Stress and Adrenal Health study
by Hugo Allen-Stevens
- Fight or flight stress response hormone
- Assists and allows the body to access structural, functional and energy bio-chemicals that enable thinking, movement as well as breathing, eating and other body function (eg through break down food for energy to perform body functions)
- Signals breakdown of old cells to make new cells, a turnover that keeps cells younger and functioning better
- Excess adrenaline causes cells to use bio-chemicals faster than it can replace them, leading to accelerated metabolic aging
- Insufficient adrenaline causes insufficient access to bio-chemicals, leading to inefficient metabolism and accelerated metabolic aging
Poor nutrition and lifestyle causes adrenaline levels to be high to break down structural chemicals for use in body functions. This gives a sense of well-being and will cause turnover of structural bio-chemicals that will cause radiance and looking young e.g. shinier hair, softer skin, stronger nails – which can be addictive. Equally, if adrenaline levels are low, this may prompt self-medication with caffeine or sugar – both of which raise adrenaline levels. Again this is seeking a feeling of well-being that is addictive. However, without sufficient rest to rebuild structural compounds and without sufficient nutrients with which to build those compounds, these addictive patterns as well as high adrenaline levels cause the body to lack structural and functional compounds. The result is that accelerated aging as well as health problems are caused.
Adrenaline causes the breakdown to structural proteins – those found in muscle as well as bone. Thus sufficient protein is needed: to rebuild what is lost when adrenaline levels are high. However, excess protein intake triggers adrenaline secretion – which can result in insufficient rebuilding of structural proteins. One reason for this is that if protein intake is high (and carbohydrate or fat intake is low), the body will break down protein for energy use – especially in the brain. The breakdown process results in acid formation, which prompts adrenaline release to enhance the clearing of that acid from the body (and in the urine). Equally, over-exercise causes adrenaline levels to be high – which results in loss or lack of replacement of those same structural proteins. Compounding this problem is that adrenaline is a natural appetite suppressant.
Low Calorie diets and Low Blood Sugar causes the release of adrenaline to assist in the breakdown of glucose in the liver. Primarily this is to safeguard energy supply to the brain. Equally, breakdown of protein and fat will occur in order to prevent low blood sugar causing brain damage. Repeated incidences of insufficient calorie intake / low blood sugar and hypoglycaemia results in repeated adrenaline responses and spikes, as well as addictive resultant feelings of wellbeing that have potential catabolic (ie breakdown of structural proteins) effects.
Stress and stimulants also increase adrenaline – with bad stress and caffeine prolonging and enhancing the effects (bad stress leads to greater adrenalin release and caffeine prevents adrenaline breakdown)
Cortisol assists with maintaining blood sugar at levels constant enough to ensure sufficient supply to the brain. Again, like adrenaline, breakdown of structural bio-chemicals as well as protein and fat may occur to ensure this. Meanwhile, ant-inflammatory gluco-corticoids raise cortisol levels. Cortisol is also release in response to long term stress.
Stress responses are reflexes – the response is the same and automated no matter what the stimuli is. And each induces the release of Cortisol. For example, stress at work (eg tasks piling up) or personal stress causes same reflex as a life-threatening situation. The consequence is that structural bio-chemicals are used up whilst muscles are primed for sustained use (ie running or fighting). Equally, calorie controlled diets prompts the same life-threatening reflex response to famine – the shut-down of non-essential functions such as reproductive ability and the rebuilding of structural components such as hair, skin and nails. The result is that structural bio-chemicals are used up and not replaced – causing accelerated metabolic aging. Finally chemical threats from toxins prompt a stress related reflex response – to rid the body of the toxin. Alcohol likewise induces a reflex release of cortisol, and the cortisol helps to breakdown structural compounds to supply energy release inhibited by alcohol – alcohol prevents the breakdown of glycogen in the liver. The result is alcohol induced accelerated metabolic aging.
Other stress reflex responses include physiological stress, such as chronic over-exercising. Equally the loss of a hormone or its down-regulated release or function causes a stress response to compensate for that loss / release / function. The result of all these stress reflex responses is that in the short term, they are beneficial. However when they are sustained, accelerated metabolic again occurs as well as metabolic dysfunction / chronic illness.
