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11 nutrients and herbs to fight adrenal fatigue

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A couple of weeks ago I started a series on Adrenal Fatigue. Most likely, you or someone you know is experiencing it right now. But you won’t get help from your conventional medical doctor. You need to know how it may be affecting you right now, what causes it, and how you can treat it — to get your life back.

You can catch up on what causes it, here, and the signs and tests to diagnosis it, here. But as you may know, fixing it is not as easy as just taking a prescription pill. So, we are going to get down to treatments you can enlist to feel good again.

Where to begin

To heal from adrenal fatigue it will require that you reduce or stop the repeated physical, mental or emotional stress causing this condition. This is done through a variety of ways, such as decreasing stress in your life as much as possible; learning to effectively deal with stress when it comes (i.e. learning to be at peace within you); the nutrients, herbs, and foods known to assist in healing adrenal insufficiency; possibly adrenal extract or cortisol to replace the deficiency.

When it comes to the topic of learning to effectively deal with stress, I’ll admit I can only brush the surface here. However, new information can inspire you to look further and become a serious student of the path of mind mastery. Sounds intense, but actually it will be so enjoyable to discover that you have all the power within you to keep your thoughts (and the emotions they induce) in the “vortex” of feeling good. It has been a 13 year journey for me and I love it. Live gets easier and more fun the more you know how to keep yourself in a good feeling state.

Here are some important stress reduction concepts:

  • Identify and evaluate your stressors (financial, relationship, ill health, etc.) and determine if they are worth keeping in your life or not. See my “feel good techniques” below to assist you.
  • Get more rest, literally. Go to bed by 10pm and sleep in until 8am or even 9am if needed for a while. Whether you need to put yourself into bed by 9-10pm, use a sleeping aide (natural or prescription; my favorite Rx is low dose trazodone), or handle other barriers to sleep the do it!
  • Plan and do enjoyable activities daily: reading, leisurely walk, moderate exercise (swimming, gentle bike rides, walking, yoga, stretching—avoid high adrenaline activities), massage, sex with your partner, or anything that is healing to your soul.
  • Find ways to laugh and not take the world and your worries too seriously, as all will end one day here on Earth anyway and then you get to review your life and how you have created your own happiness or not.
  • Take time to connect with others: seek the assistance of a loved one so you don’t feel so alone and vulnerable.

Feel good techniques

By feeling good, you “unlearn” your anxiety symptoms. This occurs by reducing the “fight or flight” chemicals that are generated by and manifest as stress and anxiety. It takes practice to feel good consistently:

  • Deep, slow breathing for 10 minutes while visualizing something you enjoy or that makes you happy, with no stressful distractions. Do this whenever you feel stress building up inside you as a feeling of anxiety, or other negative emotions.
  • Meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or other meditative exercises
  • Go to a practitioner of energy therapies such as Reiki, Body Talk, Quantum Touch, Emotional Clearing, Cranial Sacral Therapy, or massage therapy.
  • Find your best music and listen to it often to lift your mood and inspire your personal power. Then write how you feel (journaling) to soft music about your major concern.

Nutrition and lifestyle

Be prepared to spend a few years on the nutritional balancing/healing process. Here are some important habits to implement into your nutrition lifestyle:

Avoid: high amounts of caffeinated sodas, fresh-brewed coffee, refined sugary snacks and desserts, trans fats, refined grains and all processed food (such as breads, pastas, and rice cakes and crackers).

Eat lots of: protein and fat (animal/dairy and vegetable sources) at every meal and with snacks. Add nutrient rich foods such as dark leafy greens (5-7 servings of organic veggies daily), berries, dark chocolate, oats, and all other low sugar/starch fruits, veggies and grains (brown rice or quinoa, NOT bread!). For example, bananas, figs, raisins, potatoes and breads quickly turn into sugar in your body. Get plenty of healthy fat such as nuts, nut butter, cheese, olives, coconuts, and avocados and their oils.

Nutrients and herbs

Nutrients and herbs produce natural metabolites in your body. Therefore, they are generally much safer than prescription drugs to calm anxiety. Look at these:

