Have you ever been extremely tired and then all of a sudden felt a burst of energy? More than likely, the sudden burst was due to the release of adrenaline and cortisol from your adrenal glands, a pair of glands that lie on top of each kidney. If you have ever been suddenly frightened, you know what it feels like to have adrenaline surge through your body. Adrenaline was designed to give the body that extra energy boost to escape from danger.
Some basic control mechanisms are geared toward counteracting the everyday stresses of life. However, if stress is extreme, unusual, or long lasting, these control mechanisms can be quite harmful. Stress triggers a number of biological changes controlled and regulated by the adrenal glands.
An abnormal adrenal response, either deficient or excessive hormone release, significantly alters an individual’s response to stress. Often the adrenals become “exhausted” as a result of constant demands placed upon it. Adrenal fatigue is a common side effect of continual stress and corticosteroid administration (e.g., the use of prednisone). An individual with adrenal fatigue or exhaustion will suffer from chronic fatigue and may complain of feeling “stressed out.” They will typically also have a reduced resistance to allergies and infection.
Supporting the Adrenal Gland
Relaxation techniques seek to counteract the results of stress by inducing its opposite reaction – relaxation. Although an individual may relax by simply sleeping, watching television, or reading a book, relaxation techniques are designed specifically to produce the “relaxation response.”
The physiological effects of the relaxation response are opposite to those seen with stress. The relaxation response is designed for repair, maintenance, and restoration of the body.
To achieve the relaxation response a variety of techniques may be employed, e.g., meditation, prayer, progressive relaxation, self-hypnosis, and biofeedback. The type of relaxation technique best for each person is totally individual. The important thing is that at least 5 to 10 minutes be set aside each day for the performance of a relaxation technique. These sessions will also remind you to breath in a relaxed effective manner.
Nutritional Adrenal Support
Foremost in the nutritional support of proper adrenal function is to eat a low glycemic diet. Avoid refined sugars, especially sucrose and high fructose corn syrup; pastries; doughnuts; beverages packed full of sugars (soft drinks, sports drinks, and many coffee beverages); and other high sugar foods. The sugars in these foods are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar and severely stressing blood sugar control. It is also important to limit starches, pasta, bread, and other carbohydrate to very small portion sizes.
Fluctuations in blood sugar severely stress adrenal function and are a common cause of excess cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels are not only associated with increased feelings of stress, but also loss of appetite control, cravings for sugar, and weight gain. Too much cortisol is also linked to weakening of the immune system, depression, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis, and brain atrophy.