One of the consequences of sustained high cortisol release is the breakdown of lean body tissue / muscle. Principally this occurs in the arms and legs whilst compensating adipose tissue is deposited round the waist. Equally, both cortisol and adrenalin increase the utilization of serotonin the neurotransmitter that cause feelings of calm and happiness – the result of serotonin use is that it is harder to eat well, avoid ingesting toxins, manage stress and the get the right amount of exercise. In effect, it contributes to metabolic stress.
Equally, stimulants and toxic chemicals are addictive because they cause the release of serotonin. The result is that serotonin is both used up and damage occurs to the cells that make serotonin. Furthermore, lifestyle factors such as watching television, using the internet, email, mobile phones and video games prompt the release of cortisol in order to manage and process the information and communication and effect responses to them. And demands upon us add to busy schedules, as well as the many cultural demands – such as achieving fun, pleasure, happiness and gratification. These again prompt cortisol release, as well as prompting relief through overeating carbohydrates (comfort eating), drinking alcohol (comfort drinking), excessive exercise as well as excessive use of stimulants. And the release of neurotransmitter dopamine (which result in feelings of pleasure) both rewards and reinforces behavioural patterns. The result is a feedback loop where patterns of behaviour are both hormone and neurotransmitters are released and used up. At the same time, structural and functional bio-chemicals are used up.
Physiological stress response
Nervous System Response
The hypothalamus is the centre point in the nervous system of the brain that is responsible for many drives and emotions, the limbic system of the emotional visceral brain. As such it plays a central role in many aspects of the autonomic or involuntary nervous system division of the Central Nervous system (CNS), the divisions of which are the parasympathetic (PNS) and sympathetic nervous systems (SNS).
The SNS is stimulated by being emotionally upset or physically stressed / challenged and acts on the following organs:
- Digestive system: decreases activity and withdraws blood from the GI tract, constricts digestive system sphincters
- Liver: releases glucose
- Heart: increase rate and force of heartbeat
- Lungs: dilates bronchioles
- Urinary bladder: constricts sphincters (prevents voiding)
- Kidneys: decreases urinary output
- Blood vessels: constrict blood vessels in viscera and skin (dilates those in skeletal muscles and heart; increase blood pressure
- Glands (salivary, lacrimal, gastric): inhibits; results in dry mouth and dry eyes
- Eye (Iris): stimulates dilator muscles; dilates pupils
- Eye (cilary muscle): inhibits; decreases bulging of lens; prepares for distant vision
- Adrenal medulla: stimulates medulla cells to secrete epinephrine and norepinephrine
- Sweat glands of skin: stimulates to produce perspiration
- Hair arretor pili (erector muscles): stimulates to produce “goose bumps”
- Penis: causes ejaculation
- Cellular metabolism: increases metabolic rate; increases blood sugar levels; stimulates fat breakdown
- Adipose tissue: stimulates fat breakdown
The sympathetic division generates conditions that enable the body and mind to cope rapidly and vigorously with situations that threaten homeostasis. Its function is to provide the best conditions for responding to some threat, challenge, or upset, whether the best response is to run, see better, or to think more clearly.
The effects of the SNS continue until the liver breaks down the hormones involved. Thus, although the neural effects of stress may be short lived, the hormonal effects may linger. The function of this lingering activation of the body serves to ensure the body is still best prepared should the original threat be immediately repeated.
The adrenal glands stimulated by the Sympathetic Nervous System are chiefly responsible for the stress response in the body, however the hypothalamus gland also plays a role because it causes the pituitary gland to secrete hormones that travel to the adrenal glands and other glands that also play a part in the stress response within the body.
The Hypothalamus makes two hormones which it stores in the Posterior Pituitary Gland or PPG (which cannot itself produce hormones). Of these two hormones, Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH) plays a part in stress response
ADH’s release from the PPG causes the kidneys to absorb more water from urine, thus decreasing urine volume output and increasing blood volume. Increasing blood volume raises blood pressure, and ADH also increases blood pressure by causing vasoconstriction of the small arteries (arterioles).