  1. L-theanine is an amino acid derived from green tea (Camellia sinensis) known to reduce your emotional and physical response to stress. [1] The usual dose is 200 mg once or twice daily.
  2. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an antioxidant herb that can help reduce anxiety, panic attacks, phobia and depression. In one study, Ashwagandha for five days had anxiety-relieving effects similar to the benzodiazepine medication lorazepam and antidepressant effects similar to the antidepressant medication imipramine. [2]
  3. Siberian ginseng contains a precursor for DHEA and cortisol. Usual dosage is 100 mg twice daily and if it has an energy-boosting effect you can detect be sure to take it in the mornings.
  4. Licorice extract enhances cortisol and can normalize sodium/potassium balance (through mineralocorticoid receptors), and it can be used long-term with no adverse effects, but still should be monitored by a physician in 3 months of use.
  5. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is another useful herb. At 600 mg daily subjects improved mood and calmness in one 2004 study [3] and in another study when combined with valerian root they lowered anxiety. [4]
  6. Kava kava (Piper methysticum), valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), and passion flower (Passiflora incarnate) are relaxing, and sedating. They have GABA-like effects. Taken as pills, they are used to treat both insomnia and anxiety. Tea from chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, kava kava, passionflower, and valerian root will also calm anxiety when needed.
  7. Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is an herb that supports your ability to handle stress. A study using 300 mg daily for 12 weeks in elderly patients without dementia reduced anxiety and improved cognition. [5]
  8. Essential oils are calming [6] and they are a safe and effective: lavender, sweet marjoram, chamomile, sandalwood, ylang ylang, neroli, bergamot, frankincense or vanilla bean extract.
  9. Magnesium deficiency is a growing concern with the “SAD” standard American diet. Magnesium deficiency is a known cause of anxiety. Magnesium 500 mg daily is a safe starting dose. At higher dosages it could cause diarrhea.
  10. If you have depressed mood, consider taking 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) which is a precursor to the brain neurotransmitter Serotonin; SAMe (s-adenosyl-Methionine, an amino acid) 750 mg twice daily or St John’s wort (an herb).
  11. Vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6 and B12 help you produce more serotonin. Low vitamin B is linked to anxiety, restlessness, and emotional instability. Vitamin B complex supplementation is recommended especially if you are vegetarian.

Adrenal extract or cortisol prescription

Eventually worry and anxiety will lead to adrenal fatigue. In this case you will need adrenal extract which contains natural cortisol hormone in addition to some nutrients/herbs listed above. Adrenal extract will aim to supply a physiological replacement dose of cortisol. Adrenal extract comes as drops or “raw glandular” in capsules. You can purchase these without a prescription at a health food store or online for generally under $20.

An alternative to adrenal extract is to get your doctor to prescribe a low dose of cortisol (hydrocortisone). Hydrocortisone (Cortef®) is similar to your own body’s natural cortisol. Also, you may know that the prescription medications prednisone and methylprednisolone are the synthetic derivatives of natural cortisol and can also be used.

However, the key is to know that the dose must be much less than when used as an anti-inflammatory. For example, the dose of cortisol could be 5 mg twice daily, and the dose of prednisone could be 1-2 mg daily. Follow up with your physician to monitor cortisol levels and needed duration of therapy. If taken too long or a dose too high you can develop cortisol excess syndrome (weight gain, “moon face,” thinning skin, “buffalo hump,” or constant overexcitement).

Additionally, in low physiologic doses cortisone improves thyroid function (and as function improves, you may need to increase thyroid replacement as it is being utilized more) and also enhances your immune system, with no untoward side effects. William McKendree Jefferies, M.D. from Harvard published the definitive work on this entitled, Safe Uses of Cortisol [7] and Dr. Broda Barnes as well as the Hertoghe family of medical doctor endocrinologists in Belgium have confirmed his findings through their extensive experience.

Also, as long as you don’t have either adrenogenital syndrome or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) it is advised to supplement with DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). You can purchase it online or at a health food store. This helps off-set the effect of cortisol supplementation on the adrenal gland to keep its activity in balance. DHEA is the precursor hormone to Testosterone and the Estrogens in the adrenal gland. Plus, Progesterone and other important hormones are produced in your adrenal glands.

To feeling good for optimal health,

Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options

[1] Kimura, Kenta; Ozeki, Makoto; Juneja, Lekh Raj; Ohira, Hideki (2007). “L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses”. Biological Psychology 74 (1): 39–45.
[2] Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine. 2000 Dec;7(6):463-9.
[3] Kennedy DO, et al. Attenuation of laboratory induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). 2004. Psychosomatic Medicine. 66:607-613.
[4] Kennedy DO, et al. Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis during laboratory induced stress. Phytotherapy Research. 2006 (20):96-102.
[5] Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, Kraemer D, Bone K, Oken B. Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J. Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jul;14(6):707-13.
[6] Mi-Yeon Cho, Eun Sil Min, Myung-Haeng Hur, Myeong Soo Lee. Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs, and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 381381. Published online 2013 February 17 at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3588400/
[7] Safe Uses of Cortisol by William McK Jefferies and Charles C. Thomas. Springfield, Illinois, 2004.

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