You are probably familiar with adrenaline, the hormone that jolts through your body in an emergency. As a result, your heart beats faster and harder, your hands shake, your pupils dilate and your muscles are mobilized for fast action. This is extremely useful in a crisis. But what if your body goes into crisis mode every day, whether there is a real emergency or not? What happens to the adrenal glands that produce your stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline? Could you develop adrenal fatigue?
What Is Adrenal Dysfunction?
When endocrinologists talk about diseases of the adrenal glands, they are thinking about Addison’s disease. In this condition, the immune system attacks the adrenal glands, and they stop producing cortisol and aldosterone. Doctors diagnose the opposite condition, Cushing’s syndrome, when the glands churn out too much of these hormones. President Kennedy may be one of the best-known individuals to suffer from Addison’s disease.
Your body is a system, and all of the glands that make hormones communicate with one another. When you take that into account, it seems less surprising that a person with an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis might also be susceptible to problems with the adrenal glands. Dr. Izabella Wentz says that happens more often than we might imagine.
Recognizing Adrenal Fatigue:
Dr. Wentz suggests that some of the symptoms signaling that the adrenal glands are having problems might be nonspecific, maybe even common. She suggests that anxiety and brain fog could be tip-offs. Inability to tolerate bright light, unexplained pain, troubles with libido and fatigue even after sleeping all night are other symptoms. Of course, sleeping all night is often a problem. Sufferers may have trouble getting the sleep they need. Other symptoms: a craving for salt and a tendency to feel lightheaded if you stand up too fast. (Doctors call this orthostatic hypotension.)
When we asked Dr. Wentz about diagnosing adrenal dysfunction, she suggested a series of saliva tests to determine levels of cortisol. Normally, you start the day with a relatively high level of this hormone, which drop gradually over the course of the day. If the levels fail to drop, or if the pattern is backwards, you may need to take steps to correct it.
What Can You Do About Adrenal Fatigue?
For those who have trouble sleeping, Dr. Wentz recommends making sure you have enough magnesium in your system. Rather than taking supplements, she suggests soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salts before bed. The skin will absorb some of the magnesium you need, and the hot bath will help you get the sleep that is essential.
Maintaining a good balance of blood sugar, neither too high nor too low, is another good way to help coax the body out of chronic stress mode. Avoid high-carb breakfasts like bagels or pancakes, and instead make sure to get enough protein by eating eggs or drinking a smoothie with a good dose of whey protein, for example.
Other recommendations will sound familiar. Spend time in nature when you can. Get some physical activity daily–but not too much, and not too late in the day. Practice relaxation or meditation. Read Dr. Wentz’s book.
This Week’s Guest:
Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP, is an internationally acclaimed thyroid specialist and a licensed pharmacist who has dedicated her career to addressing the root causes of autoimmune thyroid disease after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 2009. She is the author of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause, Hashimoto’s Food Pharmacology, and New York Times bestseller Hashimoto’s Protocol. Her most recent book is Adrenal Transformation Protocol: A 4-Week Plan to Release Stress Symptoms and Go from Surviving to Thriving.
Listen to the Podcast:
The podcast of this program will be available Monday, July 17, 2023, after broadcast on July 15. You can stream the show from this site and download the podcast for free.