Dear NEEDS Wellness Educators,
What protocols are available to improve adrenal function when my adrenals have been depleted for decades?
One of the reasons depleted adrenals may make you feel fatigued is because you may be low in cortisol. This pair of glands actually produces the hormone cortisol, which under healthy conditions is secreted in the morning to help us wake up—making us feel alert, energized, and ready to start the day. Cortisol is also secreted in response to stress, which helps the body adapt to the stressor and provides the necessary boost of energy to respond appropriately. In the case of a life-threatening stress, cortisol and adrenaline are secreted to initiate the "fight or flight" response—a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.
Cortisol is important to our daily sleep/ wake cycle and to handle occasional stress. But, under continual stress it's oversecreted which can be draining to the adrenals. Over time, the adrenals have a weaker response to stress and cortisol levels become too low which causes chronic fatigue, low immunity, and other symptoms. When the adrenals are depleted, it can also lead to an imbalance in the entire endocrine hormone system.
The best way to help restore balance is to support your adrenals with adaptogenic herbs and nutrients. Adaptogens help restore balance to adrenals, regardless of whether cortisol levels are too high or too low. They don't stimulate or suppress, but simply "adapt" to the current situation and support the adrenal glands in the way that is needed while they recover from the effects of excess stress.
Adaptogenic herbs are generally very gentle and can be safely taken at high doses, without the risk of side effects. Adaptogens have been shown to increase energy, enhance stamina, and reduce occasional fatigue. Adaptogens also help to support the immune system and the endocrine system, such as the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands.
Adaptogenic herbs, such as holy basil, Rhodiola, licorice, ashwagandha, eleuthero (Siberian ginseng), and astragalus have a long and safe history of supporting energy levels, calmness, and increased focus.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb that has been used in India as an Ayurvedic remedy for thousands of years. It's known for its restorative properties that benefit the adrenals, but it also supports the immune system and thyroid. This ancient herb is useful for many modern day problems, including chronic stress, chronic fatigue, and poor concentration. It's a calming agent that can improve thinking and memory as well. Over 200 studies have confirmed its benefits, including counteracting the damaging effects of stress on the brain and cognitive function.
Holy basil is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for over 5,000 years to support mediation and general peace of mind. It helps prevent some of the biochemical changes that occur with stress, enhances energy levels, increases endurance, improves focus, and supports a healthy immune system.
B vitamins are also important for managing our stressful lives. The more stress we have, the more B vitamins we use; therefore, our bodies will require more to maintain optimal health. Pantothenic acid is specifically known to activate the adrenals and a deficiency in this nutrient can cause adrenal fatigue as well. Vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, folic acid, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin are crucial for building energy because they support the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose, which is the body's main source of fuel. They also play an important role in the function of the nervous system and promote healthy skin and hair. B vitamins are safe in high doses because they are "water-soluble" and are not stored in the body, so your body will use what it needs and discard any excess. Natur-Tyme's B Healthy contains a complete B-complex with activated B vitamins and pantothenic acid for great adrenal support.
If your adrenals are depleted, be sure to also take it easy and schedule time to relax. Avoid excessive stress, get plenty of rest, and try meditation or yoga to increase a sense of calm. Give your body the time and supplements it needs and you will eventually have more energy and stamina to enjoy life!
Yours in Good Health,
Jen Morganti, Naturopathic Doctor (ND) & NEEDS Education Director
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.