Creating Balance: Stress and the Adrenals

stress anxiety treatment

By Georgia Tetlow, MD and Colleen McDonnell, RN

The adrenal glands secrete many hormones that are essential for life, health and vitality. In this post you will learn about the adrenal glands, adrenal fatigue and some tips to support and nourish adrenal health. To learn more about hormones, join us on 2/28 for our FREE talk on sex hormones!

The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys, and are responsible for producing a number of hormones that help maintain balance within the body systems. They secrete cortisol, adrenaline and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) to name a few. These hormones help you to respond to stress and adapt to life’s daily demands. Chronic stress and high cortisol can cause hippocampus damage and impaired memory. The body is then triggered to shut down the adrenals/source of inflammation to protect our sense of self, memory, and identity. To treat adrenal suppression, we need to find the root cause of the inflammation or reason for high cortisol levels.

Adrenal fatigue can present with external symptoms such as fatigue, diminished immune function, mood changes, and less restful sleep. It is also important to keep in mind internal factors that affect adrenal health such as our response to stress and stress triggers, thoughts, feelings and sensations. Because adrenal fatigue affects many body systems, treatment is incomplete if it is only focused on an individual symptom.

In uncovering the root cause of adrenal fatigue many internal and external stress factors should be explored.  Chemicals and pollutants can increase stress on your body systems, as well as physical and emotional trauma.  Infections, in particular gut infections and yeast can put a significant stress load on the body, and insufficient sleep and diet also affects hormone production in the adrenal glands.

To support and nourish your adrenal glands and maintain a sense of balance despite stressors you may consider these tips:

  • Improve stress response and reduce daily stress through learning a relaxation practice such as meditation or yoga, talking to a therapist, cultivating positive relationships, or even just laughing on a regular basis.

  • Get adequate sleep and go to bed by 10pm.

  • Your diet should avoid refined sugars, caffeine, and alcohol. It is also important to determine allergic foods and avoid them.

  • Get daily outdoor light.

  • Mild exercise is recommended every day.

  • Nutritional supplements and herbs are also believed to support the adrenal glands in healing. Vitamins used include vitamin C, magnesium, B-complex, and pantothenic acid, but there is little research to know whether this is effective or not.  

  • Adaptogenic herbs, such as Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng), Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha), Panax Ginseng (Ginseng), Licorice and others help us cope with stress and also decrease the risk of a number of different illnesses and infections.  

All of these supplements should be always be used in consultation with a health care practitioner familiar with adrenal stress disorders.

PIM would like to hear from you! Do you have a go to solution when feeling stressed? Is there a tip you find helpful from this article? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Interested in connecting with PIM? Register for one of our upcoming events - FREE Group Classes at Cabrini College (please RSVP online) OR Nutrition Classes with our very own Rachel Hershberger, MS, CNS, LDN, tickets just $45 at sign up (limited to 8 participants for individual attention, no walkins, please).

If you or your loved one has ongoing stress, mood or hormone imbalance, or they are suffering from a chronic illness, please consider scheduling a 20 minute free consultation or an appointment with Lauren Houser, MS, MSN, CRNP or Annmarie McManus, MMSc, PA-C, PT, IFMCP.