Episode 72 – ALL About Adrenals
As we wrap up the end of November, I’m going to be talking all things adrenal.
In this week’s episode, I go over the most important information you need to know, when it comes to avoiding burnout, recovering from exhaustion and keeping your adrenals nourished long-term.
Michelle Rogers, ND, MSAOM, FDN-P
Over the past several years, I’ve created the most accessible, streamlined and effective virtual practice working with high-achieving women entrepreneurs, go-getters, and other badass women all over the world.
I intentionally blend my background of Functional, Naturopathic, and East Asian Medicine with my extensive experience in the online business world to help provide my clients with the personalized blueprint and strategy they need to get the mental focus, energy and business strategy required to share their gifts, better serve their clients and show up even more for the people they love.
Hey there, Michelle here and today we’re diving into adrenal health – I’m going to be going over the most important information you need to know, when it comes to avoiding burnout, recovering from exhaustion and keeping your adrenals nourished long-term.
Now this is a HUGE topic – to the point where it could actually be turned into a series, so if you end up loving this episode, and you want to learn more, definitely hit me up and let me know.
So, we can’t talk about the adrenals without talking about stress. The adrenals produce our major stress hormone – cortisol.
The first important point is that not all stress is bad. We NEED stress!
It’s a matter of eustress vs distress. Eustress can actually increase overall health and performance and can actually be a result of pleasurable activities like sex and exercise, BUT prolonged or repeated stress leads to wear and tear on our body.
This long-term stress can cause issues with our reproductive health, hormone balance, insulin resistance, weight gain, energy issues, focus issues, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, thyroid issues, mood issues and a whole lot more.
So there’s a sweet spot, where we have just the right amount of stress. AND, we need to be able to snap out of that stress response to allow your body to heal.
Now our body has this beautiful stress response system called the HPA Axis or the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis – it’s this system that connects our primitive brain and fear response to our stress hormones.
And this system was adapted to equip us for a life-threatening emergency – situations and experiences that would warrant our fight-flight-or-freeze response.
BUT, the chronic psychological stress, that SO many of us experience is damaging and it’s really a relatively new invention, when you consider the grand scheme of human history.
So if you can think of a pendulum, and on the left side you have exhaustion and on the right side you have overdrive, you want to be swinging just there in the middle, so you have the capacity and reserves to respond appropriately to any stressors that you might encounter.
Unfortunately, most of the high-achievers I work with are in one of two places on that pendulum.
They’re either tilting a little to the right or a little to the left. The thing is, they tend to still feel “okay”, like they can still do all the things they need to do and make all the daily operations happen, BUT they feel like something is a little off, and it’s been hard to pinpoint exactly what that is.
So, when you’re slightly off to the right, pointing towards overdrive, you can tend to feel tired and wired, have poor concentration and decision making skills, you might reach for stimulants or have a tendency for addictions – right, self-medicating, blood sugar issues, increased appetite, anxiety and lower sex drive.
When you’re slightly off to the right, pointing towards exhaustion, you tend to have more hormonal imbalances, sleep issues, sugar cravings, dizziness when standing up, lots of allergies, food and chemical sensitivities and depression.
So, what’s the best way to really assess where you are on the curve?
My personal favorite test is the DUTCH Complete – and DUTCH stands for dried urine test for comprehensive hormones.
I really like this test, because it not only gives me the 24-hour cortisol – the main stress hormone that we measure – but it also gives me the complete hormonal cascade, which is a great test to look at when you’re evaluating adrenal function.
We won’t get into sex hormones in this episode, but if it’s something you’d like to learn more about, please let me know!
So, back to testing, I love seeing the 24-hour test, because it shows me this beautiful curve that represents your cortisol levels throughout the day – like what the actual fluctuation and output is, which can be SUPER helpful in identifying potential underlying causes of anything outside of optimal range.
