and the entire B-complex vitamin spectrum as well as enough vitamin C and magnesium. Additionally, lifestyle changes that include regular exercise and getting enough sleep can help to diminish the effects of too much cortisol resulting from incessant stress.

The adrenal glands are responsible for the production of and distribution of at least 50 hormones, including epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). These hormones are released in direct response to the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response to stress or physical threats. The adrenal cortex, the outer layer of the adrenal gland, is responsible for the production of corticosteroids (also called adrenal steroids), including cortisol. Under conditions of stress, high amounts of cortisol are released—and chronic stress eventually depletes the body’s resources and its ability to adapt.

Obviously, today when we’re under stress, we don’t run or fight, yet we have adrenaline coursing through our blood system. This is what leads to a number of stress-related outcomes including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart problems, insomnia and adrenal fatigue.