In response to stress, the hypothalamus also stimulates the Anterior Pituitary Gland (APG) to release AdrenoCorticoTropic Hormone (ACTH) which stimulates release of corticosteroids Aldosterone, Cortisone and Cortisol:
Corticosteroids (more than 24) and the most important, Aldosterone, is a mineralocorticoid produced by outer layer of adrenal cortex:
- regulates mineral content of the blood
- regulates electrolytes (eg potassium and sodium, which regulate flow of electricity in nerves and cells)
- release activates the kidney tubules to reabsorb sodium ions into the blood and secrete potassium ions into the urine
- Water follows sodium and is reabsorbed into the blood, increasing blood volume and pressure and causing water retention
- excess release and water retention / renal uptake can cause increased BV and BP, swelling, and excess potassium release
- excess loss of potassium through urine due to aldosterone release causes problems in nerve transmission and muscle contraction
- release is regulated by sodium potassium balance (more potassium ions in blood prompt aldosterone release
- release also prompted by release of enzyme Renin by kidneys in response to lowering BP, converted to Angiotensin II that stimulates Aldosterone release
Glucocorticoids – produced in middle cortical layer
Cortisone and cortisol:
- play central role in response to stress: release promotes cell metabolism and help the body resist long term stressors
- released in response to raised levels of ACTH in blood (ACTH from pituitary gland)
- have hyperglycaemic actions that increase blood sugar and trigger formation of glucose from fats and protein
- increase mental cognition and alertness
- maintains BV by regulating amount of water in cells
- suppressive action on immune system: reduces pain and inflammation
- blocks inflammation by decreasing edema
- inhibit release of inflammatory prostaglandins
- released in blood in high levels in morning (low in evening)
- constant stress leads to constant secretion leading to depression, fatigue, insomnia, high blood sugar, loss of muscle and bone, poor wound healing, impaired immune function
- elevated levels cortisol in blood linked to: atherosclerosis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, high BP, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, menstrual abnormalities, obesity, osteoporosis, rapid aging, stress
The hypothalamus also has a direct neural effect on the Adrenal Medulla (AM) in response to stress and is as such an SNS stimulator of it. The AM releases catecholamine hormones Epinephrine (or adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (noradrenaline).
Catecholamines are produced in inner / medulla layer of adrenal gland. Epinephrine (or adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (noradrenaline) deal with short-term stress responses
- result in more oxygen and glucose in the blood and a faster circulation of blood to the body organs (most importantly the brain, muscles and heart)
- enable the body and mind to deal with a short-term stressor though action or clear thinking.
- Enhance and prolong the effects of neurotransmitters in response to stress
- Increase heart rate
- Increase blood pressure
- Promote liver conversion of glucogen to glucose and release of glucose into the blood
- Dilate the bronchioles
- Change blood flow patterns, leading to increased alertness and decreased digestive and kidney activity
- Increase metabolic rate
- Increase mental cognition and alertness (norepinephrine)
- provide short term alert response to danger
- excess leads high BP, rapid heartbeat, high blood sugar levels, nervousness, insomnia, sweating
- caffeine increases output of catecholamines and prevent their breakdown
Other major hormone secreted by the adrenal glands
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – an androgen
- produced by adrenals and is source molecule in conversion to sex hormones estrogen, testosterone and progesterone
- anti-diabetogenic, anti-stress, and weight loss promoting effects
- emotional stress increases urinary output of DHEA stress
- Prolonged stress depresses DHEA levels and sex hormone levels (eg Pregnenolone stealing)
Physical and psychological stress impact adrenal glands
- Prolonged stress increases output of hormones such as cortisol
- Excess output over time can cause decrease in size and loss of function of adrenal glands, leading to total exhaustion
- Fatigue, Depression, Sweet cravings, Low libido, Weak Immune system, Insomnia, Poor memory, Anxiety, PMS problems, Weight gain or loss, Joint and muscle pain
- Slow to start in morning, afternoon headache, headaches with mental or physical stress, ulcers, feeling full of bloated, cravings for sweet / cigarette/ caffeine, blurred vision, unstable behaviour and emotions, irritable before meals, light headed or shaky if meals are missed or delayed, eating to relieve fatigue, cannot stay sleep or fall asleep, dizziness when moving from sitting or lying to standing, transient spells of dizziness, allergies, asthma
Causes of stress
- External: Toxic exposure (food, environment, air), psychological, diet, stimulants, smoking
- Internal: gut dysbiosis, food allergies, anemia, faulty detoxification, heavy metals, blood sugar imbalances, allergies, infections; Gut infections, Food intolerances, chronic infections, autoimmune conditions
All these prompt body to release (or look for easy sources of) energy with which to deal with stress. Adrenal stimulators provide this – by increasing blood glucose
Stress, Immune Response and Hormonal interactions
- Stress may be conscious or unconscious, past, present or future (eg trauma), emotional or psychological, external (involving environmental factors such as toxins) or internal (involving biological such as inflammatory immune responses to infections or allergies)
- All will involve release of cortisol to manage larger, longer term stressors or adrenaline to deal with more immediate stressors.