For example, it can tell me a little about your blood sugar balance, whether we need to investigate food sensitivities and whether you might have a gut infection going on all depending on what time of day these levels are out of range.
The main thing to remember though, is that when you’re working with a practitioner, be sure that they are not treating the lab results but treating YOU as a whole person.
If they’re not taking everything into account – what I call the HIDDEN stressors – which stands for hormones, immune system, digestion, detoxification, energy production and nervous system, then you might need to bring that up, because it’s really only by looking at that whole picture that they’ll be able to tailor a truly holistic and individualized plan for you – one that includes personalized nutrition, rejuvenation, exercise, stress support and targeted nutrient therapy.
So, depending on where you are along that pendulum, lifestyle, nutrition and optimizing your environment are going to be your main prescription – I literally can’t emphasize this enough.
Do not downplay the power of food, water, your sleep cycle, self-care, mindset, clutter, toxins and movement (by the way, for movement, it’s really important that you’re doing the right movement for wherever you are on that curve, because you don’t want to put more strain than needed on your adrenals, especially if you’re teetering towards exhaustion), BUT seriously, getting these foundations in place will be life-changing.
However, as you’re working towards creating this awesome foundation – because it is a process, and that’s okay – there are things that you can do to help support your adrenal glands.
Adaptogens and nervines are amazing herbs that can help regulate our stress response.
If you’re teetering more towards overdrive, I’d recommend adaptogens and nervines, but if you’re teetering towards exhaustion, I’d just recommend adaptogens.
There are more and less stimulating adaptogens, so you want to know where you are on the curve, so you support and nourish your system in the very best way.
For example, if you’re hanging out more towards overdrive, your body would probably do best with calming and nourishing adaptogens like ashwagandha and medicinal mushrooms like reishi, more neutral herbs like maca and licorice and slightly stimulating herbs like holy basil.
When you’re in overdrive, your body also tends to do well with nervines, or herbs that calm the nervous system, so these are herbs like lemon balm, chamomile, lavender and passion flower.
On the other hand, if you’re hanging out closer to the exhaustion area, you would probably do best on the neutral herbs again, like maca and licorice, but you might also do well with slightly stimulating herbs like holy basil, rhodiola and eleuthero, BUT if you’re too far into the exhaustion phase, I would avoid herbs that are too stimulating – that’s like adding gas to car and pressing the accelerator when the engine itself doesn’t work. No bueno.
In this case, you’d probably want to stick to those calming and nourishing herbs that I mentioned before – things like ashwagandha and medicinal mushrooms. But it’s also SUPER important to be focusing on those lifestyle modifications that I mentioned – those will take you a long way.
Now, I get a lot of questions about glandular products, which are animal-derived substances, and to be honest, I don’t use them much, and I’ve actually seen the herbs work some serious magic, so I prefer to stick with plants and lifestyle, whenever possible.
In addition to herbs, there are definitely some nutrients that can be beneficial, as well – things like zinc, magnesium, essential fatty acids, GABA, 5-HTP and phosphatidylserine, which you can take individually or in combination. I will say that some of these, like GABA and 5-HTP, I wouldn’t necessarily go out and start self-medicating, because there can be cross-reactions with certain medications and other supplements, so just be aware of that.
Alright, so I hope that was valuable to you!
- Not all stress is bad.
- We need to step out of that stress response to allow healing to happen
- Most high-achieving women tend to be on overdrive or slipping down to exhaustion if they’ve been pushing for too long
- You need to make sure that all areas of your body and life are being addressed – don’t just treat the labs
- Lifestyle and nutrition should be your main meds
- Lastly, adaptogens, nervines and nutrients can be great companions on this journey.
Alright, so if you found this episode helpful, please share it with someone you love.
I’d really like to know what you thought, so hit me up on Instagram, send me a DM or take a screenshot of you listening and tag me @wellthywoman.co.
Otherwise, tune in next week, where I chat with the amazing Stephanie Matos all about mastering your mindset.
Chat with you next week!