Adrenals

Essential oils and Stress/Adrenals for Living Healthy Series
By Dr. Stewart Gillespie*, Osteopath, Functional Medicine, Clinical Nutritionist, Medical Intuitive

This is probably the most important article I have written to date.

Your adrenal glands, sit right on top of the kidneys, hence their name. They are each no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape, yet are responsible for one of the most important functions in your body: managing your stress. Who does not have stress? It presents physically with pain and fatigue, emotionally with life problems, and environmentally in the form of toxins or allergies and food sensitivities. When stressed these glands often refer pain to the back, or the inside of your knees, and even give you that feeling of a “knot within your stomach.”

When your adrenal glands are overtaxed, a condition known as adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion sets in, which in turn can set a cascade of disease processes into motion. There are several tell-tale signs of adrenal burnout. One of the most common is inflammation anywhere in the body. This may manifest as inflammation of the gut as in ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease; of the skin as in Rosacea, hives or eczema; the joints and sinus as  arthritis and sinusitis respectively; also fibromyalgia the unknown process of pain throughout the body, with no trauma, and no evidence on xrays or MRIs. Quite often we look at where the pain presents rather than where the problem is coming from.

Other signs are the feeling of chronic fatigued,   problems brought on after an incredibly stressful time both physically and emotionally, low estrogen, thyroid problems, low testosterone(low sex drive), muscle loss, chronic digestion problems, poor immune function, asthma.  Often conventional medicine only treats disease or the “presenting problem” or symptom. For example your blood work might show low estrogen, so the conventional answer might be to give estrogen in the form of hormonal replacement without really investigating why your estrogen is low in the first place. There may be many reasons, and primarily it is from the adrenal gland that actually produces estrogen along with a host of other hormones essential for health.

Typically a person cannot lose weight no matter how clean their diet or how much they exercise. Quite often increasing the amount they exercise actually makes you worse, gain weight around the belly button, and muscle loss in the arms and legs. Please, stop exercising so much; do not get frustrated, this is not your fault, but a hormonal problem caused by adrenal fatigue.

As you can see the adrenals are the foundation to health of almost every single system in the body, but are not tested for in conventional medicine and go untreated for many years and therefore in a bad way when finally diagnosed.

It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of adults experience adrenal fatigue during their lifetimes, yet it remains one of the most under-diagnosed illnesses in the world. The reason that it is undiagnosed is because regular blood screens like a CBC do not test for adrenal gland dysfunction. The best way to test adrenal dysfunction is through saliva or urine samples.

I am an expert in Functional Medicine which integrates scientific testing with natural health solution, including diet, lifestyle changes, nutrition and essential oils to heal your adrenals and restore their normal function.

Unfortunately, while many conventional health practitioners have started testing adrenal function, many are still unaware of the protocols for solving adrenal dysfunction. I am passionate about getting the message out that such protocols do exist, and are profoundly effective—capable of restoring health in most individuals in as little as six to 12 months.

The basis of adrenal fatigue or burnout is stress, which over time can tax your adrenal glands to the point of causing other health problems, such as:

Sleep disorders

Weight gain

Fatigue

Depression

The precipitating event for most people is a period of intense emotional stress. Approximately 95 percent of my patients report having experienced major emotional or physical stress around the time their health began to falter. For example, divorce, a severe infection, thyroid problems after pregnancy, post-surgery, post corticosteroid shots, severe injury.

How to Test Your Adrenal Function

Conventionally, you’d see an endocrinologist who would evaluate your adrenal glands, or perhaps a doctor of internal medicine. Unfortunately, they tend to primarily test for specific diseases like Addison’s disease or Cushing’s disease, both of which are relatively rare.

In the conventional medical context, when they think about the adrenal glands, they really only think about these extreme medical conditions that are not going to be what most suffer from. They do a conventional medical test to determine whether you have one of these rare endocrine disorders or not.