- Adrenal hormones influence the utilization of carbohydrates and fats and their conversion to energy in form of blood glucose
- Adrenaline stimulate heart rhythm and activity, cause vasoconstriction and raise BP, as well as widening the bronchials (classic fight or flight readiness for action). Caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline and furthermore prevents adrenaline breakdown by the liver, leading to prolonged adrenaline levels in blood and possible blood sugar issues and inflammation (caused by insulin surges)
- Adrenal hormones regulate brain chemistry (noradrenalin causing alertness). Lack of cholesterol for the manufacture of adrenal hormones may lead both to physical and mental lethargy. This is a side effect of cholesterol lowering medication
- Cortisol regulates blood sugar as well as inflammatory hormones and prostaglandins such as COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 is needed for repair of mucosal lining of GI tract (that needs replacing every 5 days to maintain digestive function). Inhibition of COX-1 by Cortisol (and medications such as aspirin) stop necessary repair work in GI tract and elsewhere in body. Cortisol also involved in neurotransmitter turnover and metabolism, sex hormone production, immune function, weight gain and loss.
- Cortisol prepares the body for action by encouraging cellular glucose uptake (energy), as well as diverting immune resources away from inflammatory compounds (that cause edema and pain) and immune activity (T helper cells).
- Cortisol is made from Cholesterol. Involved is conversion of Cholesterol first into Pregnenolone and then into Progesterone or DHEA. Both of these later two are used in production of Testosterone. Progesterone is used to form Cortisol and Aldosterone. Under high, prolonged stress, the need for cortisol production may be greatest – leading to low DHEA, Testosterone and Progesterone – low sex hormone production. This explains how chronic stressors lead to loss of libido
- Aromatase enzyme, that acts on Testosterone converting it to Estrogen, can become upregulated as a result of chronic stress, leading to Estrogen dominance and Aromatization of men. Aromatization involves blood sugar issues and storing of fat in belly and at extremes, breast enlargement. Also involved in Aromatization is mood imbalance, muscle loss, lowered sperm count, loss of libido
- Aldosterone regulates sodium levels in the body and through this regulates water quantity in blood and BP. Sodium levels fall with low aldosterone output, leading to low blood pressure (and decreased potassium excretion – potassium needed for nerve function and muscle movement). High aldosterone, leads to sodium retention (by kidney cells) and likewise water retention in body, causing high blood pressure (and potassium loss from body). Whilst high blood pressure is needed for faster circulation (to oxygenate cells to encounter stress), the danger is that the loss of potassium involved (coupled with low potassium dietary intake) leads to neural and muscular lack of function
- Key in understanding adrenal hormones is that the SNS plays a central role in (direct) influence of their release (as well as release via stimulation of the Hypothalamus on the Pituitary Gland). As such, the mind and the perceptual framing as well as understanding (as well as resolution) of stressors lies chiefly in the mind – as does the release of hormones that mental stimulus creates.
- Key to understanding emotional influence on hormones is to understand that emotions run the body and physiology at the same time that body and physiology run the emotions. Thus emotional needs and addiction patterns will have corresponding and causitory physiological patterns – that can be remedied in the case of hormonal, and behavioral, as well as health disorder
- Adrenals, in their role in blood sugar regulation, disregulate blood sugar balances that not only leads to insulin complications, but also depletion of serotonin and dopamine
- Insulin, the hormone that regulates uptake and storage of glucose from the blood, is corrosive in blood vessels: it causes vascular inflammation. Receptor cells become desensitized due to overexposure to insulin, which leads to insulin resistance. Insulin also regulates uptake of glucose for storage – as body fat. Mineral cofactors for insulin recovery are vanadium, chromium, B Vitamins
- Desire to eat all the time indicates blood sugar imbalances – due to a need to regulate blood sugar to get glucose (energy) to cells. Conversely a desire not to eat and loss of appetite indicates possible excess stress and cortisol / adrenalin dominance
- Prolonged stress may cause high adrenal output and lead to high evening energy levels, alertness and productivity. If this pattern continues, evening levels of cortisol will be high and may disrupt sleep.
