Stress, Adrenals, and the Gut Connection

Underactive adrenals are encountered as frequently as an underactive stomach.  The two are in fact linked.  Underactive adrenals are usually preceded by hyperactive adrenals and spell STRESS.  Stress greatly affects the functions of the digestive tract.  It increases transit time (how quickly food moves through our digestive track) and diminishing our digestive and absorptive powers of the nutrient we need to be healthy. 

The adrenals are involved in our response to stress, whether physical, emotional or psychological.  Stress leads to what we call the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome.  Under stress our body releases an adrenocorticol hormone in the blood stream (i.e. cortisol). A fight or flight response was required for survival or our ancestors however in modern society this is not the case.  This constant fluctuation of adrenal hormones results in exhaustion of the glands, and the accompanying symptoms such  fatigue, insomnia, digestive tract upsets, irritability, depression, heart disease, PMS etc.

Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine may temporarily mask the symptoms of underactive adrenals, but in fact they greatly contribute to further deterioration. 

 

How to Support Your Adrenals

The best approach to underactive adrenals is good stress management.  Stress is a feeling of helplessness in the face of a given situation.  Often, fear of taking appropriate action is a major factor.  Nowhere is the relationship between mind and body more evident than with the adrenals.  Certain emotional states affect the production of adrenal hormones.  Anxiety, fear, and anger stimulate the adrenals to secrete their hormones, especially epinephrine, norepinephrine and glucocorticoids.  Emotions such as defeatism, feelings of being overpowered, not caring for oneself, not approving of oneself and being angry.

Moderate physical exercise and meditation are top stress relievers.  Yoga is a wonderful way to slow down, foster the mind-body connection, as well as to promote organ detoxification, build strength, and improve flexibility.  Meditation is a wonderful way to decrease stress as well as compliment your Yoga practice.  Visit www.lotusmeditation.ca for more information.  Lotus Meditation offers free (or by donation) meditation courses and group meditation where you learn a form of meditation called Mantra Meditation.

Knowing your pH is a good way to keep track of how stressed your body is.  When we are stressed the body is faced with more acids, making our internal environment more acidic.  We want to be neutral or alkaline (which means ideally a pH of 7.2).  In an alkaline environment our body can function optimally, we absorb more of our nutrition preventing deficiencies, and we can prevent pathogens from growing.  This means when are pH is in balance we are less likely to suffer from organ insufficiency and ultimately disease.  You can purchase pH test strips at most health food stores.  To learn more about pH book a Live Blood Cell Analysis appointment at Sage and see how your pH is affecting your blood and overall health.

An adrenal support formula can also be helpful because the adrenals can take over a year to rebuild when depleted.  There are many great adrenal products out there however it is advised that you work with your Homeopath or Naturopath in order to come up with a treatment protocol that is best for you. And above all, modify your diet to include foods rich in nutrients such as Vitamins C, E and the Bs, as well as, pantothenic acid, and potassium.  These nutrients support the adrenals.  Proper nutrition is always suggested first and foremost.

Here are some other nutritional tips to help support your adrenal glands:

  • Stress management includes a wholesome diet of natural foods, including many vitamin B-rich foods, and avoidance of sugars and sweets.
  • Try to keep you blood-sugar level on an even keep by eating a well balanced diet.  Eating five or so small meals at regular, more frequent intervals is better than eating two or three large meals a day.
  • A low-carbohydrate diet, sometimes useful for helping to control low blood sugar, is not recommended.  If you have low adrenal function, it may actually make your blood-sugar problems worse.
  • Do not limit your salt intake.  Doing so can increase the stress on the adrenals by making them produce more aldosterone in an effort to maintain sodium levels. Chose a healthy source of salt such as sea salt and Himalayan salt.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which place unnecessary stress on the body.

 For more tips visit my earlier blog The Stress Connection