It is not uncommon for DCs to see patients who report vague, nonspecific symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
In many of these cases, mainstream medical practitioners have provided suggestions along the lines of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” if any remedy is even offered at all. Unsurprisingly, by the time these patients finally walk into a DC’s office, their symptoms have worsened. But you may be able to offer them a solution.
What are the adrenal glands, and what do they do?
The adrenal glands sit above the kidneys and are part of the body’s endocrine system.1 The glands are regulated by the pituitary gland, located in the brain. The outer portion of the adrenal glands produces two very important hormones – aldosterone and cortisol. Aldosterone balances the body’s sodium and potassium levels to regulate blood pressure, while cortisol regulates metabolism, stress, and blood sugar levels. The inner part of the adrenal glands produces adrenaline and noradrenaline, which work in conjunction with cortisol and aldosterone to regulate reactions to stress.1
Adrenal gland dysfunction
It is not unusual for patients suffering from adrenal gland dysfunction to have symptoms similar to that for diabetes or low blood pressure. Diabetes-like symptoms include increased sugar cravings, dark patches on the skin, or changes in weight.1 Symptoms similar to low blood pressure include dizziness, nausea, or excessive fatigue. Fortunately, blood tests can determine levels of adrenal and pituitary hormones, and glucose, potassium, and sodium levels.1
For those patients whose bodies do not produce enough natural adrenal hormones, supplements can help boost their adrenal levels to normal. These supplements are usually made from slaughtered cow, pig, and sheep adrenal extracts.2 Some research looking at the medical causes for burnout have suggested that in addition to changes in diet and sleep habits, adrenal supplements may offer a viable alternative to anti-anxiety medications, which can be habit-forming.3 Other researchers have suggested that adrenal nutritional supplements, combined with specific prescription adrenal-boosting medications, can not only boost adrenal hormone levels, but possibly protect patients against future adrenal imbalances.4
There are two main precautions for taking adrenal supplements. First, adrenal extract from cows that have contracted bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE, more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease) can pass the disease on to humans.2 BSE has been reported in a number of countries, most notably in the United Kingdom. Check the ingredient label to determine the supplement’s country of origin.
Second, pregnant women are advised not to take adrenal supplements unless under medical supervision. One potential side effect from adrenal supplements can be vomiting. In severe cases, this can put pregnant women at risk of losing too much weight.4 Furthermore, not enough research has been done into the potential transference of the active ingredients in adrenal supplements from mother to infant during pregnancy and breastfeeding.2,4
In many cases, when patients report a combination of symptoms that include anxiety, fatigue or stress, knowledgeable DCs will look at the possibility of adrenal gland dysfunction. If the problem is indeed related to adrenal gland problems, nutritional supplements can go a long way toward alleviating symptoms.
- Adrenal glands. Accessed 11/15/2015.
- Adrenal extract: Uses, side effects, interactions, and dosing. Accessed 11/15/2015.
- Kakiashvili T, Leszek J, Rutkowski K. The medical perspective on burnout. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2013 Jun;26(3):401-12.
- Allen LV Jr. Adrenal fatigue. Int J Pharm Compd 2013 Jan-Feb;17(1):39-44.
- Adrenal extract: Side effects. University of Michigan Health System. Accessed 11/15/2015.