If you struggle with chronic exhaustion, insomnia, poor immunity, and persistent low blood sugar symptoms, you likely have poor function of the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys and secrete stress hormones. However, your conventional doctor may have told you there is no such thing as adrenal fatigue based on guidance from The Hormone Foundation. What they may not understand is that there is a continuum of adrenal function and that the brain plays a role in adrenal fatigue.
The debate about adrenal fatigue versus primary adrenal insufficiency
The term “adrenal fatigue” has become a household word in the chronic illness world, and for good reason. The adrenal glands are our frontline against stressors large and small. In our constantly chaotic and nutritionally-depleted lives, these hard-working little glands can become worn down, sometimes to the point of barely working, right along with the areas of the brain that govern them.
What’s confusing is a recent statement by The Hormone Foundation which claimed adrenal fatigue does not exist and is not supported by any scientific facts, and that primary adrenal insufficiency is the only real version of adrenal dysfunction.
However, according to integrative physician Richard Shames, MD, both adrenal fatigue and primary adrenal insufficiency exist along the same continuum but are separated by the severity of symptoms and treatment methods. In a nutshell, adrenal fatigue can also be referred to as mild adrenal sufficiency.
If you really want to know about your adrenal health, schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consultation with Dr. Celaya.
Primary adrenal insufficiency is caused by damage to the adrenal glands, such as by an autoimmune condition like Addison’s disease that attacks and destroys adrenal tissue. Primary adrenal insufficiency is diagnosed through blood tests and can be treated with medications that replace adrenal hormones.
Symptoms of primary adrenal insufficiency include:
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite with weight loss
- Craving salty foods
- Dizziness, low blood pressure
- Feeling lightheaded when standing up
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort
Adrenal fatigue describes when lab tests don’t support a diagnosis of primary adrenal insufficiency but a person still experiences adrenal-related symptoms such as:
- Excessive fatigue and exhaustion
- Non-refreshing sleep
- Feeling overwhelmed by or unable to cope with stress
- Craving salty foods
- Difficulty concentrating
- Brain fog
- Poor digestion
Functional medicine practitioners diagnose adrenal fatigue by considering symptoms as well as results from a 24-hour saliva cortisol test.
Current blood tests are good at diagnosing severe forms of adrenal insufficiency such as Addison’s disease but not mild adrenal insufficiency, or adrenal fatigue.
This debate between adrenal fatigue and primary adrenal insufficiency is reminiscent of the former debates about “mild” hypothyroidism. Twenty years ago, many endocrinologists denied mild hypothyroidism as a true diagnosis because they believed that as long as a patient was within conventional TSH reference ranges they could not possibly be sick.
However, doctors trained in functional medicine recognize that a functional reference range — a narrower TSH range that reflects optimum thyroid health — means that a serious thyroid problem can exist within the conventional TSH range.
As testing and recognition of adrenal fatigue, which affects many people, continues to gain medical acceptance, we will start to refer to it as mild adrenal insufficiency.
The role of the brain in adrenal fatigue
It’s important to understand the brain plays an important role in adrenal fatigue. This explains why nutrients to support your adrenal glands may not go the full mile when the real problem is happening between your ears.
Adrenal fatigue has at its roots poor function of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis refers to the feedback loop between your body and areas of your brain that govern adrenal function. Unrelenting stress beats up this entire system, not just the adrenal glands, and it is more complicated and involved that simply low cortisol. The problem is compounded by the brain’s predilection for efficiency, in this case becoming so efficient at stress until the tiniest thing triggers a big stress response. Or, you are so advanced you are too tired to respond to anything.
How the adrenals become fatigued
When our bodies experience stress, no matter how small or large, our adrenals pump out hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to help us fight or take flight. Our bodies are designed to return to baseline after a stressor so the nervous system can return to a “rest and digest” state necessary for daily function.
However, in our chronically stressed modern lifestyles, our bodies are constantly reacting to stressors, many we are not even aware of, such as dietary triggers, toxins, and even electromagnetic frequencies.
This constant state of high-stress hormones damages tissues in the body and brain and is linked to:
- Suppressed immunity
- Low energy
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Increased belly fat
Removing all stressors in life is impossible, but there is much we can do to support adrenal function and buffer the damage of stress.
