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Hypoadrenia and Cortisol
Hypoadrenia & Stress
Our adrenal glands are actually two glands in close proximity. The adrenal medula is actually an extension of the nerve cells of the sympathetic nervous system. When stimulated, they secrete adrenaline, a neurotransmitter which causes specific physiological responses that enable the body to call forth the extreme strength, speed and reaction time that is necessary for survival when confronted by a saber-toothed tiger. The second part, the adrenal cortex, is stimulated by pituitary hormones to release adrenal cortical hormones, such as cortisol. The adrenal cortical hormones suppress inflammatory processes, healing processes and the immune system. They also convert glycogen stores into glucose and elevate blood sugar levels. Collectively, these responses put the body on RED ALERT and divert all available energy and raw materials to immediate survival tasks.
When our ancestors were stalking dangerous food or trying desperately to avoid becoming food they would experience a classical stress response through a series of events that had a defined beginning and end. Today, our bodies engage in that same stress response, except that there is no clear end to it. Repeated and prolonged stress exhausts the adrenal glands and other glands and organ systems. Hypoadrenia is one of the results. Hypothyroidism, reactive hypoglycemia and depressed immunity are often associated with this condition as well. For more information on the Stress Response, read the article on Stress.
Symptoms of Hypoadrenia
Here are some general symptoms of adrenal insufficiency, adrenal exhaustin or hypoadrenia.
If you answered yes to 5 or more of the above, you might be experiencing symptoms of hypoadrenia. There may be other causes or explanations as well. To investigate further, do the Postural Hypotension Test for Hypoadrenia.
The Postural Hypotension Test for Hypoadrenia
There are a number of laboratory tests that can be performed to evaluate cortisol, dhea and other hormone levels. One clinical test that anyone can perform for free at home is the "Postural Hypotension" test or "Raglans" test. For this you need a blood pressure cuff and the knowledge to use it. Blood pressure cuffs can be obtained at nearly any drugstore and the staff will usually assist you with its use if you need help.
(1) Start in a recumbent (on your back) position. You need to lie down long enough to be in a relaxed state. While lying on your back in a relaxed state, take and record your blood pressure.
(2) Inflate the blood pressure cuff and prepare to take a reading. Immediately stand up and take the reading in the standing position and record it.
(3) Normally, with the help of your sympathetic nervous system of which the adrenal glands are a part, your blood pressure will rise between 4 and 10 points (mm/Hg) when going from the lying to the standing position. If your blood pressure drops, it may be an indication of hypoadrenia. If your blood pressure drops noticably, you may also feel a little faint upon standing.
There are two hormones of particular interest here, Cortisol and DHEA. Cortisol is a powerful steroid released to "activate" your body in times of stress. You need cortisol to "pump you up"' to meet all the daily challenges of life. Without it you'd have no motivation to even get out of bed in the morning! But if your body produces too much cortisol over a long period of time, it can disrupt your blood sugar metabolism, trigger emotional problems, and make you feel constantly tired and weak. Eventually, chronic elevated cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, muscle and joint pain, insomnia, impaired immune function and premature aging.
DHEA is the most abundant hormone in your bloodstream. DHEA seems to balance the effects of cortisol by improving the body's ability to cope with stress. It also provides the source material for the production of many other hormones including sex hormones. Clinical studies suggest that DHEA can boost energy levels, strengthen immune function, improve memory, and reduce body fat. Some researchers believe that DHEA acts as a "mood elevator," preventing depression and senile dementia by protecting important neurons in the brain. DHEA levels should be closely monitored when supplementing, however, to prevent potentially harmful imbalances. Also, DHEA supplementation is generally inappropriate for individuals under age 40.
The Consequences of Chronic High Cortisol
To repeat, chronically elevated cortisol levels contribute to the accumulation of abdominal fat and make it very difficult to get rid of it. The immune system is suppressed and the individual becomes more susceptible to infections, both minor and major. Clerly, we would like for our cortisol levels to return to normal.
How to Correct your Cortisol Level and Hypoadrenia
Stress reduction is an essential part of all efforts to normalize cortisol. Stress is the stimuli that caused the cortisol levels to get out of hand to begin with. Each individual should explore and find the stress reduction techniques that work best for themselves. Meditation, physical activities, attitude changes etc. are good paths to explore. Without stress reduction, all therapeutic and support measures will eventually fail.
