By Dr. Dean R Silver MD
What is the adrenal gland?
The adrenal glands play an important role in the body. They are first and foremost involved in immune function and the body’s stress response. They also regulate blood sugar levels, blood pressure, inflammation, blood vessel constriction, and electrolyte balance in the cells, among other things. They help mobilize protein for energy use in the body and aid in carrying thyroid hormones from the blood to the cells.
Adrenal insufficiency is a condition in which the adrenal glands fail to produce proper amounts of steroid hormones and adrenaline, which are used by the body.
The condition is due to prolonged stress from disease, trauma, or toxins. Sometimes it can be caused by the adrenals that are inherently weak. Based on my research, I feel adrenal fatigue is principally caused by toxins, infections, heavy metals, and electromagnetic frequencies. Adrenal insufficiency can cause detoxification problems, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, dysautonomias, and other neuroendocrine diseases, including thyroid disease.
Adrenal fatigue is also known as subclinical hypo adrenals as well as subclinical Addison’s disease. The definition of adrenal fatigue is that there is suboptimal function in the adrenal glands at rest or under stress or in response to constant, intermittent, or sporadic demands that are abnormal to the system.
When the adrenal glands can’t keep pace with the demands placed on the body, the total amount of stress produces adrenal fatigue. It is very common and seen daily in adults and children in my practice. The frequency is quite high, as reported in the Adrenal Metabolic Research Society. They felt that about 16% of the population have some moderate to severe degree of low adrenals, with hypoglycemia, that is, low blood sugar, but in actuality the figure should read 67%, if all the arthritis, asthmatics, and hay fever sufferers as well as alcoholics were included.
ADRENAL FATIGUE SYMPTOMS
Symptoms include chronic fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, anxiety, depression, feeling wired but tired, needing to sleep more than eight hours a night, being tired in the morning and awake all night, insomnia, irritable bowel, low blood pressure, allergies, low blood sugar, nervousness, sensitivity to sound and light, irritability, multiple chemical sensitivities, feeling easily agitated by life’s stressors, food allergies, loss of libido, low body temperature, low energy, menstrual irregularities, PMS, heart palpitations, sugar and salt cravings, and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
CAUSES OF ADRENAL FATIGUE
Infections weaken the adrenal glands, as do many other stressors, including sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and allergic foods, environmental toxins such as mercury and plastics, and especially emotional stress. Some people have a genetic predisposition to adrenal fatigue. It is often found in people who are tall, slender, sensitive, and intuitive.
Because the adrenal glands are so involved in immune function, people with adrenal insufficiency constantly battle infections. Their bodies are equally affected by stressors from allergic foods to financial woes to bad relationships. Infections are a part of the stressor package. Many will not be able to eliminate the infections because their adrenal insufficiency hasn’t been treated adequately. Their bodies can’t mount an effective immune response against the infections.
Scientific studies have shown that when the body is in a constant state of stress in its fight or flight response the sympathetic nervous system is activated.
This causes the adrenal glands to release high amounts of cortisol and adrenaline. If the response is chronic and prolonged, it weakens the adrenal gland and disables the immune system, allowing pathogens to flourish and toxins to accumulate in the body.
DIAGNOSING ADRENAL FATIGUE
There is a long period of stress or a severe stressful event, such as mental stress trauma, burns, auto accidents, illness, etc., overwork and little play or relaxation over extended periods, and it is also noted during or after being a caretaker for a loved one.
DAILY ENERGY PATTERNS SEEN
There is morning fatigue. There is difficulty waking up in the morning and the patient really doesn’t want to wake up until approximately 10:00 AM. At that point, he needs coffee or a caffeinated beverage to get going. He usually feels better and fully awake in the afternoons.
There is an afternoon lull between 2:00 and 4:00 PM and he often needs caffeine to keep from going too low.
An adrenal fatigue questionnaire is extremely important. If the blood pressure drops more than 10 mmHg upon arising from a lying position, this would point toward adrenal fatigue. Also, there are eye abnormalities seen in the iris in some patients as well as a white line in the abdomen after a line is drawn with a blunt instrument or pain and tenderness over the adrenal glands.
