What an awful year it has been, I’m stressed and tired. I cry easily. It’s not who I am! Can you help me?” –V.D., Broomfield, Colorado
Answer: Sounds like you’ve exhausted your adrenals glands, you can tell if you have this particular energy pattern:
* Difficulty rising-you don’t really wake up until 10 am
* You feel better after lunch
*You have an afternoon low between 3 – 5 pm
*You much pretty good after 6 or 7 pm
* You’re tired by 8 – 10 pm but resist going to bed
* If you fight it, and stay up, you catch your second wind around 11 pm, lasting until 1 – 2 am.
If this sounds like you, it’s probably “hypoadrenia,” also known as adrenal burnout or adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal glands pump out cortisol hormone to help you deal with stress. If you have one big stressor (such as grief) or a million micro-stressors, then over time, your adrenal glands stop producing adequate cortisol hormone. You will drag yourself through each day never knowing what is wrong with you. Physicians who fail to recognize this disorder assume you have depression and prescribe antidepressants or stimulants. Only when a proper diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency is made, can you buy natural herbs to support adrenal gland health, or take a prescription medication called hydrocortisone which restores natural cortisol. Many people with undiagnosed hypoadrenia, soothe their hormonal imbalance by binge eating or drinking, alcoholism or drug addiction.
A few other signs of hypoadrenia include the need to lie down after emotionally stressful times, muscle weakness, mild depression, fatigue, craving foods high in salt or fat, increased menopausal or PMS symptoms, more allergies, lightheadedness upon rising, frequent sighing, using caffeine or sugar to wake up, low libido and apathy. Some find they feel better after spending the night with a friend, or getting out of the house.
As I see it, the biggest problem is that adrenal fatigue causes hypothyroidism, causing a cascade of other terrible symptoms and no amount of thyroid medication will correct hypothyroidism, unless you simultaneously nourish your adrenal glands with adaptogenic herbs.
Adrenal hormone testing is simple. I recommend Diagnos-Techs, ZRT Labs or Neuroscience Labs, because those three labs offer saliva testing in a “4 point” manner. This means you provide 4 saliva samples, morning, noon, evening and midnight.
Herbs and vitamins that support adrenal health include DHEA, schizandra, eleuthero, rhodiola, ashwaghanda, ginseng, turmeric, theanine, astragalus, beta sitosterol, ginger and B vitamins especially pantethine.
It’s a mortgage and a nightmare to take all of those so I recommend you buy one formula that can “multi-task” meaning it includes several of those goodies. The effect is synergistic, and the price is nice. You can find several good formulas at health food stores or try physician-formulated products offered by Xymogen, Thorne Research or Metagenics.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.