- In the morning, adrenal output will be low (of cortisol) and lethargy or exhaustion, coupled with lack of appetite (stress causing digestion to be shut off leading to low appetite)
- Early morning lethargy coupled with stress will cause adrenals to produce adrenalin to prepare system to encounter stress with sufficient energy / blood sugar (there may be a need or a habit to use stimulants such as coffee to achieve this)
- Energy levels may peak through stimulation from both adrenalin and rising cortisol: this will be more pronounced if no food is eaten in morning from which to source energy in form of blood sugar.
- Energy peak, modulated by hormones causing release of energy from stores in the body (note, the body will become programmed to ensure it has sufficient stores leading to the need for body fat) will be modulated by insulin and could lead to blood sugar crash.
- Blood sugar crash could be marked by nervous system problems as body may be orientated towards dealing with stress but lacking in sufficient nutrients to operate especially with no food inside from which to draw nutrients, or a GI tract that is not able to absorb nutrients due to SNS stimuli or gut inflammation (blood sugar delivering energy, minerals such as potassium and B-vitamins enabling nerve, muscle and brain as well as cellular function) – the result of the crash could be nervous problems (jitters, mental lack of clarity), emotional (irritability) and energy (parts of psychophysical being shutting down due to lack of available energy, such as the brain and concentration, or the body and feelings of vitality)
- Blood sugar crash encourages reaching out for easy sources of energy (ie sugar and simple carbohydrates) as well as fat which can be stored to cushion body with energy reserves to deal with future energy crashes
- Cortisol imbalance may be present due to prolonged stress and disrupted ability of adrenals to function or produce hormones: leading to more pronounced crashes in energy in early afternoon whereby energy levels do not recover as cortisol levels are low and unable to rise properly. The result is adrenal fatigue.
Stress and Immune function
- Interleukin 6, a cytokine messenger released by T-cells and macrophages as well as adipose tissue, regulates inflammatory responses. It is increased in times of stress, leading to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis as well as diabetes. It also can pass the blood brain barrier.
- Cortisol has both a direct and indirect effect on T helper cells TH1 (lowering it) and TH2 (enhancing it)over long periods of enhanced release (ie stress response). This, especially enhanced TH2 can lead to inflammation, allergies, chemical sensitivity and disrupted immunity (leading to cancer or prolonged illness – such as a cough that becomes bronchitis).
- Cortisol has an effect on Secretory IgA, a protective secretion from B cells that is involved in protection and repair of the mucosal liming of the GI tract. Increased stress decreases IgA levels, leading to impaired GI mucosal function, namely Leaky Gut, Dysbiosis, and increased as well as impaired liver detoxification.
- Impaired liver detoxification leads to impaired breakdown of hormones leading to excess hormones staying in the blood – leading to prolonged stress response and effects as well as deleterious health consequences – such as adrenal fatigue.