A salivary adrenal test is the preferred test for testing adrenal fatigue. Multiple samples are taken over the day, usually four different times.
LEADS TO WEIGHT GAIN
Stress is the most common reported trigger of binge eating and binge eating is usually involved in overeating typically refined carbohydrates. The refined carbohydrates cause an excessive decrease in insulin and, along with high blood sugar and high insulin, there are temporarily elevated cortisol levels. The high cortisol level promotes the development of visceral fat.
Although cortisol levels may be low during most of the day, they can temporarily rise in response to insulin, low sugar before eating, or high sugar after eating, that is, the eating over-consumption of refined carbohydrates. Under these special, but common, conditions, a person with adrenal fatigue can gain weight.
THE LINK BETWEEN LOW ADRENALS AND LOW THROID
Adrenal insufficiency affects thyroid hormone uptake and utilization and causes hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is common in people with chronic disease, such as Lyme, mold, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, etc. It often occurs with adrenal insufficiency and is a direct result of it. Low adrenal function often leads to low thyroid function.
This is usually due to autoimmune disease affecting multiple organs .
When the adrenals are exhausted, their ability to handle the stress of normal body function and the body’s energy requirements become compromised. In response to this, the body lowers its metabolic rate and energy output by down-regulating thyroid function. This gives the adrenal glands an opportunity to rest and recover. As the thyroid down-egulates its function, it decreases production of thyroid hormones, thyroid hormones T4 and T3.
When the adrenal glands are fatigued, the body also shuttles some of the available T4 toward the production of reverse T3, another inactive form of thyroid hormone, which approaches dysfunction.
Thus, reverse T3 causes the body to slow down its metabolic activity. This means that adrenal fatigue is a primary cause of hypothyroidism. Taking supplemental T4 hormone can worsen symptoms since the body will tend to make more reverse T3 from the T4 instead of the active T3.
TREATMENT FOR LOW ADRENALS
There must a lowering of tension and stress. It must be minimized. Regular relaxation, breathing exercises, and laughter are very important to healing. Look for the energy robbers in your life. I use very specific supplements and IV therapy, including IV ozone. A complete autoantibody test is done with evaluation of mitochondria, heavy metal, infections and toxins. Gluten and food allergy is evaluated.
Detoxification is the key.
Foods that nourish should be emphasized. Good proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins should be instituted. Minimize high glycemic, white foods, such as bread, potatoes, starch, and all forms of processed food.
Eat foods that balance sodium to potassium ratios; a normal 15 to 1 is good. The patient should also avoid foods they are allergic to, and allergy testing should be performed. Of importance is to eat regular meals and chew your foods at least thirty times per bite.
Eliminate all white flour foods such as pasta, pizza, bagels, pretzels, breads, and baked goods. Eliminate sugar, concentrated sweeteners, barley, malt, beer, sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, malt dextrin, etc. Of course, make sure you eat protein at every meal and snack and concentrate on foods high in omega-3s with low glycemic index. Avoid transfats and eliminate caffeine and junk.
With adrenal fatigue, I suggest eating before 10:00 AM and again before noon, and avoid fruits in the morning. Please avoid missing meals and remember that meals should emphasize proteins, fats, and unrefined carbohydrates together. Patients should attempt to combine good-quality protein, oil such as nuts and seeds, with unrefined carbohydrates at every meal. Adding salt according to taste, including water, might be necessary. I prefer sea salt, kelp salt, or sea salt with kelp powder.
Glandular extracts at times help my patients with adrenal fatigue. High doses of. IV vitamin C along with glandulars are used.
Key herbs to balance in adrenal fatigue include ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, maca, and licorice root. I use a combination preparations. This is usually taken half an hour before cortisol is typically elevated and is used in conjunction with salivary cortisol results.
Other treatments of adrenal insufficiency such as pantothenic acid may be effective. Depending on testing,