Today we are going to be talking about the adrenal glands. I had a question from someone asking me what the adrenal glands were so here you go!
Adrenal fatigue symptoms:
Being a night person, hard time falling asleep, slow starter in the morning:
All signs that your cortisol rhythm is out of balance causing cortisol to be high at night and low in the morning. It should be the opposite.
Do you tend to be keyed up and have trouble calming down?
This is a sign of increased adrenal output or hyperadrenalism. Having high cortisol with low DHEA can cause this. In the beginning stages of adrenal breakdown, the body’s response to stress is to increase the cortisol output from the adrenal glands. If the stress never stops, this process doesn’t stop and you will eventually have adrenal fatigue.
Do you get a headache after exercising?
This means your adrenals are slow to put out cortisol. Chronic stress will cause the cortisol levels to drop leading to a decreased ability to control blood sugar and eventually low blood sugar, irritability, headaches and so on. Exercise can cause your blood sugar to drop and if cortisol output isn’t there then blood sugar won’t be regulated properly leading to symptoms of low blood sugar.
Do you feel wired or jittery after drinking coffee?
This may mean you have issues with high cortisol output, you need liver support or you just have a sensitivity to coffee. Caffeine is an adrenal stimulant though and it can contribute to excess cortisol output.
Do you clench or grind your teeth? This is a classic sign of increased stress and high stress levels lead to an increase in your sympathetic nervous system or the fight or flight response. This will increase your total cortisol output. If the stress isn’t resolved, adrenals will start to break down and adrenal fatigue comes to visit.
How about chronic low back pain that gets worse when you are tired? Our pelvic supportive muscles are neurologically related to the adrenal glands. You maybe need some connective tissue support.
Do you get dizzy when you stand up quickly or feel dizzy in general?
This is a sign of low adrenal function. Our adrenal glands are responsible for keeping blood pressure in the normal range for those few seconds it takes us to go from lying down to standing up. Having a drop in blood pressure by 10 or more indicates a need for adrenal support.
Do you have arthritic tendencies? Achy joints and there is no sign of arthritis? Consider your adrenal health and your gut health. Both can be responsible.
Do you crave salty foods or do you salt your food before tasting it?
You may have a possible need for electrolytes. Our adrenal glands help manage stress but they also help keep our minerals balanced. Aldosterone is a mineral corticoid which causes our body to reabsorb sodium and chloride. When aldosterone levels are compromised, we excrete more sodium and chloride than is needed giving us a salt craving. I often tell my clients to salt their water if they are having adrenal issues.
How about afternoon yawning? This can mean adrenal insufficiency, and slow or hypo functioning adrenals glands. It is also a sign you need B1 or thiamine and an indication of low thyroid function.
Pain on the inner side of your knee? Tendency to have shin splints or sprained ankles? Adrenal dysfunction causes weak ligaments in the body. Ankles are most affected in a lot of us.
Do you need to wear sunglasses even when it is cloudy outside? The ability of our pupils to constrict in bright light is partially related to adrenal functioning. When the adrenals are tired, they won’t constrict easily or at all.
The purpose of the adrenals is to help us cope with all kinds of stress including the stress caused by blood sugar dysregulation.
The hormones secreted by your adrenals affect the way our body uses carbohydrates and fats, the conversion of fats and proteins in to energy and how fat is distributed in our body (especially around our waist and the sides of our face). They play a role in heart health and in digestive function. Adrenal hormones are anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant which helps minimize reactions to things we are allergic to from things in food to our environment. After menopause they make our sex hormones.
How is your ability to respond to chronic illness? Adrenals have a hand in that too.
Again, blood sugar dysregulation/erratic blood sugar levels is closely related with low adrenal function. You might have a tendency towards allergies, that arthritic pain and get sick more often. You might even find yourself with fears you can’t explain, anxiety and depression, inability to concentrate and tougher time recalling memories. Find yourself less tolerant of things or get frustrated easily? Insomnia?
Things that affect the adrenals:
- Financial problems, loss of job
- Death of loved one
- Stress, chronic, repeated, psychological, fear
- Poor food choices, SAD diet
- Perpetual negative thinking loop running in your head
- No relaxation time
- Lack of sleep
- Chronic or acute infections
- Allergies, environmental or food (do you eat something you are sensitive to?)
- Lack of exercise OR too much of it
More signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- Hard time getting up in the morning
- Fatigue not relieved by sleep
- Lethargy or lack of energy
- Everyday tasks take a lot of effort
- Low sex drive
- Can’t handle stress well
- road rage, anxiety all the time, yelling at your kids for no reason, compulsive eating, smoking, drug use
- Takes you longer to recover from being sick, injured or going through a traumatic event.
- Mild depression- seems pointless to make an effort at anything
- Less happiness or feelings of enjoyment
- you don’t feel interested in much, don’t do much for fun
- Worse than bad PMS
- You cannot skip a meal, need snacks all the time
- Less tolerant of others
- Slow to wake in the morning- by 10am or so you feel better, slow down around 3pm and feel alive after 6pm
- You are not very productive
You have to look at these symptoms together. You probably have more than one which will suggest you are dealing with adrenal dysfunction. Having more than three of these is indicative of a problem.
How do you recover?
Take a look at these symptoms on my website under this podcast and see where you can make some changes. You absolutely will have to make some changes in your life if you want to recover from adrenal fatigue. Supplements can help and you may need to supplement to kick start your adrenal recovery but they will only be a bandaid if that is all you plan to do.
We all have stress and those of us with chronic illness have that on top of our every day stress. Remember that chronic illness, autoimmune disease, with an overactive immune system is stressful in and of itself to our adrenals. Then add on the standard American diet and you have more stress in the form of blood sugar dysregulation and digestive distress. Do you have food allergies or sensitivities? Probably if you have autoimmune disease.
