Nutritional practitioners like myself talk quite a lot about adrenals and adrenal dysregulation. To clients sitting in front of me many must think – what is that?
The two adrenals glands sit on top of your kidneys. As glands do they secrete hormones, as many as 50, they are busy organs in the body. They are heavily involved in the stress response and some of the main hormones they secrete are adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.
How they work:
The brain releases hormones when we are in a challenging situation, one with a rather long name called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone travels to your adrenal glands and this stimulates them to make and secrete various hormones.
Many of these hormones are involved in your fight or flight stress response.
Adrenaline (a hormone) encourages blood flow to your arms and legs so you can run fast away from the threat. It also is directed at you heart, lungs and muscles to increase oxygen, again enabling you to escape fast. In cave man days this would have been a bear or tiger. Systems like digestion and reproduction is switched off because this is not important at this time.
The fight or flight response was only ever designed to be short-lived. Run away from the threat. Utilise the release of hormones to enable this. Once threat removed, the body returns to normal, the stress hormones are no longer needed. Unfortunately, in our modern living world this does not happen. The release of these hormones continues and this can drive disease and dysregulation of adrenals. The constant ping of notifications, being late for work, being unhappy at work or in a relationship are everyday occurrences for us all.
Adrenal dysregulation can also be triggered by early life stressors, in the womb or childhood experiences
The worst kind of stress is the one where you feel powerless and frustrated and you cannot change your situation.
Headaches, fatigue, irritability, changes in appetite, memory loss, low self-esteem, withdrawal, teeth grinding, cold hands, high blood pressure, disturbed sleeping patterns, allergies, muscle weakness, depression, anxiety and many more symptoms.
Cortisol has its own circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is your internal clock that can identify times of the day. So, you are meant to be awake in daylight and asleep when it gets dark. Cortisol is meant to be high in the morning and steadily decreases throughout the day being lowest in the evening. In adrenal dysregulation you may find cortisol does not follow this pattern hence symptoms of morning grogginess, daytime slumps and insomnia at night.
The way we live our lives is not going to change however you can make small changes to help you adapt better to fight or flight. Finding ways to switch it off when you need to through diet and lifestyle may support your symptoms and health. To find out how tune into Part 2 next week.