Our adrenal glands are small glands, which sit on top of our kidneys and control the autonomic nervous system. The adrenal glands produce several hormones including cortisol (dealing mainly with stress), DHEA-S (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate), which is the precursor to all major sex drugs including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
The amount of hormones released by adrenal glands is never constant. Instead, it fluctuates depending on environmental conditions as well as the state of the body. What we often don’t realise is that our adrenal glands can become fatigued when placed under constant stress and pressure.
If you are feeling exhausted too often, experiencing palpitations or feeling heavily drained regularly your adrenal glands may be burnt out and in need of some attention.
When the adrenal glands are functioning incorrectly due to over tiredness and stress, there is a change in the hormone production in the adrenal glands, which causes an imbalance.
The cortisol hormone, which the adrenal glands naturally produce in response to stress, may become imbalanced when the adrenal glands are overly fatigued. Initial stress will cause cortisol levels in the blood to rise however prolonged stress will decrease cortisol levels, increasing fatigue.
Cassie Mendoza-Jones, naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist believes in the importance of healthy adrenal gland function in order to “achieve internal balance”. According to Cassie, “Our cortisol levels should be highest in the morning – so we wake up alert and full of energy, ready for the day – and lowest at night, so our minds feel relaxed and we fall asleep easily, and sleep deeply”.
If you are not sleeping properly or waking up feeling unrested, your cortisol levels may have fluctuated during the day at inappropriate times causing you to slump at 3 pm and after a sugar or caffeine hit, not feel ready for bed at the usual hour.
Cassie advises that healing your adrenal glands can take up to weeks and even months. Blood tests may need to be done in order to see where the hormone levels are sitting.
Herbal medicines will improve the function of the adrenal glands as well as making lifestyle choices such as slowing down, reducing stress and allowing your body to rest. Vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, vitamin C and magnesium are particularly important for the healing process of the adrenal glands.
It is important to maintain a well-rounded nutritious diet that is providing your body with essential fatty acids, foods rich in vitamin C and magnesium and some time to let the body rest. Cassie believes, “the number one way to prevent burn-out is to slow down. It’s also important to move your body as this helps to flush out excess stress hormones”.
Foods that aid adrenal gland function including goji berries, kale, walnuts, avocadoes, kidney beans, celery, hemp seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, lemons, seaweed, millet, dried dates and parsley.
Cassie’s top recommended herbal medicines:
Passionflower: “To soothe a stressed and distressed nervous system, for anxiety, irritability, restlessness, insomnia and headaches.”
Kava: “For anxiety. It’s as effective as prescription medications for anxiety, without the side effects, plus it keeps you alert and focused, not drowsy”.
Siberian & American gingsengs: “To boost stamina, energy and immunity”
By BB Intern Lauren Walker
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