By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
August 19, 2019
I tried to call my phone company the other day.
Yup… you guessed it. Rather than reaching a real person, I wasted a bunch of time trying to press the right number to make the phone robot happy. I found myself begging to talk to a real person….well, actually I was pressing zero multiple times to get to an operator…didn’t work.
Sadly, stressors like this are common these days.
And it seems to be taking its toll on society. When I look at my own practice, I have many more stressed out patients looking for help than I did 20, 10, or even 5 years ago.
Near constant stress can have very real effects on your health.
Maybe you find yourself struggling to shake off brain fog each morning. Or, maybe you see other people zipping around like the Energizer Bunny when you’d much rather be taking a nap in the early afternoon.
If your energy is down, your stress is up, and you suffer from slumps throughout the day, it’s possible your body is suffering from fatiguing adrenal glands.
Adrenal Fatigue: One of the Most Overlooked Causes of Low Energy
Now, when I went to medical school, our professors loved talking about the “official” extreme adrenal conditions like Addison’s (discovered 1849) and Cushing’s disease (discovered 1912).
But the idea of adrenal stress and fatigue on a spectrum was never a topic. And, to this day, many doctors don’t understand it, let alone know how to diagnose it. In fact, a lot of doctors don’t even recognize it as a real medical condition.
On the other hand, this is something we’re seeing more and more of. Especially as the stressors associated with modern life continue to grow.
You see, over the centuries, the human body hasn’t changed much. But our culture has. While our adrenals were made to protect us from short term stressors like hungry predators and enemies with weapons (the fight or flight response) they have to struggle to deal with daily longer term stressors.
Face it. Every day we’re thrown into traffic jams, conflicts and disagreements. We have bills to pay and deadlines to meet.
Then, we eat foods that don’t always give us the nutrients we need and we don’t get enough sleep at night.
Even my Thursday night comedy shows are interrupted by ads for new drugs to treat this or that condition.
Last week, during two hours of television, I counted eight different commercials for toxic medication – treating things like ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
It makes it seem like everyone’s got some awful chronic disease!
Over time, this stress blossoms, and there reaches a point where your adrenals just can’t handle it anymore.
Well, these two little cone-shaped glands pump out almost 50 hormones in your body. This includes cortisol, adrenaline, DHEA, progesterone and testosterone. Without your adrenal glands, you wouldn’t be able to metabolize fats, carbs and proteins for energy.
But when they become stressed, they can’t produce all of your body’s hormones. The more stressed they become, the greater their fatigue.
To keep your adrenals working properly – and get rid of all that fatigue and brain fog – you need to sleep better, eat better and make sure you’re feeding your adrenal glands what they need most.
A couple of the nutrients your adrenals need for top performance include:
- Vitamin C (3,000-6,000 mg. daily in divided doses)
- B-Complex, including at least 100 mg of B5 and B6, along with 300 mcg of B12.
- Magnesium ( 5mg/lb in divided doses)
- Low levels of balanced adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola and Holy Basil.
Five-Minute Breathing Exercise Lowers Cortisol
I’ve also got a quick trick you can use every day. It’s the only proven non-pharmacological way to decrease stress cortisol levels in the body.
It’s called mindful breathing. This type of slow breathing triggers signals to your nervous system to reduce cortisol and lower both your heart rate and blood pressure.
Just slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four, and hold it for a count of seven. Then exhale through pursed, rounded lips for a count of eight. Do this for about five minutes in the morning on or shortly after awakening when your cortisol is surging.
Mindful breathing can also help protect your memory. You see, you have these fantastically important things for recall and remembrance on the inside of your head called the hippocampus regions of the brain. Mindful breathing and meditation keep that area from shrinking, so short term memory can be converted to long term memory.
If this is something that fits into your day, you can also take a breather in the afternoon around noon and then again around 4pm (when natural cortisol surges happen) – and or whenever you feel particularly stressed – you’ll give your adrenal glands a little bit more relief and save them for a future need.
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Pal GK, et al. Effect of short-term practice of breathing exercises on autonomic functions in normal human volunteers. Indian J Med Res. 2004 Aug;120(2):115-21.
Heather Mason, et al. Cardiovascular and Respiratory Effect of Yogic Slow Breathing in the Yoga Beginner: What Is the Best Approach? Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2013 23;2013:743504.