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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

Created by Courtney Hammond

More than 75% of Americans report that they regularly experience stress, with 33% reporting that they live with extreme stress. Such stress is brought on by job pressure, financial concerns, poor health and relationship worries and often results in fatigue, headache, tense muscles, an upset stomach and feelings of anger or worry.1

Not all stress is bad. The stress response—sometimes referred to as “fight or flight”—is actually a lifesaving device powered by your adrenal glands. In an emergency, the adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones adrenaline, nor-epinephrine and cortisol, leading to an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism and energy.

The stress response is meant to be temporary and occasional, enabling us to fight our way out of the crisis or flee a dangerous situation. However, the adrenal glands don’t differentiate between major momentary stress, and the chronic stress that our modern lifestyle breeds.

If you constantly worry about work pressure or financial obligations, your adrenals keep sending stress hormones into your system. This not only overtaxes the adrenals, but also keeps you in a constant state of stress and diverts blood flow and energy away from other body functions, all of which can lead to a compromised immune system, digestive issues, weight gain and heart disease.

Good news! You can combat stress and give your adrenal glands a break. Yoga and meditation have long been known to reduce stress and encourage relaxation. Healthy eating and exercise can also help reduce the effects of stress. Several herbs, vitamins and nutrients have been shown to help nourish the adrenal glands— keepers of the stress hormones.

Of all the body’s organs, the adrenal glands have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C. Both the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla accumulate high levels of vitamin C, yet during times of stress urinary excretion of vitamin C increases. Animal studies show that mice lacking a key ascorbic acid transporter had lower levels of the adrenal hormone catecholamine and deficient adrenal cortical function.2

The B vitamins—including thiamin, riboflavin, niacinamide, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folic acid, biotin and B12—are known to be especially nourishing to the nervous system and are vital to the enzyme reactions that control hormone products. In a three-month, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial detailing the effects of vitamin B complex on work-related stress, participants who took a high dose vitamin B complex experienced significantly lower personal strain and a reduction in depressed mood after 12 weeks than those taking a placebo.3

Schizandra has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 2,000 years and is widely studied in Chinese and Japanese literature. As an adaptogen, schizandra enhances the body’s ability to handle stress and support hormonal balance.

Borage oil is rich in essential fatty acids, including Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), which boosts beneficial and anti- inflammatory prostaglandins. Borage oil is also believed to boost adrenaline production.

The mineral magnesium is a basic building block for the production of adrenal hormones. As the adrenal glands become overtaxed, their ability to retain magnesium decreases, and increased amounts of magnesium are secreted in the urine. Magnesium is also known as the anti- stress mineral for its role in muscle relaxation.

Check out this Adrenal Support formula by Nature's Sunshine.

  1. American Psychological Association, American Institute of Stress, NY, April 6, 2012.
  2. Patak P, et al., Vitamin C is an important cofactor for both adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla. Endocrine Research, 2004 Nov;30(4):871-5.
  3. Stough C, et al., The effect of 90-day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Human Psychopharmacology. 2011 Oct;26(7):470-6. doi: 10.1002/hup.1229. Epub 2011 Sep 8.
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