Adrenals and Thyroid Glands
Chronic Stress (CS)
- Hypothalamus and pituitary over-stimulated and weakened leading to poor communication with thyroid gland, leading to decreased thyroid function
- Causes increased binding of thyroid hormone proteins that mean thyroid hormones cannot bind to receptors / get into cells to do job
- Causes conversion of T4 to inactive form of T3
- Causes decreased cell sensitivity to thyroid hormones
- Weakens barriers in GI tract, lungs and brain (and weakens muscosal lining repair) leading to increased permeability across those barriers leading to infection, inflammation, etc
- Weakens immune system and leads to poor immune regulation, factors that can trigger genetic or acquired chronic health disorders (eg auto-immune thyroid disorder Hashimoto’s)
Adrenals and Blood sugar
- Blood sugar drops to low and does so repeatedly prompting need for cortisol release
- CS leads to exhaustion of adrenal and thyroid glands, and exhaustion of brain centres (hypothalamus and pituitary) leading to functional hypothyroidism
- CS weakens GI tract leading to dysbiosis, inflammation, infection that all leads to further thyroid weakening
Adrenals and Gut Inflammation, food intolerances and allergies
- Infection and inflammation prompts stress response – pituitary prompts cortisol release to deal with / manage/ adapt to stress leading to inactive forms of T3 being produced (from T4) leading to hypothyroidism
- Immune response to food prompts stress response that can lead to inactive forms of T3 that can further weaken gut lining
Adrenals and Progesterone
- Chronic Stress will over-stimulate Pituitary leading to it becoming sluggish in releasing FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (Luteinising Hormone) resulting in poor reproductive hormone production by gonad glands (Progesterone, Estrogen, Androgens). Leads to poor reproductive system health
- CS will over-stimulate production of Cortisol and less Progesterone production (in Cholesterol pathway). Leads to poor conversion progesterone to testosterone and decreased levels
- Both lead to poor progesterone production and circulation – progesterone needed for TPO activity and thyroid hormone production
Adrenals and Estrogen
- CS runs down ability of liver to break down estrogen for excretion, leading to increased levels estrogen in blood
- Estrogen binds thyroid hormone proteins making hormones inactive in body (cannot bind / get into target cells)
Adrenals and Chronic illnesses
- Viruses – immune response triggers cortisol release and chronic release and illness leads to adrenal and pituitary exhaustion which leads to poor thyroid function
- Auto-immune – these both caused by and exacerbated by cortisol release, and lead to weakened thyroid
- Pollutants – when act as chronic immune stimulator, also act as chronic adrenal stimulator leading to weakening of thyroid
- Stress response prompts adrenal hormone production, production leads to suppression of TPO, leading to decreased thyroid hormone production (Hypothyroidism)
- Relaxation allows for progesterone production (instead of adrenal hormones), progesterone needed for TPO activity that is itself needed for thyroid hormone production
- Stage 1 – involves release and recovery
- If stressor is has a high and prolonged effect, cortisol levels will rise as will adrenaline to counter the stressor with sufficient energy upon demand (from stressor)
- If mental and biophysical interpretation of the stressor is negated / bracketed or reframed / relieved then body has a chance to recover resources and regroup hormonal, immunological, detoxification and nutritional requirements to ensure homeostasis
- Stage 2 – involves overproduction of hormones
- If previous step is not forthcoming or effective and stressor is prolonged (or multiplied with existing stressors) ability to produce DHEA and sex hormones declines – due to Pregnenolone “stealing”
- The body becomes fatigued and cortisol levels come down to new potential output – whereby both cortisol and DHEA levels are low
- Stage 3 – involves adrenal exhaustion
- Low DHEA and Cortisol leading to sleep issues and mood imbalance and enhanced lack of recovery from stressor
- Pituitary and Hypothalamus become dysfunctional, misregulating adrenals, enhancing the effects above, whilst also causing mental problems (memory and concentration issues) as well as Thyroid and sex hormone (reproductive) issues
- Additional steps in the spiral down involve blood sugar issues and sweet cravings; nervousness; joint and muscle pain; needing stimulants; muscle pain in neck and back; low body temperature; overwhelm by small things all to to inability of hormones to function as well as adrenal atrophy (shrinkage) and auto-immune
- Addison’s disease (dark skin) is a sign or this fatigue and the need for cortisol
- A sufficient trigger (such as one traumatic event) can set off the steps to lead from stage 1 to 3 – with little in between.
Recovery and unwinding from adrenal fatigue – Anti-inflammatory diet and 4 R approach
- 5 day lemon juice fast (with maple syrup)
- take out all allergens: nightshades, nuts (can cause inflammation – soaking first helps digestion), eggs (due to albumin), dairy (due to casein), gluten
- Anti-inflammatory foods
- Blood sugar regulation: low GI
- Fruit and sugar with care: these can feed intestinal yeasts
- Protein (from fish and chicken), veggies, EFA’s
- No grain, legumes – hard on digestion
- No caffeine, no alcohol
- Detoxification: liver support needed, as well as kidney support
- Reintroduce legumes – fiber, and toxin clearing effects
Sleep, Circadian Rhythm and Hormones
Effect of sleep on the function of the adrenal glands and effects of the adrenal glands on sleep
Pineal gland secretes hormone melotonin which rise to highest levels at night and help regulate sleep cycle (using light as signal: sunlight in morning makes pineal gland shut off melatonin supply and darkness does opposite).
