Stress depletes both our energy and our health. In today’s society we are inundated with stress that doesn’t let up. Chronic stress repeatedly forces the adrenal glands to sustain high levels of cortisol. This disrupts hormone balance because cortisol is made from DHEA, which is also required to make estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Overworked adrenals lose the capacity to produce sufficient DHEA, which disrupts hormone balance throughout the body. Insufficient DHEA contributes to fatigue, bone and muscle loss, depression, aching joints, decreased sex drive, and impaired immune function.

High cortisol levels also damage healthy tissue. Eventually, adrenal fatigue sets in, and many experience symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, fuzzy thinking, depression, cravings and mood swings. Once the adrenals become depleted, it can lead to adrenal exhaustion.

In doing saliva testing, I have found that only 1% of the people we test have normal cortisol levels indicating healthy adrenal function. This means 99% are suffering from impaired function, ranging from significant adrenal stress to complete adrenal exhaustion.

In the early stages of adrenal dysfunction, cortisol levels are too high during the day and continue rising in the evening. This is called “hyperadrenia.” In the middle stages, cortisol may rise and fall unevenly as the body struggles to balance itself despite the disruptions of caffeine, carbohydrates and other factors, but levels are not normal and are typically too high at night. In advanced stages, when the adrenals are exhausted from overwork, cortisol will never reach normal levels, “hypoadrenia”.

Conventional medicine will detect only the extremes of these conditions, when damage to the adrenals has already occurred (Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease). Within those extremes, you can feel miserable and still be told your cortisol levels are normal. But by responding to early-stage symptoms of adrenal fatigue, we can reverse the developing dysfunction.

Some indications of adrenal insufficiency include lagging energy during the day, feeling emotionally unbalanced much of the time, sleeping poorly or sleeping less than seven hours a night, inability to lose excess weight while dieting or frequent need to use caffeine or carbohydrates as “pick-me-ups.” If you have some of these red flags you should probably do a hormone test to see how it is really affecting you.

You can also take general steps to support your adrenals. First, reduce intake of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar. Stop using stimulants like coffee and cola drinks. Add essential fatty acids like Omega 3 or Super GLA to your program to help with hormone combustion.

Find ways to handle or reduce stress by using adaptagens like Suma Combination or AdaptaMax, Adrenal Support, Nutri-Calm or B-Complex. I tend to leave people on Adrenal Support for longer periods of time when they exhibit high cortisol and continue to have a lot of stress in their lives.

Find a way to make time for yourself with regular exercise, tai chi, a yoga class or something similar. O Blood types tend to like more physical exercise to remove stress, where A Blood Types do better with yoga. B’s like peaceful movement such as Tai Chi or pilates. AB’s do well with all the calming movements that incorporate more breathing techniques.

Find time to get more rest. It is okay to take a nap during the day if you have that time.

When cortisol levels are up, the body usually has an inflammatory response. This will create more acid in the system. Alkalizing your body will help reduce stress. You can also use things to combat inflammation. I often use IF Relief, Nature’s Cortisol and chlorophyll caps together for extreme and continual stress. Don’t use Nature’s Cortisol when the cortisol levels aren’t low all day long, it will increase fatigue.

I also use Energ-V as an adaptagen when there are low cortisol levels. When you are in the throws of adrenal fatigue, you may need DHEA-F or DHEA-M or even a compounded DHEA to support adrenal function. Licorice and eleuthero can also be helpful.

It’s important to emphasize the role of emotional factors. Guilt, pain from past hurts, self-destructive habits, unresolved relationship problems, and your past and present emotional experience may serve as an ever-present source of stress. Dealing with these problems directly is much more beneficial than trying to compensate for the stress they create. Prevention makes a difference.