What are the Adrenal Glands?
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys. Part of the endocrine system, the adrenal glands are responsible for the production for a variety of hormones. Most relevant to the discussion of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is the hormone cortisol, produced in times of stress and emergencies. This is our “fight or flight” response, that in our distant past, allowed us to escape dinosaurs and other dangers. What cortisol production does is convert fat and proteins into usable energy (so we can run), keep us responsive and alert, re-adjust our heartbeat and blood pressure, and protect against inflammation. During times of distress, the results of high cortisol levels help increase our chances of survival.
In our modern day world, most of us don’t face high risks of mortality in our sedentary lifestyle. However, most of us do have continuous stress, leaving us in a constant state of “fight or flight”.
Cortisol naturally peaks early morning (around 8am) to get our body up, prepped for the new day but consistent stress elevates cortisol sporadically throughout the day. As a result, our body is thrown off balance. We no longer rise with the sun and sleep with sunset, allowing our body its natural rhythm. Many people also sleep very little, which isn’t ample time for cortisol to drop, which it does do approximately three to five hours after we drift off to sleep.
This burning-the-candle-at-both-ends lifestyle is worsened by a common habit of fueling with caffeine and sugar. Repeated spikes in sugar put stress on our adrenal glands which are responsible for blood sugar regulation. Our body’s natural rhythms become out of whack and we can become “tired but wired” as termed by Nutritionist and Naturopath Olwen Anderson. This is when we are physically exhausted but our mind cannot shut down. Insomnia leaves us drained (and edgy) the next day and the cycle continues. When our natural rhythms and internal clock are disrupted, depression, anxiety, and even a suppressed immune system can result.
Studies show that high levels of cortisol in the long run are harmful. Immunity lowers, endocrine function is disrupted, digestion, metabolism, and mental function are impaired, and even cell regeneration declines. At some point, alternative practitioners say cortisol production slows as the adrenal glands are overworked. The body is then less able to deal with stress, even what would have been minor events or triggers before. A report from the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre at the Louisiana State University shows that “unrelenting stress” can lead to decreased cortisol production.
There is no doubt that stress can throw us off balance. Our organs are not immune to stress and dysfunction can set in when we don’t alter unhealthy lifestyle patterns or adopt constructive stress-management skills. Everyone has a different level of threshold for stress which includes deadlines, personal loss, but even the “good stuff” like promotion, marriage, and the birth of a child. Stress is anything our body has to adapt to and it can be internal or external.
So is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome Fact or Fiction?
While conventional medical tests cannot confirm its existence, we cannot ignore the symptoms associated with Adrenal Fatigue experienced by so many people.
Extreme fatigue, inability to cope, brain fog, sleep that doesn’t refresh, slow to heal and recover, “tired but wired” – symptoms that can also be seen with thyroid imbalance or other more serious medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome which incidentally was only recognized after many years of controversy and debate. Because of the commonality in symtoms, it is important to rule out those conditions requiring immediate attention.
In Nutripuncture, the Adrenal Glands (09) meridian is very important and is called The Source as it connects us to genetic information. Along with Lymphatics (15), Adrenal Glands (09) is seen as one of the most important secondary meridians. As in TCM, Nutripuncture views the Adrenals Glands (09) as the source energy or the pre-natal-ancestral energy called Jing in TCM. This is an energy that is not replenished through food. Like a flowing river, once depleted, it cannot be restored.
It is very important to nourish and activate the Adrenal Glands (09) meridian. As it is a secondary meridian in the Kidneys (22) – Bladder (31) Meridian Family which is most sensitive now, this time is an especially good opportunity to work on and support your adrenals and energy source.
About the Author :
Sandra Shih Tonkinson is an alternative health practitioner based in Singapore. She writes regularly for wellness centres as well as for her own practice Jupiter Circles. She is also the Editor of What Therapy, a Singapore-based alternative, complementary, and holistic wellness portal.