Pineal gland and melatonin regulate circadian rhythm – cycle of body temperature, sleep and appetite throughout day. Melatonin controls periods of sleepiness and wakefulness and plays a role in regulating mood.
Cortisol patterns are regulated by light (circadian rhythm) and control periods of wakefulness. Cortisol is released in blood in high levels in morning (low in evening). Levels in blood rise during morning to peak at mid-day before lowering towards evening / night-time. This pattern can be shifted (by stress) causing poor regulation of hormones
- Loss of sleep results in loss of cortisol regulation by body
- Chronic sleep loss may set stage for poor stress response and symptoms of cortisol excess: depression, fatigue, loss of blood sugar control
- Vicious cycle can ensue
- High cortisol levels mean body converts less tryptophan into serotonin
- Serotonin an important initiator of sleep
- Serotonin also converted to melotonin
- Insomnia and poor sleep quality associated with high cortisol levels
- Low serotonin levels can lead to cravings for carbohydrates, depression, migraine headaches
- Amino acid 5-hydroxytryptopan (5-HTP) can break cycle of high cortisol levels
- Vitamin B12 in methylcobalamin form helps melatonin secretion: decreasing daytime levels leading to daytime alertness and concentration, and increasing nighttime levels leading to improved sleep quality
Herbs and foods that support healthy functioning of the adrenal glands
- Vitamin A: adrenal and thyroid hormone manufacture and activity
- Vitamin B3 – Niacin: manufacture of body compounds such as sex and adrenal hormones
- Vitamin B5: as component of coenzyme A – utilization of fats and carbohydrates in energy production, manufacture of adrenal hormones and red blood cells; adrenal function (“anti-stress” vitamin)
- Vitamin B6: maintaining hormonal balance
- Vitamin C: cofactor for hydroxylase enzymes in synthesis of norepinephrine
- Zinc: critical for healthy male sex hormone and prostate function; hormone activity and receptor site function (adrenal, growth hormone, thymic hormones, insulin); hormone synthesis (adrenal hormones)
- Magnesium: helps control sodium potassium pump in cells, thus preventing high blood pressure; plays role in enzyme ATPase which activates cellular energy metabolism, transport across membranes and vascular tone
- Ginseng: tunes up adrenal gland and reestablishing proper cortisol levels leading to restored vitality, increased feelings of energy, boosted mental and physical performance, enhanced resistance to stress, reduced anxiety
- Chinese or Korean ginseng: more potent and useful for enhanced / prolonged stress, recovery from illness, after long term use of corticosteroid drugs (such as prednisone) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/1000.html
- Siberian ginseng: for mild or moderate stress and less affected adrenal function http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/985.html
- American ginseng: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/967.html
- Active compound is ginsenoside, content of which should be standardized in product bought to avoid poor quality (derived from low grade root, diluted with excipients, blended with adulterated substances, low in active ingredients)
- Excess can cause anxiety, irritability, nervousness, insomnia, hypertension, breast pain, menstrual changes
- Kava: treats anxiety and panic attacks that could result from excess hormones and neurotransmitters and agitation they promote, or lack of sleep that could result
- Active compound are kavalactones, content of which should be sought out as content in natural plant can vary (3 to 20%)
- Kava may increase the effect of prescription sleeping pills or worsen Parkinson’s disease
- Adaptogenic herbs: substances with non-specific actions that act to promote homeostasis / have a normalizing effect through increasing resistance to adverse influences by a wide range of physical, chemical and biochemical factors
- Korean Ginseng
- Licorice Root
- Holy Basil
Nutritional support for Stress, Brain and Thyroid function
Serotonin support – for response, synthesis and activity
- 5-HTP, St John’s Wort, SAMe, niacinamide, B6, methyl B12, Magnesium citrate
Dopamine support – methyl B12 and methylation cofactors
- Choline, MSM, Beetroot, Betaine HCL
Hypoglycemia and Insulin support
- Chromium, Choline, Carnitine, Vanadium, Alpha-lipoic acid, Tocopherols, Magnesium, Biotin, Inositol
Neurotransmitter balance from stress
- To help body adapt to stress response: Panax Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil Leaf, Pantethine
- To support pituitary-thyroid axis: sage leaf, Arginine, Gamma oryzanal, Magnesium, Zinc, Manganese
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Kharrazian, D. (2009). Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism. New York, N.Y.: Morgan James Publishing