Recharging the Adrenal Glands

October 25, 2016

Most people with chronic illness suffer from adrenal fatigue. Long-term serious infections strain the body in all areas. Although not life-threatening, other stressful situations like losing a loved one or enduring a painful divorce, can deplete the adrenals. There are warning signs that the adrenals are fatigued and need support. A person will often feel sluggish in the morning until ten. Despite fatigue throughout the day, a person will not easily fall asleep at night. Usually a second wind hits when a person should consider going to bed.  Other indications of adrenal fatigue are a sore mid-back, salt cravings, low blood sugar, low libido, anxiety, low blood pressure, teeth grinding, and dry skin.

Interestingly, teeth grinding is indication of adrenal distress. For years I had to wear a mouth guard to bed. My dentist saw signs of teeth grinding, and I would wake with an extremely sore jaw in the mornings. I had therapeutic massage to loosen my jaw and the muscles in my mouth (it is a bit strange having the therapist put on gloves and massage from the inside of my mouth. However, nothing relieved the tension like this intensive massage therapy). I saw three dentists over the years and was told to wear my mouth guard. When I saw a functional medicine doctor, I brought up teeth grinding and jaw pain. It was suggested that parasites were at fault, and adrenal distress. The parasites were a factor, but it was the adrenal supplementation and support that have ended my teeth grinding and jaw pain! I haven’t worn a mouth guard or needed a jaw massage in two years!

The adrenals are important. They regulate much of the body’s systems and functions. There are certain tests a person can take, either through blood or saliva. If the assessments show adrenal issues, lifestyle choices must be made. I found relief through cutting sugar, processed foods, caffeine, and going alkaline. It sounds simple but it can be quite difficult for many. Coffee is truly addictive and often people suffering through stress and fatigue are drinking lots of coffee to get them through the day. Worse than coffee is synthetic caffeine that is used in energy drinks and pops. A couple of interesting reads that helped me differentiate between coffee and caffeine, and raised my awareness of our fast-paced, coffee-slugging culture are Starbucked: a double tall tale of caffeine, commerce, and culture by Taylor Clark and Caffeinated: how our daily habit helps, hurts, and hooks us by Murray Carpenter.

After six months of no caffeine, I stabilized and was “allowed” to enjoy my cup of coffee in the morning, after a cup of warm lemon water and some adrenal support supplements. Coffee has health benefits, and I really enjoy it. Giving up coffee for a few months was worthwhile but I am happy to see its return.

Removing sugar and processed foods is imperative, and these things should never be reintroduced. The adrenals feel most supported when you shop mostly from the circumference of the grocery store (vegetables, meats, some dairy). Do not buy any “dead” food from a package with more than five ingredients was the advice given to to me by numerous healers (both medical doctors and naturopaths). A year of eating vegetables, chicken, and oatmeal can do wonders. Juicing is highly efficient at providing key nutrients to the body. Do some research. Read books and search the internet for adrenal supportive recipes.

Drinking electrolyte mixes every day improved my blood pressure, blood sugars, mitochondria health, and venous health. My physician made it clear that the sugary, food-coloured Gatorade drinks are not “real” electrolyte drinks. A medically researched electrolyte mix is the way to go. Products such as Vitalyte regulate and hydrate cells properly without food colouring and high sugar content. Proper absorption by cells regulates blood pressure and blood sugars, thereby supporting the adrenals.

Unfortunately in my case, clean eating and quitting work to lie in a bed hooked to IV was not enough to stabilize and heal my adrenals. In my case, more drastic intervention was required. In the beginning I did the “spit test” to determine the health of my adrenals. This was done through Genova Diagnostics. A person spits in little tubes throughout the day and freezes them. The test kit is sent to the lab via FedEx. (The blood draw through Quest or other labs may be easier for some patients.) In a few weeks my doctor received information that my cortisol was always high, not tapering off as it should, and my DHEA levels were dangerously low. DHEA is sometimes coined the “mother hormone” as it fuels so many bodily functions.

My medical team put me on DHEA supplements. In the US these can be purchased at any health food store. In Canada patients must receive a prescription and have a pharmacist compound the DHEA capsules. My doses were monitored through check-ups and DHEA level testing. Most chronically ill patients are put on appropriate doses of DHEA for their particular need. This supplementation did wonders for my body. (I don’t suggest buying a bottle and self-medicating. It is important to have an ND or MD regulating your dosages and monitoring your adrenal functions).
There are great herbal supplements that provide significant adrenal support as well. Adreno Distress Guard by Perque is an effective product that supports and heals the adrenals. It must be taken consistently over many months, but it really works. And not just for the ill. Anyone facing a stressful situation like job loss or divorce could benefit from a bottle. The adrenal supports by Lorna Vanderhaeghe worked for me, too. Nutramedix created an adrenal tincture, which I have yet to try.

Healing the adrenals will lead to a better ability to handle stress, sleep restoratively, and stabilize hormones. I am grateful every day that I continued searching for medical answers. I saw twelve physicians before finding one who understood adrenal health, and I am glad I didn’t give up the search. If you feel you are suffering from adrenal fatigue or other health issues, be your own advocate. Research like crazy, and face the search for an ND or MD like a consumer, not a scared patient. Take control and find reviews online. I called offices and conducted ten minute phone consults with the physicians to see if the practitioner understood my situation and would have access to proper testing before I made an appointment. It is time consuming, but finding a great match in a doctor can save your life, not to mention, your sanity.

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