The ABCs of Adrenal Health

Are you tired and sluggish? Having trouble sleeping? These are just a few symptoms of adrenal fatigue, which many of our practitioners believe can be the result of a nutrient-poor diet and high levels of stress.

Finding relief can be easier when you understand how best to nourish your adrenal glands. We asked certified herbalist and nutritionist Shizandra Fox from our Sonoma store to shed some light on this all-too-common syndrome.

What are the adrenal glands?

Sometimes called the body’s “shock absorbers,” the adrenals are two thumb-shaped glands located above your kidneys. Kicking into high gear when we feel stress, the adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones including, cortisol, norepinephrine and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?

People suffering from adrenal fatigue are usually very run down, have difficulty sleeping, wake up with panic and can be overly emotional. In addition, Shizandra often notices her customers complaining of:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Poor circulation
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain in the joints
  • Constipation
  • Compromised immune function

How does diet affect adrenal fatigue?

What you eat and drink can make a huge difference in how you feel, Shizandra says. That’s why she recommends that before you take any herb or supplement, you first clean up your diet—and keep it cleaned up. Here are a few simple ways to do that:

  • Choose fresh, whole foods, preferably organic and locally grown.
  • Include lean protein with each meal and snack to help stabilize blood sugar.
  • Try to prepare extra nutritious snacks to have on hand when you crave sugar and caffeine.

Shizandra also recommends preparing the digestive tract with a combination of probiotics, enzymes and minerals that can help boost absorption of any supplements you take for adrenal nourishment. She also suggests a morning “liver flush” of 12–16 ounces of filtered water with lemon juice, and advocates for taking a good B complex that includes pantothenic acid or B5.

What supplements can help?

First, Shizandra has customers describe their symptoms, so she can best match an herb or supplement with what they need. “If they’re feeling primarily depleted, for example, then I might suggest rhodiola to support their energy levels,” she says. “Or, if they’re really stressed out, I might suggest ashwagandha for its calming effect.”

Rhodiola, along with ashwagandha, astragalus and eleuthero are among a class of herbs called adaptogens, which are said to help you adapt to physical, emotional and environmental forms of stress.

One popular adaptogen blend Shizandra frequently recommends is MegaFood’s Adrenal Strength, which includes functional food mushrooms, along with astragalus and schisandra to help to strengthen adrenals and support immune health.

And to promote better sleep and help normalize stress-related hormones, Shizandra often suggests Gaia Herbs’ Adrenal Health, which includes a combination of ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, schisandra and wild oats. Shizandra also loves Vitanica’s Adrenal Assist, a naturopath-developed formula that supports and promotes adrenal hormone production with key nutrients and a variety of adaptogenic herbs.

Finally, because stress plays such an important role in adrenal fatigue, Shizandra tells customers to do anything they can to lower their overall stress level on a daily basis—get enough sleep, exercise regularly or breathe more deeply.

If you’re feeling run down and are wondering how to nourish your adrenals, talk with a Pharmaca practitioner today for customized solutions.

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