The adrenal glands are two little lumps of tissue in your endocrine system located directly above your kidneys. It is commonly known that the adrenal glands are in charge of producing hormones essential for your health, such as adrenaline and cortisol. But it is not yet known that the adrenals produce most of the female reproductive hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This means that adrenal health has a direct impact on a woman’s libido and ability to conceive.
It’s commonly believed that the adrenals stop producing enough hormones when they are fatigued. This is a misconception. In reality, the function of the adrenals varies with emotional stress, environmental factors, and existing health issues in the body. Because of this variability, the adrenals can swing between producing too much or too little hormone. It’s this fluctuating behavior that characterizes genuine adrenal fatigue.
Medical communities also believe that both adrenal glands fatigue at the same rate. This isn’t true. One gland is always weaker, stronger or more burdened than the other, which prolongs the healing process. In fact, each adrenal gland has its own intelligence and is responsible for producing hormone blends specific to the situations it manages. For example, the left adrenal is primarily responsible for producing the hormones needed when someone has a stomach flu or food poisoning. The right adrenal is primarily responsible for producing the hormones needed when someone is feeling obsessed with a hobby or interest in their life. For some situations, like handling a crisis or falling in love, both adrenals produce the necessary hormones. This essential information has not yet been discovered, nor is it being considered or researched, and it’s impacting our ability to heal.
The Stress Response
The innate intelligence of our bodies means that the adrenals know to produce higher amounts of critical hormones like adrenaline when we are under stress or having highly charged emotional experiences. These hormones give us the ability to get through the challenges we face as a short-lived survival mechanism. However, if the stress is sustained for a longer period than we were designed to cope with, the adrenal glands will eventually become damaged and start behaving erratically. Unfortunately, in this modern era there are greater demands on us than ever before in history. Extended periods of stress are the norm rather than the exception, and we are paying for it with our health.
It’s not just the adrenal glands that are fatigued by frequent or constant stress. The adrenaline that pours out from the adrenal glands, while necessary for survival, is highly acidic and corrosive in its nature and in many ways resembles battery acid running through your body. An occasional release of the hormone is no problem for the body to handle when it’s truly in a fight or flight situation, but when adrenaline is repeatedly flooding the system due to frequent or continued stress, it quickly becomes damaging to your brain, pancreas, liver, and other organs and tissues.
The Many Blends Of Adrenaline
Medical science and research currently believe there is only one type of adrenaline produced by the adrenals, but this isn’t true. It’s not yet known that there are actually 56 different blends of adrenaline that are produced and change in response to different everyday emotions and situations, including dreaming, showering, exercising, falling in love, having a car accident, arguing, debating, singing, and even listening.
Consider the fuel blends required for different vehicles to operate. A motorcycle requires a specific blend of fuel and air for its engine, which is different than the fuel blend needed to run a mini, 4W all-terrain vehicle, bus, or plane. The amount of fuel needed also varies for each purpose. When a car is idling it requires a different amount of fuel than when you’re stepping on the gas to power up a steep hill. The same is true for the body. It requires different types and amounts of adrenaline for the activities it’s performing and challenges it’s facing. Our adrenals have the wisdom to release any of the 56 hormone blends to power us through our immediate needs.
The Adrenication Epidemic
We’re all familiar with the potentially devastating effects of drug and alcohol addiction, but no one knows that the original addiction we faced as humankind was to adrenaline itself. Medical science and research are not yet aware that adrenaline is as addictive as a Schedule 1 drug. While it was quite rare hundreds and thousands of years ago, in the fast-paced, high-stress modern era we live in today, 50% of us are now addicted to the adrenaline hormone. It’s our number one drug of choice.
Just like any addiction, the more we act on it, the more numb to it we become. Over time, we require more of the drug to satisfy the addiction. This doesn't just apply to the people who love adrenaline sports like rock climbing, bungee jumping, or base jumping. It’s also true for millions of us who are juggling the demands of a job, children, partner, running the household, and caring for parents, other family members, and friends. To keep up with the breakneck speed of life, many of us are in an almost permanent state of fight or flight, and corrosive adrenaline is constantly pouring through our bodies.
Without knowing it, a mother can become addicted to the rush of adrenaline that’s allowing her to keep up with her exhausting schedule, and continue to pull on this precious resource over and over again. The busy executive can come to rely on adrenaline to fuel them through day after day of early meetings, skipping lunches, and late nights of work. However, each time the adrenaline high that carries us through an activity passes, there is always an inevitable low, along with the damage the adrenaline leaves in its wake. With our to-do lists constantly refilling, it’s easy to choose to keep engaging in the behavior that will bring the next adrenaline high so we can carry on at the same pace. Or when we do try to relax, the letdown of the adrenaline high may lead us keeping ourselves overly busy so we are still releasing adrenaline and being stimulated. We can begin to forget what a healthy level of adrenaline feels like and get so used to the sensation of the hormone coursing through our veins that we become addicted to it. I call this self-medication ‘adrenication’.
Recovering From Adrenal Fatigue
Thankfully, it is possible to heal from adrenal fatigue and protect ourselves from having to rely on adrenaline once we have the right information. But because medical science and research don’t have a full understanding yet of the true causes of adrenal fatigue and the nature of adrenaline, people haven’t been getting the answers or help they need. Let’s take a look at the most important steps for improving adrenal health.
The Grazing Technique
There are some trends today that suggest we shouldn’t snack or that skipping meals is helpful for our health. These misconceptions result in even more stress being placed on the adrenals. When we go more than one and a half to two hours without eating, our blood sugar will drop and our adrenals will be forced to pump out adrenaline and cortisol to fill in for the lack of sugar in the bloodstream. With the corrosive nature of adrenaline and cortisol’s negative effects, the adrenal glands can soon become strained, resulting in fatigue, weight gain, sluggish liver, and other conditions and diseases. The best eating strategy we can employ for prevention and healing is to graze every one to two hours, depending on the severity of your adrenal fatigue symptoms. If you are bedridden with fatigue, you may need to graze every hour. If you are functional but have symptoms you struggle with, eating every hour and a half to two hours is ideal.
The best foods to graze on include a balance of natural glucose, sodium, and potassium-rich foods. I created a video to share a selection of some simple and easy snacks that are ideal for adrenal fatigue, which you can view here. You can still enjoy your regular meals, but it’s important to not compromise on snacking every one and a half to two hours as well.
Glucose saturation, like grazing, is another key piece of adrenal recovery.. Our bodies run primarily on glucose, along with mineral salts. If we wait more than one and a half to two hours to eat, and we don't have enough glucose reserves in our liver (most people don’t), we set ourselves up for blood sugar crashes resulting in hypoglycemia and the beginning of insulin resistance, plus the adrenaline and cortisol responses I described above. I cover this in-depth in my book, Liver Rescue, along with how to heal.
Natural Remedies for Adrenal Fatigue and Chronic Stress
Adrenal fatigue can be treated naturally with herbs and supplements, but diet and good habits have to be in place. Bad habits need to be removed (caffeine, alcohol, smoking anything). The gut and thyroid need to be healed as well.The following herbs are used to treat adrenal fatigue:
- Holy Basil
- Ashwagandha root
- Ginseng Root
The following vitamins and supplements are helpful in treating adrenal fatigue:
- B-complex - especiallyB5
- Vitamin C
- Adrenal extracts