Welcome to Dr. James Wilson's Adrenal Fatigue Blog

Sleep Disruptions Can Be Caused by Stress and Adrenal Function

Sleep Disruptions Can Be Caused by Stress and Adrenal Function

One major thing I have gained from Dr. Wilson’s vast understanding of the role of hypopthalmic, pituitary and adrenal function (the HPA axis) is that an excellent night’s sleep is very much the result of a balanced HPA axis. If you suffer from a cortisol imbalance, you will not only have energy disturbances, you will have sleep disturbances! Do you have an issue with sleep? Then please read this article. I know it may seem a bit top heavy on the technical side, but if you slowly go through the material it will make a lot of sense. You can gain a great amount of understanding about stress, insomnia and energy by understanding Dr. Wilson’s work. Here is an excellent article from Dr. Wilson regarding sleep and cortisol. -Eric Bakker, ND

insomnia by Flickr user alyssafilmmakerStress and adrenal function affect sleep, particularly the circadian pattern of cortisol secretion by the adrenal glands. Circulating cortisol normally rises and falls throughout the 24 hour daily cycle, and is typically highest at around 8 AM and lowest between midnight and 4 AM. Both high and low nighttime cortisol levels can interrupt sound sleep. Stress normally causes a surge in adrenal hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that increase alertness, making it more difficult to relax into sound sleep–especially when they remain high or rise and fall irregularly through the night. Frequent or constant stress can chronically elevate these hormone levels, resulting in a hyper-vigilant state incompatible with restful sleep.

If this is the reason for poor sleep, anything that reduces stress and enhances the ability to handle stress may improve sleep. This can include relaxation, breathing and/or meditation techniques, certain yoga postures, healthy lifestyle changes, and stress-relieving life alterations. Refraining from vigorous exercise in the evening and taking time to consciously relax before going to bed may calm the adrenals and help lower cortisol and adrenaline levels.

When the adrenals fatigue, adrenal hormone levels may become low, leading to another possible source of nighttime sleep disruption–low blood sugar. Cortisol plays an important role in maintaining blood sugar (glucose) levels around the clock. Although blood glucose is normally low by the early morning hours, during adrenal fatigue cortisol levels may not stay sufficient to adequately sustain blood glucose. Low glucose signals an internal alarm (glucose is the main fuel for all cells, including brain cells) that disrupts sleep so the person can wake up and refuel.

Low nighttime blood glucose can also result from inadequate glycogen reserves in the liver. Cortisol causes these reserves to be broken down into glucose that is then available to the cells. When low cortisol and low glycogen reserves coincide, blood glucose will most likely drop, disrupting sleep. Waking between 1 AM and 3 AM may indicate low blood sugar resulting from inadequate glycogen reserves in the liver, low adrenal function and cortisol, or both. This is often the culprit when panic or anxiety attacks, nightmares, or fitful, restless sleep occur between 1 and 4 AM.

If low blood sugar is disrupting sound sleep, supporting healthy adrenal function and dealing with the adrenal fatigue may contribute long term to sound sleep. Also having a healthy snack before bed can help fortify the body’s nighttime energy reserves. The snack should be one or two bites of food that contains protein, unrefined carbohydrate, and high quality fat, such as half a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter or a slice of cheese on a whole grain cracker. Eating or drinking sugary, refined foods will only aggravate the problem. Sometimes exercising before bed can help, since exercise tends to raise cortisol levels. (more on blood sugar and adrenal function)

Lack of sleep can be a significant body burden that, in itself, can contribute to adrenal fatigue. Every time the wake/sleep cycle is altered, it takes several days to weeks for the body and cortisol levels to adjust. In fact, sleep ranks with diet and regular exercise as an essential component of a healthy life. People on alternating shifts with less than three weeks between shift changes are continually hammering their adrenal glands and may become very susceptible to adrenal fatigue.

Chronic lack of sleep is now regarded as a health hazard and has been associated with several possible health consequences. These include lowered immunity with increased susceptibility to infections, impaired glucose tolerance, low morning cortisol levels, and increased carbohydrate cravings. Lack of sleep can also elevate circulating estrogen levels, upset hormonal balance, and slow healing and prolong the recovery period. These are in addition to the decreased alertness and concentration that most people experience when missing an inordinate amount of sleep.

