Blood Sugar and Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue and diabetes often go hand in hand, impacting the body’s ability to handle stress and maintain healthy blood sugar levels, among their many other regulatory functions. If you already have diabetes or think you might be headed there, it’s important to become aware of these glands, their role, and how they (and you) can become exhausted from outside stress, poor diet/nutrition and especially caffeine.
The adrenals are two small glands located above each kidney that produce hormones such as norepinephrine (adrenaline), DHEA and cortisol to help you handle physical, emotional and psychological stress.
Adrenaline is released to help you in stressful situations in which a burst of energy is required to help sustain you. DHEA gets converted into estrogen, testosterone and other steroid hormones, slowing in production as we age. Cortisol contributes to a strong immune system, balances blood sugar and regulates blood pressure. Low levels of DHEA and high levels of cortisol, brought on my stress, can contribute to a number of health problems such as heart disease, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, premature aging and diabetes. Hormonal imbalances directly impact the body’s production and processing of insulin, ability to burn glucose and increase insulin resistance. They also contribute to weight gain and vulnerability to bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.
Although excessive stress is the ultimate cause of adrenal fatigue, a high sugar diet, caffeine and smoking can all contribute to their exhaustion. In relation to stimulants, the adrenal glands are forced to work harder to produce more adrenaline, putting the body into a "fight or flight" response, which over time can completely drain them and impair their ability to do their job.
Some additional symptoms of adrenal exhaustion include persistent fatigue, sleep problems, dark circles under the eyes, excessive perspiration, blood sugar swings, depression/anxiety, weight gain, digestive problems, mood swings, sweet cravings, lack of libido, compromised immune system and a decreased tolerance to stress.
So what can you do to strengthen your adrenal glands? Here are five suggestions that will not only benefit your adrenals but your overall health as well.
Reduce/eliminate caffeine consumption. Drinking just two coffee mugs per day (24-26 ounces) is classified as an addiction and will aggravate the adrenals.
Eliminate sugar and processed carbohydrates. Focus on a low-glycolic diet that consists of whole foods such as organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. If you eat meat, make sure to choose the cleanest available sources.
Practice stress-relieving techniques such as breathing, meditation and yoga. Spiritual reading and education is also extremely helpful for addressing the deeper root cause of stress and dissatisfaction.
Get plenty of rest. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. With adrenal fatigue, your needs will be closer to 9 initially. Find out what works for you and make your sleep a priority.
Supplement your diet with some strength building herbs and vitamins such as ginseng, Vitamin B Complex and an adrenal glandular.
Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug by Stephen Chimske.
Could it be Adrenal Fatigue? by Institute of Integrative Nutrition
Sydrome X by Jack Challem, Burton Berkson, M.D. and Melissa Diane Smith
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.