In the conventional medical world, they’re really not aware of the kinds of lab tests called a functional adrenal stress profile. It means that we’re not worried about the disease processes as an endocrinologist would be, but we’re really looking at functional problems.

Those are problems that are not going to send people to the hospital, but are more of disrupting your day-to-day life. These would be fatigue, depression, problems with weight gain, and problems with sleep.

Those types of issues – the functional adrenal problems – that aren’t severe disease processes, are determined better by either salivary testing, or some doctors who also use urine samples.”

Functional Medicine calls for testing your adrenal function by taking four saliva (or urine) samples over the course of a day. These map out your circadian rhythm, showing how your cortisol levels rise and fall throughout your day. Saliva is collected at approximately four-hour intervals: first thing in the morning upon waking, then at noon, late afternoon, and again at night before going to bed.

What we find is that if we just restore what’s missing in the person for a period of six months or maybe at the most 12 months, the adrenal glands and the internal production of these hormones comes back. So, we’re actually restoring the normal production of these hormones in the body. The treatments, therefore, are relatively short-term: six months to a year. The only way we’ve found to do this real repair process is to use these really low dosages of DHEA and pregnenolone over a period of time. DHEA and Pregnelonone are both adrenal hormones that are very important precursors to essential hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline. Under stress your body converts pregnelonone into cortisol at the expense of estrogen progesterone and testosterone, which is why you test low for these hormones. But rather than exogenous hormone replacement of these hormones that have had reported side effects of cancer and stroke, let’s get to underlying cause and support  the adrenal gland in order to stimulate our own endogenous production of these hormones. Much safer too!

Another helpful test that can be used is hair analysis. A nutritionist friend of mine has been using this for many years. According to the theory on hair analysis, the ratio of certain minerals can also be strongly suggestive of adrenal function, specifically the sodium to magnesium ratio.

This makes sense as your adrenal glands control so many different body functions, some of which involve minerals. Calcium and magnesium can have an impact on your adrenal function as stress tends to make your body use these minerals up at a higher rate, for example. This is also true for sodium and potassium.

These are like general indicators of how much stress a person is under, which is a great “screening tool.” And then you can get more specific with the four-times-a-day testing, so you can see exactly what’s happening on a given day.

The Three Stages of Adrenal Burnout

Adrenal issues are divided into three general categories. In a stage one pattern, your cortisol levels are very high, and you’re under a lot of stress. But it’s usually an enjoyable type of stress. Perhaps you’re a student or a new parent, which is stressful, yet you’re enjoying yourself and you feel more charged and alive than anything else. You need that excitement. Your body requires it. It’s somewhat like exercise. But the key is to have the adaptability and the resiliency to absorb that stress, enjoy it, benefit from it, and then dissipate it.

If you don’t sufficiently rest and recharge, your adrenals will get overtaxed, causing your cortisol levels to drop, and this is where most people notice there’s a problem.
If you stay in this high-cortisol state for long enough – at stage one – you eventually go to stage two which means that the cortisol levels are now starting to fail. This is when people start to gain weight. This is when people start to not be able to sleep. This is when your sex drive starts to go away. This is when people just know that there’s some health problem.

If you stay at stage two long enough and you fail to change your lifestyle to address your failing adrenals such as not eating right, not resting, and not exercising, you eventually enter stage three. Here, your adrenals are actually burned out and your cortisol levels are low all the time, causing you to feel chronically fatigued and unable to recover your energy despite resting.

Think about cortisol like units of energy. In the morning, you’re supposed to wake up with around 20 units of energy. When you go to bed, it should be down around two. That normal fall of cortisol is what creates that feeling of a “normal” day that ends restfully. But many are waking up with reduced cortisol levels, which translate to feeling exhausted despite having just slept. And many are going to bed with dramatically elevated cortisol levels, making it virtually impossible to shut down your brain and fall asleep.
This natural rhythm you’re hardwired for is based on your exposure to light and day. When the sun comes up, cortisol goes up. When the sun is down, cortisol is low… You pretty much have to fall in line with this rhythm in order to be healthy… Now, when we do the labs, we’re analyzing where you’re at and then restoring you back to this normal rhythm. That’s the point of the testing.

