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Dr Marcus Laux
What Your Adrenal Glands DoPDFPrintE-mail

You have two adrenal glands, each about the size and weight of a large grape. They sit on top of your kidneys and dispatch the hormones you need to be fully functional. When they work well, you work well. If they start to falter—increas­ingly common at midlife—your symptoms can range from vague to debilitating. Without the hormones produced by these little glands, you’ll die. Even so, diagnos­ing adrenal fatigue isn’t even on most physicians’ radar. And without proper treat­ment, adrenal fatigue steadily gets worse.

Helping your body cope with stress is a specialty of your adrenal glands. They control how you respond to challenges—the subtle ones as well as the dra­matic—in your internal and external environments, from a change in the weather to invasion by the flu virus to being chased by a bear. And, they keep your body’s immune response in balance, preventing allergic and autoimmune over-reactions.

The core of each adrenal gland is nerve tissue known as the adrenal medulla, which produces adrenaline (epinephrine)—the fight-or-flight hormone that makes you instantly ready to rumble. The thick “rind,” making up more than 80 percent of the gland, is your adrenal cortex, which produces over 50 different hormones—including cortisol, the most important stress-management hormone in your body. When you’re stressed in any way, there’s a hor­monal feedback loop that tells your adrenal glands to kick into high gear. Well-regulated cortisol protects your body from the negative effects of excessive stress.

How Your Adrenals Get Fatigued

Modern life practically marinates you in stress. In coping with that, it’s easy to run your adrenals into the ground. Add a bout with the flu, or surgery, or an illness or death in the family, and that’s very often the tipping point that causes adrenal fatigue. Once you have adrenal fatigue, it’s tough to cope with even mild stress. Here’s how it happens.

Your adrenal cortex uses pregnenolone to make cortisol and DHEA (the precursor for the major sex hormones, and the predominant steroid hormone for both men and women throughout life). When you’re stressed, your adrenals make cortisol their top pri­ority, and DHEA production gets a short shift. (This naturally causes a decline in your sex hormones, too. In fact, after menopause, the adrenal cortex is where women get most of their sex hormones.) If your stress continues, your cortisol levels keep ris­ing, while your DHEA and sex hormone levels keep dropping. The resultant hormonal imbalance creates a variety of health problems, including a weakened immune response, water retention, and a cancer-promoting estrogen imbalance. Eventually, when your adrenals can no longer respond well enough to keep up appearances, even your cortisol levels fall.

Adrenal fatigue was recognized way back in the 1800s, but today conventional physicians rarely diagnose it. That’s partly because standard blood tests are unreliable, and conventional docs look at adrenal function as all or none: If you don’t have complete adrenal shutdown (Addison’s disease), your adrenals are “fine.” To get a reliable reading of your adrenal function, you need to test your saliva for levels of cortisol and DHEA.

Getting Your Glands Back on Track

The absolute best way to recharge your adrenals is through a comprehensive adrenal-support program. If your symptoms are mild and few, you may get adequate relief by using just the herbal remedies here. If you need significant intervention, use both herbs and the glandular supplements in the next section.

  • Adaptogenic herbal therapies make your adrenals’ workday a lot easier, giving them time to recharge. Adaptogens modulate stress media­tors while buffering corticosteroids to strengthen your immune response without harmful over-reactions. Unlike stimulants like caffeine, adap­togens improve performance without a rebound “crash,” and their use improves strength, stam­ina, and recovery time.
*  Asian (Panax) Ginseng is the king of adap­togen for adrenal rejuvenation. Regular use can restore adrenal function and body strength. The daily dose is two capsules with 200 mg each of a standardized extract.

* Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic adaptogen with legendary calming, anti-stress, and sleep-promoting abilities that are perfect for anyone struggling with adrenal fatigue.

* Eleuthero (formerly called Siberian gin­seng) provides significant adrenal support, strengthening your body and calming your mind while stimulating immune and circula­tory strength and reducing inflammation. It also aids liver function by neutralizing and removing toxins.
  • Adrenal glandulars—The use of glandular extracts is an ancient practice that’s been proven by modern science, and I’ve seen the benefits in my own clinical practice. Take a glandular extract three times a day, with or with­out food—but not after dinner.

One word of caution: Stick with brands from companies that exercise strict quality control, to reduce your risk of contamination.

  • Exercise and stress reduction—Regular low-intensity exercise will reduce stress and strength­en your adrenals and immune system. The best: walking briskly for 30–50 minutes every day. It supports your adrenals by soothing your nerves and creating a peaceful mind.

Some people see results from these therapies in just days, but certainly by month’s end you’ll feel a lift in your mind and body. You’ll notice your life and your attitude getting much better—more energetic and positive—as symptoms become more stable with fewer flare-ups and diminished intensity. After three to four months, you may be able to stop the glandu­lar and take just the herbal remedy—and even those in reduced dosages, perhaps every other day.


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