Our bodies seek balance. This balance is referred to medically as homeostasis. We constantly respond to external and internal input and ideally our bodies process these stimuli, responding appropriately to maintain homeostasis. However, when there is too much input for too long, or when there is a complicating factor such as an illness or environmental disturbance, our bodies can lose balance. We can respond in an unpredictable or dysregulated way initially, then eventually become overloaded. Over time, chronic stress can lead to breakdown of our body’s tissues and vitality.
Our bodies respond to stress via our adrenal glands. These small endocrine glands sit on our kidneys and secrete hormones. These hormones include cortisol (produced in response to stress, it also has a role in regulating blood sugar, fat/protein/carbohydrate metabolism, fetal development including lung and brain, immune function, inflammation, and bone formation), sex hormones, aldosterone (helps kidneys balance sodium/potassium and water retention in blood, helps in regulation of blood pressure) epinephrine (adrenaline) and norephinepherine which regulate the flight or flight response of our sympathetic nervous system (the mechanism that kicks in when we need to run away from a bear or generally survive in our hectic world).
There are many types of stress, good and bad. Life transitions, no matter how positive, can cause stress. Weddings, moving, having a baby, school, work, family, etc. are included. Difficult situations obviously cause stress too: illness, death, injury, accidents, trauma, disrupted sleep, etc. are included. Psychological/Physical/Emotional causes of stress include: anger/fear, depression, guilt, worry, mental stress, perfectionist/Type A personality, severe allergies, hypoglycemia/skipping meals, poor digestion, food sensitivities/allergies, inflammation, chronic pain, nutritional deficiencies, musculoskeletal pain, sprains and strains, disease and pain, etc. Environmental causes of stress include poor air quality, environmental toxins, poor diet, excessive caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and sugar consumption, a no or low-fat diet, the fast pace of modern life, etc.
From this list we can see that we are probably all taxing our adrenal glands in a negative way. We reach “adrenal fatigue” after such chronic stress that our adrenals simply burnout. There is a continuum within adrenal dysfunction though, from a dysregulated adrenal output of hormones (alternating lows and highs) to a constant high level output and finally to a true burnout situation where the adrenals simply cannot produce the hormones needed and there are chronic low levels of hormones produced. My goal is to find where you are on this continuum and to support your adrenal glands so that they heal and can adequately respond to the inevitable stresses in your life as they arise. My aim is to help you restore balance in your own life.
Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue/mal-adaptation:
Fuzzy thinking/mental fogginess, fatigue/lethargy, low libido/sex drive, blood sugar imbalances, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, depression, irrational thoughts/fears, poor digestion, sex hormone imbalances, PMS, slow to wake up, hard to get to sleep, wake up at 3am, blood pressure imbalances, light-headedness, dizziness, thyroid hormone imbalances, sweet/salt cravings, caffeine cravings, lowered immune response, memory problems, longer wound healing times, inability to tolerate stress, arthritic pain, increased inflammation and trouble concentrating.
How do we begin to heal the adrenal glands?
Sleep, exercise, eat well and often (3 meals a day plus 2 snacks, protein rich), avoid caffeine, sugar and processed foods. Partake in stress reducing activities: mediation, long walks, yoga, prayer, deep breathing, journaling, connecting with friends, etc.
For those of us who look at the above list and either know we cannot attain this state, or know that we need additional support, there are some particular nutritional supplements and herbs that are useful in supporting the adrenals to help them regenerate. The body is amazing at regeneration if only given a chance!
As your chiropractor, I will assess your particular health and environmental situations and I will design a protocol for you using products from Standard Process, Biotics Research Cooperation, Dr. Ron’s or Medi-Herb. These are affordable and I have found them to be invaluable in my search for adrenal health!
Functional Testing of the Adrenal Glands:
Evaluating exactly where your adrenal glands are is also very useful. I order a saliva test from DiagnosTechs Labs called the Adrenal Stress Index Panel. I like this test for multiple reasons. First, there are 4 samples of saliva throughout a 24 hour period to assess what your cortisol is doing compared to a normal diurnal rhythm. Second, DHEA (another steroid hormone) is tested as it is an important indicator for how your adrenals may have maladapted. Third, fasting and non-fasting insulin is measured to see how your blood sugar is involved. Fourth, gliadin antibodies are measured to check if you have a hidden gluten intolerance (highly linked to adrenal problems). Finally, Secretory IgA is assessed to see how your stress is affecting your gut and digestion. We do not mark up this test; our cost (and yours) is $120.
The Role of Chiropractic and Craniosacral Therapy:
Chiropractic and craniosacral therapies are invaluable when attempting to regulate the body’s stress response and heal the adrenal glands. They both help to free restrictions in the musculoskeletal system, which can put additional stress on the body. Likewise, they are fantastic at resetting the nervous system into the rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system) state. That is why so many patients report stomach gurgles, deep sighs/breaths, and increased relaxation during a treatment, good bowel movements and sleep after a treatment, and an increased feeling of peacefulness and balance along with a decrease in their musculoskeletal pain.
Please ask me if you have any additional questions.
Notes: The signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue are often seen in other more severe medical conditions, so it is important to rule out these conditions with a medical doctor.