There are three main reasons for adrenal fatigue and dysfunction:

1. Emotional stress, typically related to grief or loss

2. Poor diet: Eating too many carbs can disrupt cortisol and a certain group of corticosteroids (a blood pressure-stabilizing hormone), and the Standard American Diet is a perfect recipe for destroying your adrenal glands. One of the most important things that cortisol does is regulating secretory IgA in your gut. What this means is that the immune response in your gut is controlled by cortisol. Hence, if you’re stressed, the immune response in your gut suffers, the gut tissue becomes damaged, and good bacteria give way to bad bacteria, causing immune dysregulation that is centered in and around your gut.
Two important components to address this problem are to 1) regularly eat fermented foods, which will dramatically increase the beneficial bacteria in your body (which automatically will help decrease pathogenic bacteria), and 2) to eat a diet low in sugars and carbs, as that will also promote a healthy gut flora.

3. Chronic inflammation in your body: Inflammation is the hallmark of virtually every disease you can think of, from diabetes to cancer, and when chronic, it stresses your system, including your adrenals.

One little-known strategy to counter inflammation is grounding or earthing, which requires nothing more than taking off your shoes and walking barefoot outside, ideally on dewy grass or on the beach. Connecting your soles to the earth will massively increase the influx of free electrons into your body, which helps dissipate inflammation due to their potent anti-inflammatory action.
Another common hormonal cause of adrenal fatigue is hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. Thyroid function is diagnosed by a blood test, but there’s some controversy over what is normal and what’s not. Many alternative doctors feel the conventional reference ranges are far too broad, and opt to treat people exhibiting sub-clinical thyroid symptoms. (see my article http://alchemistoils.com/dr-gillespie/dr-gillespie-on-inflammation)

What’s interesting about the thyroid and the adrenals is that as the cortisol levels go up, one of the normal body mechanisms is to down regulate or switch off the thyroid.

This is why we typically see thyroid type symptoms after stressful occurrences. I often see this in practice after women giving birth, fatigue, depression, hair loss are common post partum, in fact post partum thyroiditis is now a named condition. As there are no direct adrenal markers on a regular blood screen, the thyroid is often seen as a cause of this, when in fact it is the symptom of the stress caused by carrying a baby for 9 months.  So, most everybody with high cortisol is going to have lower than ideal thyroid hormone levels. At that point, it becomes a decision as to if you want to work on the adrenals, work on thyroid or work on both together…

More than 90 percent of the time, the adrenal program is enough to restore thyroid function. The biggest reason [for doing] the adrenals first is that when you start taking thyroid hormones your internal production of thyroid hormones drop. With the adrenal glands, it’s the opposite. When you start to take these adrenal-support products, your internal production of adrenal hormones comes back. If you can restore adrenal function, you can save the person from having to be on thyroid medications potentially for the rest of their life.

So this is a lengthy article, but I hope I have shown you the importance of treating underlying causes  rather than symptoms, and the biggest underlying cause of most chronic disease is stress or adrenal fatigue.

Here are my favorite oils to support the adrenals

Adrenals: Apply 2-3 drops on adrenals and back of the neck (occiput, to be absorbed by Medula Oblangata) at least twice a day

Red Dragon: Apply 2 drops on adrenals in the morning and around lunch time.

Immune up Apply 2-3 drops on wrists or belly bottom at least twice a day

Black Spruce: 2-3 drops on adrenals anytime.

Stress out:  Apply 2-3 drops on wrists at bed time if sleep is an issue

Eucalyptus: 3 drops on the bottom of feet when you have an asthma attack.

*So if you would like to know more about testing please email me at drstewartg@gmail.com, visit my website at  fabinforty.com