Imagine your perfect day and tell me: what would it entail?
Mine would likely involve waking up when my body is ready, eating meals only when I feel hungry… basically yielding to my own natural rhythms. When it comes to feeling your best, a healthy routine plays a vital role in keeping you happy and healthy. Have you ever stopped to think, what is it that wakes me up? Why do I get hungry at a certain time? Why is my natural schedule off right now? The answer: hormones. These chemical messengers float around in your body every minute of every hour you’re alive and they’re running the show.
One of the most profound components of the endocrine system are two walnut-sized glands sitting, like hats, on top of the kidneys called the adrenal glands. These amazing organs release a symphony of chemicals which regulate a myriad of body functions including blood pressure, blood sugar, metabolism and, I believe most importantly: our body’s reaction to stressors.
The adrenal glands produce our stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones are familiar to most of us, as when we have a sudden rush of panic when you have a near accident on the freeway -- that feeling of sudden alertness, increase in heart rate and increase respiratory rate is all thanks to a sudden surge of these hormones. Drinking caffeine also triggers a release of cortisol, giving us that nice boost in energy and focus for a period of time.
These stress hormones are amazing and do so much for us. The trouble comes if we have too much or too little of them. Like most things, balance is the key when it comes to optimal wellness in the hormonal system.
Symptoms of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine imbalance:
Now that I’ve established the issue and symptoms, what about diagnosis and treatment?
To diagnose adrenal imbalance, symptoms are usually enough but sometimes blood, saliva or urine tests are used to establish and diagnosis or determine severity of disease. Because adrenal hormones are produced at different levels depending on the time of day, the time the test is taken is usually quite important. Speak with your healthcare provider for more info on testing.
Treatment is the next step between where you are and feeling better. My number one suggestion for combating the symptoms of adrenal imbalance is to keep a routine. Try to wake and go to bed at the same time every day, eat at relatively the same times every day. Routine tells the body what to expect when and that we are safe, despite intermittent stressors.
Beyond this, the most important piece of creating a personalized treatment plan is to determine what your specific needs are. What I always emphasize to patients is that your hormonal system is like a web -- and when one part of that system is out of balance (i.e. adrenal glands, thyroid gland, etc), the whole system is out of balance. This means that treating one area usually leads to needing to test and treat another area.
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