The Link Between Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

The adrenals are a key player in our stress responses, kicking into high gear when we get stressed out. To find out more about ways to support your adrenal glands, we spoke with Cari-Lynn Debie, herbalist at Mill Valley, and Paul Clark, herbalist from our Sonoma store, about the best herbs for helping to rejuvenate your adrenals.

“Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s part of the fight or flight response,” says Paul. The adrenal glands continue to produce cortisol while we’re in panic mode, which effectively puts a damper on the rest of our bodily processes, impacting all of our organ functions.

Cari-Lynn says people suffering from adrenal fatigue are usually very run down, have difficulty sleeping, wake up with panic and can be overly emotional. “I like to think of the adrenals like a bank account,” she says. “You have funds in there, but stress drains those funds, pulling from other parts of your body. Your immune system starts being affected, allergies can be heightened, it basically can impact everything.”

As we age, our ability to slow down our stress response changes. “If a child gets scolded, his cortisol will spike, but then come back down within hours,” says Paul. “For someone in their 50s, it could take days, or even weeks, to bring that back down.” Meanwhile, our adrenals are working overtime to keep the cortisol pumping.

Paul says deep sleep is the most effective remedy for banishing cortisol. “When someone isn’t sleeping well, has too many toxins in their body or has nutritional deficiencies, cortisol remains elevated,” he says.

Your body then needs help to calm the stress response and rejuvenate your adrenals. That’s where herbs called adaptogens come in. “Adaptogens are defined by their ability to help the body adapt to stress, whether environmental, physical or emotional,” says Paul. “Adrenals and adaptogens work hand in hand.”

Adaptogens like rhodiola, ashwaganda, eleuthero and holy basil can gently work together to replenish your adrenals. Both Paul and Cari-Lynn recommend Vital Nutrients Adrenal Support, which combines ashwaganda and eleuthero with a bovine-based adrenal extract that helps replace what your adrenals are missing.

Another great adaptogenic option, Vital Adapt by Natura, an herbal formula that contains eleuthero, schisandra, ginseng and ashwaganda, as well as green tea and reishi mushrooms. Cari-Lynn also recommends B vitamins, and will often suggest an individual eleuthero formula, like Gaia Herbs Eleuthero. “Rhodiola can be too much for some people, so eleuthero works well as an adaptogen that’s very mild yet very effective.”

Of course, reducing stress and sleeping better are always the best options for adrenal health. To support your adrenals in the long term, make time for yoga, meditation and breathing deeper.

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

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