Adrenal adaptogens and phosphatidylserine are two natural routes that especially support the HPA axis and the brain’s ability to handle stress.
There are so many issues related to adrenal problems. To get to the root cause of your problems, schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consultation with Dr. Celaya.
While the eight-to-five workday may suit a man’s physiology, female researchers are finding women can capitalize on periods of heightened creativity, productivity, enhanced communication, and reflection depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle. We tend to think of female hormonal cycles as problematic or negative, but the truth is they can facilitate different aspects of productivity once you learn how to use them to your advantage.
Understanding your hormonal cycles of productivity can help you learn the best time to launch or finish a project, brainstorm a creative endeavor, meet with a boss or coworkers, or step back and reflect on operations.
Looking at a functional medicine view of female hormones — aiming for optimal functional and balance instead of just focusing on when things go wrong —can help you plot your course through each work week. Women can look at their cycles as offering four different periods of enhanced performance, with day 1 representing the first day of your period:
Days 1-5, Intuition and Reflection: During your period, your left and right brains are communicating more efficiently, allowing you to better access intuition, analytical thinking, and long-range visionary thinking. This is the time to reflect on past and future endeavors, re-evaluate whether your course aligns with your vision, and consider which relationships need attention.
Days 6-14, Creativity: During the follicular phase, which actually begins day 1, estrogen is increasing and you are at your creative peak. This is a good time to start new projects, plan, strategize, and brainstorm.
Days 15-17, Communication: During the ovulation phase your communication skills and magnetisms are at their height. This is a great time for negotiations, meetings, and pitches.
Days 18-28, Power: During the luteal phase you are primed to power through project completion, take care of all those administrative tasks, and follow up on meetings.
When your hormones are out of balance
Unfortunately, thanks to stress, unhealthy diets, environmental toxins, and other facets of modern life, it’s easy for your cycles to become unbalanced.
One of the most common causes of hormonal imbalances in women is chronic stress and poor blood sugar balance (another form of stress).
Eating a high-carb diet of pastas, breads, and other processed carbohydrates, eating too many sweets, drinking too many sweetened coffee drinks, not sleeping enough, being too stressed out, not getting enough physical exercise — all these things can drive both estrogen and progesterone out of whack and give you miserable hormonal symptoms.
PMS, irregular periods, infertility, hair loss, overly heavy periods, and other symptoms of hormonal imbalance are signs you need to bring your diet and lifestyle habits more in line with nature’s design.
Through functional medicine protocols of anti-inflammatory diets, blood sugar balancing, gut healing and repair, liver support and detoxification, and stress-reduction, our office can help you better balance your hormones so you can function at your best.
Do you know those irritable people that always seem angry or depressed, sensitive to emotion, live in constant chaos, or seem perpetually stuck in unfavorable situations? Sometimes, this is just a byproduct of poor brain function. Of course, naturally optimistic people can suffer from poor brain function too—symptoms may consist of memory loss, brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
All of these feelings—and others—can trigger symptoms in the gut. This gut-brain connection operates as a bi-directional system; therefore, a person’s gut inflammation or distress can be the cause or byproduct of stress, anxiety, or depression.
This is particularly true in circumstances when a person experiences gastrointestinal (GI) upset without a physical cause. For such functional GI disorders, it is a challenge to heal the gut without first looking at the connection between the gut and brain and considering the effects of stress and emotion.
One of the most significant things to understand is the intimate link between the gut and the brain. We have several receptors that fire into the brain, such as for sensation, sound, temperature, balance, etc. These signals stimulate the brain to relay information into the brainstem of the central nervous system (CNS), which is the area of the brain that keeps the heart beating, lungs functioning, and gut moving.
The wall of the digestive system is innervated by the CNS and the enteric nervous system (ENS)—it has millions of neurons that control blood flow and secretions to help you digest food. Inflammatory issues, such as in intestinal permeability (leaky gut) or an imbalance in the gut microbiome (dysbiosis) can impact the messages from the gut to the brain.
The vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that is a part of the ENS, is a key pathway to the activation of the digestive system. Degeneration of vagal function, or less activation of the vagus nerve, compromises the digestive function by decreasing blood flow to the gut (which leads to leaky gut, neuroinflammation, and a cycle of other inflammatory responses).
The multitude of neurons in the ENS not only influence our GI function but also how we “feel”—this is why the ENS is called our second brain. Though the second brain is not capable of in-depth thought, it does “talk” to the brain.
Stress, for example, is closely tied to the gut. The body responds to external and internal stressors with the “fight or flight” system. During a stressful situation, a redirection of energy takes place; your digestion is put on hold, your heart and respiratory rate escalate, and your palms may get sweaty. This protective mechanism is intimately related to cortisol levels, which are ruled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Typically, diffusion of the stressful situation resets your body back to normal. But if you are always stressed, anxious, or stuck ruminating on negative thoughts, your body gets caught in a fight or flight response.
The byproduct of this chronic response is chronic inflammation—the root of many diseases. Inflammation leads to serious health consequences, such as high blood pressure, intestinal permeability, autoimmune disorders, and neurodegeneration.
The trillions of gut microbes—collectively known as the microbiome—also play a role in the regulation of our immune response. Communication between the gut microbiome and nervous system may influence disorders like anxiety and depression, autism, and dementia.
GUT-BRAIN OR BRAIN-GUT IMPAIRMENT
How do you recognize if you need to improve your gut-to-brain or brain-to-gut axis?
If your brain is impaired (brain fog, memory loss), if you suffer from intestinal motility issues (constipation, nausea), and if you have not had a positive response to conventional digestive protocols, you may have a brain-to-gut impairment.
Furthermore, if you have digestive issues, these can impact your brain chemistry and impair your gut-to-brain communication.
It is not uncommon to be in a vicious cycle of both a gut-to-brain and brain-to-gut impairment; most people need to support both simultaneously.
A characteristic symptom of this cycle is a decrease in the motility of the gut and consequently constipation, straining during bowel movements, and incomplete elimination. Poor elimination means that waste sits in the intestines, promoting an environment for yeast and bacterial overgrowths and the development of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Poor vagal function also encourages gallbladder stones and attacks and reduces the effectiveness of digestive secretions; therefore, digesting food becomes difficult.
Many patients with chronic gut dysfunction never improve because they do not move past treating it at the gut level—this will create the vicious cycle. Poor gut health will impact your brain function thus causing depression, anxiety, poor cognition, and other brain-based symptoms.
GUT-BRAIN HEALING STRATEGIES
While there’s still much to discover about the mystery of the digestive system and all that it affects, we are sure of several things that can help improve the connection between your gut and brain.
Support for Your Gut-Brain Axis
- Follow the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet.
- Avoid processed foods.
- Avoid gluten and other immune sensitive foods.
- Remove food sensitivities.
- Eliminate sweets.
- Eat a lot of vegetables.
- Have healthy fats.
- Consume different types of fiber.
- Eat probiotics and prebiotics.
- Remove pathogenic and reduce opportunistic bacteria and microorganisms.
- Supplemental support may include digestive enzymes, L-Glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, and antifungals (such as oregano oil).
Support for Your Brain-Gut Axis
- Every neuron needs oxygen, glucose, and stimulation.
- Oxygen – A reduction in blood flow to the brain, such as from a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, anemia, low blood pressure, and hypothyroidism, reduces the amount of oxygen the brain receives.
- Glucose – Glucose fuels the brain. If you become hypoglycemic (low blood glucose) from going too long without eating, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded. On the other hand, in insulin resistance (high blood glucose), glucose can’t get into the cells of your body or brain leaving you feeling sleepy or slow.
- Stimulation – Stimulation such as physical activity and mental challenges “exercise” your neurons and are essential to keep them active and healthy. Exercise also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor and supports mitochondrial function.
- Support the brain with nutrition.
- Reduce inflammation with resveratrol, turmeric, and fish oils.
- Optimize with vitamins and supplements.
- Provide neurotransmitter support.
OPTIMIZE YOUR BRAIN WITH GUT REPAIR AND DETOXIFICATION
Healthy brain function is not just about boosting your score on a brain game, remembering where you put your keys, or preventing dementia.
