When under stress, healthy adrenals increase their output of cortisol and DHEA to enable you to maintain health and respond to increased demands. They also secrete adrenaline, to give you a boost of energy when needed. If stress becomes chronic, your adrenals can no longer keep up with the demand, and DHEA and eventually cortisol levels begin to fall, signifying adrenal exhaustion. In addition, an oversecretion of adrenaline can and does cause anyone to feel anxious and nervous. Complaints of insomnia, fatigue, depression, irritability, and digestive difficulties are common. As adrenaline surges during stress, digestive enzymes levels become lower at the same time, and blood sugar levels initially rise. As this becomes more chronic, the consequences of prolonged stress include:
• Fatigue • Diminished immune function • Mood changes • Depletion of cortisol, resulting in low blood sugar • Less restful sleep • Increased lipid levels of blood fats • Lowered insulin sensitivity, with an increased susceptibility to diabetes
One primary issue is how to reduce and respond to stress in your life. The adrenals will not heal until you change how you are living. This can include learning a relaxation practice such as meditation or yoga, talking to a therapist or learning some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques from a book (Feeling Good by David Burns) or website (moodgym.org.), cultivating positive relationships, or even just laughing on a regular basis.
I strongly recommend that you get adequate sleep and go to bed by 10pm.
Your diet should avoid refined sugars, caffeine, and alcohol and should include several small meals containing protein. 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. Similarly, adrenal glandulars (extracts of ground animal adrenals) have been used with reported success but little formal research.
There is more research on the "adaptogenic" herbs, which help people cope with stress and also decrease the risk of a number of different illnesses and infections. These include Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng), Withania somnifera (Ashwaganda), Panax ginseng (Ginseng) and others. Licorice can also be used as adrenal support, but if used in large quantities, blood pressure and potassium should be monitored.
All of these supplements should be always be used in consultation with a health care practitioner familiar with adrenal stress disorders.