Look at your lifestyle:
Remove the stressors:
- What robs you of energy? People in your life, food sensitivities, no sleep
- Are you getting fresh air?
- Do you drink alcohol? Eat junk food? Smoke? Caffeine/coffee?
- Chemicals in your environment?
- skin care
- household cleaners
- clean water
Learn some deep breathing techniques, meditation and just do it. Even one minute a day to start will be helpful. Notice the stories you tell yourself in your head. Are you having an argument with your spouse or friend in your head? Your stress response will be the same whether it is in your head or actually happening.
Sleep- the big big issue us Hashimoto’s sufferers deal with. We need to sleep to recover our adrenals. If you want to heal your adrenals, you need to go to bed and be asleep before 11:00 hits. Go to bed or start getting ready for bed at 9:00. No joke. Let the dishes go, let everything go and just work on healing your body for a while. If you can, sleep until 8:00 or 9:00. This is not always possible but do the best you can. Normal adrenal function allows for cortisol to rise from 6:00-8:00 in the morning. With adrenal fatigue the rise isn’t as high and the drop in cortisol is faster. Lower cortisol means it takes longer to really feel awake.
If you can’t sleep and are waking up between 1:00 and 3:00 in the morning, then you have a blood sugar issue. Your adrenals have kicked in to raise your blood sugar which causes you to wake up and it takes awhile for you to get back to sleep.
Eating a protein/fat and unrefined carb type snack before bed can help you to stay asleep. You can also include some starchy carbs in your evening meal which should help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Get some exercise. Low intensity to start. Walk for an hour as many days a week as you can. Yoga, especially restorative yoga can be very helpful. Wear the blue blocking glasses at night starting around 7pm. This will block the blue lights from TV and other screens which will aid in melatonin production.
Eating: You must eat within an hour of waking up in order to prevent the adrenals from getting involved in raising your blood sugar. Even if you don’t feel like eating, eat something. Protein, fat and a small amount of starchy carb will help significantly. Maybe something like some chicken or turkey, a couple slices of avocado and a couple bites of sweet potato and maybe a small pile of veggies like cucumbers or carrots.
Supplements that might be helpful in recovering your adrenal health. Remember, if you are only doing supplements they will be a band aid. You need to change your diet and lifestyle and use supplementation to help you along the way.
- Vitamin C- very essential nutrient to the whole adrenal process. Ascorbic acid along with bioflavonoids. Look for a C complex. Go for highest quality of any supplement that you can afford. Buy from a reputable source.
- B Vitamins- A B complex with methylated folate- important in energy production
- Magnesium Glycinate- is like a spark plug for the adrenals. Very helpful with energy production.
- Trace Minerals and Electrolytes
- Essential Fatty Acids- fish and fish oils.
- Adaptogenic herbs and other herbs-
- Licorice Root- anti-stress, increases energy. Very helpful in many ways to the adrenals. Avoid in the late afternoon and evening.
- Ashwaganda- a nightshade but a great adaptogen. It will help the body function more in the normal range no matter if you have high cortisol or low cortisol. Can be stimulating for some people.
- Korean Ginseng- helps with energy.
- Siberian Ginseng- take no later than lunchtime- is stimulating
- Rhodiola- prevents stress induced adrenaline activity
- Holy Basil- gives us a sense of well being, helps normalize blood sugar
This is not an overnight fix. It didn’t take you overnight to tax your adrenals. Plan on 6 months to 2 years of recovery. You will see improvement over time unless you don’t change things in your life that got you here in the first place. You can get your life back but you have to put in a little work to get there.
What does all of this have to do with the thyroid?
Chronic immune stimulation as in the case of unmanaged Hashimoto’s causes long term high cortisol (stress). You have to manage the autoimmune disease in order to also manage the adrenal gland stressors. Low thyroid function or hypothyroidism is often the after affect of adrenal stress. Chronic adrenal stress will affect the communication between the brain and the adrenal glands. They hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are less effective with chronic adrenal stress and therefore cannot communicate with the thyroid as well. The thyroid hormone also won’t be able to get the cells like they need to to do their job. T4 will not convert to T3 as well. The cells won’t be as sensitive to the thyroid hormone when it reaches them and the immune system cannot regulate itself as well.
Obviously diet is a big part of this. You have to be eating high quality protein, fat and carbs in the form of veggies and a small amount of fruit. There are blog posts on my website for each of those topics as related to health in general so you can go over there to read more. Just search protein, fat, or carbohydrate. You have to keep your blood sugar stable and eat every 3 hours or so if you need to until your adrenals and blood sugar become more stable. Have protein and fat based snacks and avoid all juices for now. Don’t eat any higher glycemic foods/ food higher in sugar without eating protein or fat with them. Avoid artificial sweeteners, partially hydrogenated fats, any foods you are sensitive to, refined sugar and the other things mentioned earlier like alcohol, smoking/nicotine and caffeine.
This week, tell yourself each day: “everyday in every way, I am getting better and better”. You have got this and I have got your back.
Thank you so much for listening. Your support means a lot. Please share this podcast with anyone you know dealing with thyroid problems, autoimmune issues or chronic illness. Much of the information here can help more than just those of us with Hashimoto’s.
If you haven’t already, you can get my free ebook, 5 Things Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Hashimoto’s on my website. You can also find me on Facebook at www.outofthewoodsnutrition.com or helpforhashimotos.com and on instagram at stephaniewalsntp.
I would love to answer your questions about Hashimoto’s or other chronic conditions. Please send your questions to email@example.com or go to my website and fill out the contact form and put podcast in the subject line.
Thanks for joining me, see you next week.