A Healthy brain equals a better quality of life. When you have optimal brain function, you are happier, and you are naturally drawn to nourish your body and mind. Ask my office for more information about a detoxification and gut-repair program using the AIP diet. You can schedule to become a new patient or a free consultation.
At some point of the day, you will feel your eyes going heavy and your senses somewhat dampened even if it’s still a far cry from bedtime. This usually happens in the middle of the day. What do you do? Napping seems to be the best solution. Is frequent naps a thing and should this be done throughout the day? Read on and I’ll tell you more about it.
There are numerous benefits that you can get from frequent naps.
Aside from improving your physical performance and your overall alertness, daytime naps can offer you so much more.
- This can help improve your performance when it comes to tasks that require symbol recognition, logical reasoning, and fast reaction time.
- A short rest can help uplift your mood. This can also aid in regulating the emotions.
- People who resorted to naps are less impulsive in making decisions.
- Sleeping for brief periods helps reinforce concepts that you have just learned.
- This is extremely beneficial in tasks that require you to distinguish objects based on visual texture. Visual texture is one of the prerequisites for learning new concepts.
- This can help improve various areas of memories as well. In fact, catnaps can help you boost your item memory. This is the sort of memory that makes you remember what you are about to buy based on your grocery list. Another memory area that you can boost from naps is the associative memory. In this type, you get to associate concepts and words with actual objects, people, and places.
You have to take frequent naps if you feel a little less functional than your usual self.
There are those times that you will really need a boost and be out for a while from the daily grind. Here are some of the signs that you might need brief episodes of a snooze. These may be somewhat trivial, but a little rest from time to time may just be what your body craves for at the moment. Want better health? Schedule a FREE 15 minute consultation with Dr. Celaya.
- You are willing to make frequent naps a part of your usual routine. Some people are very much willing to do this if they typically lack the required number of sleeping hours during the night.
- When you are on the brink of experiencing loss of sleep. This usually happens in instances like having a prolonged working shift. Actually, it’s a lot safer than working yourself up to the point of total exhaustion.
- This is also helpful if you experience unexpected sleepiness or a new episode of fatigue. This is typically the case during those days that you’ve been staying up later than usual during the previous night.
Even research supports the health benefits that frequent napping can bring you.
According to a 2009 study on sleep research, taking frequent naps can help improve a person’s learning curve. Another similar research done 6 years later concurred. Furthermore, the investigators pointed out that people who napped frequently have higher levels of frustration tolerance. This means that they have an easier time holding back their frustrations even if they’re under stressful situations.
Another experiment revealed that afternoon naps can even act as your midday coffee. In fact, they discovered that a brief snooze can bring you benefits that a similar dose of caffeine can provide you. They were also better in tasks that required memory and long bouts of attention span.
If you want to learn more about other studies that tackled frequent naps, you may check out the website. Aside from nap benefits, you can also check out other blog posts that tackled other health concerns in relation to functional medicine.
Just look out for certain drawbacks of frequent napping so you can do something to avoid them.
For every wonderful thing that can provide surprising benefits for you, expect some degree of drawbacks. However, keep in mind that these drawbacks can be properly managed with the right degree of planning and mindset.
- Nighttime sleep problems can occur if you take naps just a few moments away from your actual bedtime rest. To avoid this, avoid napping around 4 to 5 hours before your usual good night sleep.
- Sleep inertia is that state when you feel unpleasant because your sleep has been interrupted. To avoid this, just make sure to sleep only within the recommended length of time.
Follow these tips to help you get the most out of your naps.
These will not only help you get those extra Zs but also aid in maximizing the benefits that you can get from doing them in the first place.
- Make time to “design” your very own restful environment. Make sure that the environment is conducive to sleep. You may turn off the lights and even block out all the sources of noise so you can make the most out of your brief rest. Make the resting surface as comfortable as possible. Lowering the room temperature can also help you further promote a better resting area.
- Take some naps during the afternoon. Actually, the best time to have these naps is during those times of the day when you feel you have the lowest levels of alertness and concentration. This usually occurs when you just had a large meal if you have been continuously working for prolonged periods already.
