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It's Not Me: It's My Adrenals! How Your Adrenals Govern Your Vitality

[caption id="attachment_1597" align="alignleft" width="166"] Here's where your adrenals live, in the back body, above the kidneys[/caption] Do you wilt in the face of stress? Feel more anxious when you have to step up your game? Think you might be burned out? It may not be you – it may be your hormones. Sprecifically, your stress hormones. Figure this out now, before you hit menopause, and your forties will be so very much easier. And, believe me, I speak from personal and professional experience. Do you know if you have a problem with your adrenal function? Our adrenals sit like hats on top of our kidneys, and while they are small in stature, they are enormously influential in terms of your capacity to cope with stress. What surprises me constantly is the number of empowered women I meet daily - entrepreneurs, lawyers, overeducated women with exciting lives who know their metrics inside and out from 401K to current home value - yet they have no idea what their adrenal numbers are. Some of us, myself included, spend too much time in fight/flight/collapse in response to daily stressors. Over time, this ongoing state of hypervigiliance takes a toll – the cells of your adrenals can’t keep up with the overtime and burn out. How do you know if this has happened to you? Two options: take a questionnaire or test your levels of the hormones your adrenals make, namely cortisol and DHEAS. Cortisol is like a General, in command of the army that is your body. Cortisol has its hands in many things – it controls how you use fuel, how much energy you have at your disposal, how you respond to a crisis, how you digest food, and whether to store the bread you just ate around your mid-section. DHEAS is a hormone of vitality – it is a pre-hormone to testosterone, and contributes significantly to sex drive. You can have either too much of these two hormones (stage 1) or not enough (stage 2) or adrenal failure (stage 3), a life-threatening emergency. I’m an organic gynecologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and adrenal dysregulation is the most common hormone problem I see. Typically, my patients report poor stress resilience, difficulty functioning well under stress or even to react to them, sometimes even bordering on paralysis, which is totally new (and often has an onset in perimenopause, that time in your forties when your periods start to get closer together and PMS reaches new heights). Adrenal dysregulation manifests differently in different people – sometimes it feels more like excessive sensitivity to human suffering, or excessive compassion for the pain of other people, or even excessive irritation at the suffering of others. Both cortisol and DHEA influence other hormones too, and some you may know about. Excess cortisol inhibits thyroid, estrogen, melatonin, and growth hormone. Excess DHEA inhibits cortisol and stimulates testosterone. Clearly, one has to juggle many hormones to feel most vital. What do you do if you think you might have a problem with adrenal function, either too much or too little? I advise going to your doctor and asking for a blood test. See where you are right now, as a baseline. Know your adrenals at least as well as your 401K. Get as empowered about your health as you are in other realms of your life. There are numerous therapies for wonky adrenals, and many of them have been tested with the tincture of time in ancient wisdom traditions such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Examples include botanicals such as Ashwagandha and Ginseng. BUT. I like to start with nutrition, Whole Foods Nutrition. And boundaries. Folks with high cortisol tend to crave carbohydrates, the refined type. Sugar, chocolate, pastries, any flour-sugar combination, really. We must change that. Pronto. I’m a fan of several food plans, depending on your particular circumstances. Generally, I find the Paleolithic diet, based on fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish, is best at optimizing adrenal function. Limited, sprouted grains. I also recommend removing refined or processed carbohydrates, particularly breads, cereals, pasta, and baked goods. Particularly good for your best adrenal function are lean proteins, and healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil. Want to take your adrenals to the next level? Reset the mother ship toward True North and vitality? Sign up right here to learn more about how to do it -- I did 2 webinars (I call them "webjams") over the past week on the topic. Register and I'll send you the replay! You’ve got questions? I’ve got answers. Proven, safe answers (finally, whew!). Let me know your questions in the comments section. Tell me where you are with your adrenal function, and what outcome you desire. How do you want to respond to stress? xo Dr. Sara PS: Quick! Before ADD gets the best of you! Register for my webjam!


Sharon Burress replied on Dec 29, 2015

Why do you specify lean meat? My understanding from studying many different sources in books and online is that many curative properties are ours when eating the fat and organs of wild or pastured animals.

Kellyann replied on Dec 29, 2015

Hi Sara,
I am 39 and having patches of hair loss on the sides of my temple and the top above my hairline. My doctor said it has nothing to do with my diet (my first thought) and he said it will just grow back-not to worry about it not even oking blood work. My own research suggests it being alopieia…
I’m wondering though if it’s possibly adrenal/hormones due to my age?
Thanks so much;-)

MIchelle replied on Dec 29, 2015

What about if one is diagnosed with Addison’s….?

Katie Petoia replied on Dec 29, 2015

I listened to your EneryJam and you talked about too much cortisol. I have the opposite problem…too little cortisol. Are the treatments the same? Do you ever prescribe Hydrocortisone for your patients?

Colleen Funderburk replied on Dec 29, 2015

Hello Dr. Sara
I am a single mom and I have a child with ADHD who stresses me out a lot. He is very defiant and I find myself being less tolerable the older I get. I just turned 40 last year and I also don’t tolerate noise very well. When my children are at school, I feel very relaxed but when they come home, I feel stressed again. Sometimes I feel dizzy or light headed even though I eat well and my pulse starts to become more rapid. I love my kids and would like to know is this a hormonal problem I have or am I just naturally nervous? I don’t do well with quiet music or yoga. I prefer just to be alone in a quiet place. I have a garden where I usually sit and relax in but I would like to know how can I relax more when my children come home? Please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thanks.

Pixie replied on Dec 29, 2015

I’m a vegan – who has given up flour products since last fall and eat only whole grains when I do partake of grain products – no wheat, as it causes inflammation in my joints. I eat a lot of raw fruits, veggies and nuts, and some cooked veggies, beans, and tofu. I use coconut and olive oils. I haven’t completely given up sweets, but they are homemade using honey, stevia, and occasionally evaporated cane juice crystals. I try to use smoothies for my sweet fixes. I’m 48. I’m about 30-40 lbs. overweight. And I am always tired. I got some kind of bug in January that left me with a low-grade temp for 2 weeks and weakness for longer. I’ve not felt strong since that time. Just when I start to think I’m regaining my energy, it seems I get slapped back down. I tend to be an easily-stressed-out woman – finding myself tense and tight for NOTHING. Does this sound like adrenal issues?

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