Rest. This may sound obvious but it must be managed and scheduled as a deliberate strategy, choice and course of action. Otherwise it gets forgotten in the busyness of life.
A low glycemic diet is important. Sugar handling stress increases cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol, in turn, aggravates the sugar handling situation contributing to the development of high insulin levels and ultimately diabetes.
Nutritional supplementation is very valuable in restoring normal cortisol levels. It is important, however, to recognize if your cortisol levels are high or low. Low cortisol levels are the consequence of adrenal exhaustion or the exhaustion phase of the stress response. High cortisol levels are the result of the response to chronic stress and represent the adaptation phase of the stress response.
Nutritional Supplements to Support Low or High Cortisol Levels
For basic adrenal support, include:
One of the best known and most effective ways to lower excess cortisol levels is with the nutrient Phosphatidylserine (PS). Phosphatidylserine is believed to facilitate the repair of the cortisol receptors in the hypothalamus. It is believed that the cortisol receptors get damaged by high cortisol levels reducing the ability of the hypothalamus to sense and correct high cortisone levels. Because Phosphatidylserine helps repair the feedback control apparatus, it is useful in correcting both high and low cortisol levels. Phosphatidylserine is also useful for preventing short-term memory loss, age-related dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Typical dosages are one to three 100 mg. capsules per day.
Adaptogens are an entire category of herbs that assists the body in coping with stress by restoring hypothalamic cortisol receptor sensitivity. Ginseng Adreno-Build 4050 is one such blend of adaptogenic herbs. It is a combination of eleuthero, American ginseng and rhodiola, all researched for their effects on increasing stamina, mental alertness and work performance. Botanical catalysts support the action of the formula by enhancing endurance and nourishing the adrenal glands, featuring ashwagandha, Chinese licorice and rehmannia. Typical dosages one tablet (4050 mg. herbal blend) per day.
Relora® is a patent pending plant extract of Phellodendron amurense and Magnolia officinalis that may help to relieve stress and minimize stress-induced eating. Weight gain can be associated with emotional over-eating for people with stressful lifestyles. Preliminary research suggests that Relora® may help regulate cortisol levels in the body that are associated with stress-related weight gain. The bark of Magnolia officinalis has been used in traditional Chinese Herbalism for centuries for stress reduction and muscle tension.
DHEA is a hormone which acts as a precursor for many other hormones. DHEA levels decline drastically with age. Many anti-aging physicians and programs advocate DHEA supplementation for individuals over 40 years of age. There is some medical controversy regarding this practice. If you are considering taking DHEA supplements, it would be a good idea to use the tests to both determine the need for it and get the dosage adjusted properly. DHEA can also be used empirically to alleviate the symptoms of excess cortisol or hyperadaptosis. DHEA can improve glucose tolerance, convert excess body fat to lean muscle mass, alleviate depression, increase energy and decrease pain in chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia patients, decrease joint pain and fatigue in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, improve mental clarity and enhance overall immune function. Typical doses for DHEA are 10 to 25 mg for women, 25 to 100 mg for men, taken in the morning to mimick the bodys natural rhythm. Note: Dosage should be adjusted based on test results. It is important for men to take a prostate PSA test before supplementation. DHEA supplementation could potentially complicate prostate cancer, so professional medical advice is necessary if the PSA level should be elevated.
Adrenal exhaustion is more difficult to resolve. Adrenal exhaustion involves a depletion of energy reserves and a loss of resilience. Symptomatic signs of adrenal exhaustion can be as diverse as fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, severe PMS, depression, brain fog, carbohydrate cravings, allergies, muscular pain and tenderness, joint pain and irritable bowel syndrome. The goal of nutritional therapy in this situation is to restore the natural, diurnal release of normal levels of cortisol. The theory is if you provide the body with a small amount of a cortisol-like substance, the adrenal glands can take a rest and have an opportunity to regenerate. Then normal cortisol production will be restored.
Articles Related to Adrenal Status
Read this article on Cortisol in Life Extension Magazine.
Read Life Extension Disease Prevention and Treatment Protocols on Adrenal Diseases.