- Keep each nap time short. An average nap should only take 10 to 30 minutes and 90 minutes at most. Anything longer than this can make you feel groggy and you don’t want that.
Depending on what you have to do and what you’re planning to do for the day, frequent naps can help make or break your day. Just make sure to just nap within the acceptable range. Otherwise, you will have a problem adjusting because of the drawbacks of “prolonged” and frequent napping.
The benefits of modern life are undeniable. Who would not accept cold air coming from an air conditioner on a hot day? Could you completely stop using your cell phone for two or three consecutive days? Could you travel from one country to another without using modern transportation such as airplanes or bus services? The logical answer is NO. Most of us are totally dependant on the luxuries of life made available because of advances in modern technology. Yet, there is another side of the coin, and simply, nothing comes without a price.
Very often, advances that speed up the pace of our life can also disturb the normal balance between nature and our human bodies. Unfortunately, this can negatively impact our health, and this is usually seen in the form of an overload of toxic substances inside the human body. According to the Merriam-Webster (America’s most-trusted online dictionary):
“A toxin is a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues and typically capable of inducing antibody formation.”
I can simply say that toxins are deleterious substances, which have undesirable short-term or long-term effects on our health. Overexposure to toxic substances with concurrent failure to correctly metabolize them can produce various symptoms such as nausea, migraine headaches, malaise, joint pain, and allergies or flu-like symptoms. This toxic accumulation can also contribute to inflammatory and neurological diseases. While it is nearly impossible to preclude accumulation of toxic substances that come with modern life, you may have the power to restore balance to a healthy lifestyle!
Detoxification, or body cleansing, aims to clear the body of toxins or harmful substances. Detox diets, considered to be the base of detoxification, are dietary plans that facilitate toxin elimination and weight loss, thereby promoting health and well-being. The liver is the most important organ in the body involved in the detoxification process. The liver can convert the toxic substances into less harmful components, facilitating their removal from the body. Hence, it is believed that the best way to boost your liver function is to depend on detox diets ranging from fasting (total or juice/water) to food modification. Usually, detox diets are rich in fiber. Proponents claim that detox diets stimulate the body to release stored fats including fat-stored toxins into the blood, facilitating their excretion through urine, breath, and feces. Many detox diets contain a combination of laxatives, diuretics, multi-vitamins, minerals, herbs, celery, and other juicy low-calorie vegetables. In the rest of the article, I will try to summarize the most important components of detox diets.
Many vitamins especially vitamin A, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 play a leading role in boosting the detoxification function of the liver. Patra et al., (2006) showed that there is a strong ability of the essential amino acid L-methionine to cleanse the body from the harmful effect of lead, a heavy metal. Taurine, which is an amino acid, is also suggested as having an antioxidant effect against lead-induced oxidative stress. Obinata et al., (1996) showed that taurine was effective in treating fatty liver in children with simple obesity regardless of the success/failure of weight control. Taurine administration is also considered to be helpful as an adjuvant therapy for fatty liver. Inositol, which is a type of sugar related to glucose, is currently considered as a liver supplement. Silymarin, which is the active constituent of milk thistle, is considered one of the best liver supports and liver detoxification. Bile is a major way to excrete harmful substances. Bile also emulsifies dietary fats and facilitates their digestion and absorption. Ox bile is currently reported to promote bile production. The Romans used Chelidonium majus or greater celandine as a blood cleanser. The extracts of greater celandine have shown toxic effects in harmful organisms, as well as liver protecting activities. The artichoke is a plant with antioxidant activities. Mehmetçik et al., (2008) indicated that in vivo artichoke extract administration may be useful for the prevention of oxidative stress-induced hepatotoxicity. Beet, which is a high-antioxidant vegetable, is used as food coloring and as a medicinal plant. Do you know that by eating beets you can help your body cleanse your liver? Váli et al., (2007) showed that the table beet has excellent liver-protecting effects during ischemia-reperfusion.
In conclusion, I would recommend that you incorporate a mixture of all the previous detox diets if you wish to detox your body, cleanse your liver, and stay healthy.