The consensus from research and clinical observation is that it is necessary to sleep an average of eight hours per day. Some people need even more in the beginning phases of recovery from adrenal fatigue. A saliva cortisol test done at night and compared with daytime levels and with the test standards for those times will help determine if either high or low cortisol may be interfering with sound sleep. If cortisol is a likely culprit, cortisol levels will be significantly higher or lower than normal for those times.

Image Credits: Woman with insomnia by Flickr user alyssafilmmaker

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Metabolic Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes and Tips for Support

Metabolic Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes and Tips for Support

measuring tape around a large stomachMetabolic syndrome (also known as syndrome X and prediabetes) is a progressive disorder that can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. With obesity on the rise, it is estimated that around 30% of the U.S. population has metabolic syndrome. This syndrome occurs when three of the following conditions are experienced concurrently:

  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting glucose
  • High levels of serum triglycerides (bad cholesterol)
  • Low HDL (the good cholesterol) levels
  • Weight gain in the stomach or abdominal area

Causes of Metabolic Syndrome

In addition to aging and genetic predisposition, many factors, such as daily consumption of foods high in sugar and fat combined with lack of exercise, can contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome. The pervasive stress of modern life is a powerful common denominator that, when added to these unhealthy lifestyles, accelerates their adverse effects on health and greatly increases the likelihood they will result in metabolic syndrome.

Modern Stress

The modern stress overload from economic, environmental, social and psychological factors can rarely be resolved by physical action. However, because human physiology has not changed much in the past 100,000 years, your stress response system is designed for the kind of physical threats to survival experienced by early man that required a physical “fight or flight” reaction. Every stress you experience, whether it’s a sleepless night or an overdue bill, triggers a chain reaction that prepares you to physically respond to the stressor. Without physical action in response to stress, these HPA axis-regulated adjustments can disrupt metabolic balance over time, as well as lower stress tolerance.

Stress, Cortisol and Insulin Resistance

insulin needle by Flickr user feathy123The adrenal stress hormone cortisol is the primary instigator of the physiological changes that occur with stress, and in the process it interacts with other hormones like insulin. Cortisol and insulin work together to increase energy, but have opposite effects on blood sugar. Cortisol raises blood sugar by triggering the conversion of stored energy (glycogen) into glucose (blood sugar). Glucose is the source of energy used by most cells in the body. Insulin helps move the glucose from the blood stream into the cells, thus lowering blood sugar. When cortisol goes up (as it does during stress), blood sugar goes up; and when blood sugar goes up, insulin does too. However, when insulin is high too often or for too long, the cells develop insulin resistance. This means they become less sensitive to the effects of insulin in order to protect themselves from the harmful effects of too much glucose.

With less glucose getting into the cells, the resulting elevated blood sugar triggers increased insulin, further aggravating insulin resistance. In addition, less glucose in the cells triggers hunger, which often translates into cravings for carbohydrates. Both a diet high in refined carbohydrates and the elevated cortisol levels from frequent stress can produce a vicious cycle of insulin resistance. When chronic stress and poor diet combine with a sedentary lifestyle, they become an irresistible force driving the body, over time, towards metabolic syndrome and a variety of related health problems, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Weight Gain, Insulin Resistance and Stress

A prolonged cycle of stress and insulin resistance usually leads to weight gain, particularly belly fat. Although the reasons are not fully understood why this weight tends to accumulate in the chest and abdomen (visceral fat), several physiological mechanisms conspire to create this spare tire. Rising cortisol from stress increases blood sugar and causes hunger which may lead to overeating. Both cortisol and insulin play complex roles in storing any excess energy (like blood glucose) as visceral fat to meet future needs. Compared to other fat cells, deep abdominal fat cells have greater blood flow, more cortisol receptors and higher levels of an enzyme that increase cortisol’s fat-storing activity within these cells. All of these factors contribute to further belly fat accumulation. In addition, rising insulin inhibits fat burning hormones, like growth hormone, and signals the body not to release any stored fat. This chain reaction both encourages visceral weight gain and makes it more difficult to lose weight, especially when there is little physical activity.

Metabolic Syndrome Prevention and Support Tips

The three keys to managing metabolic balance are: maintaining a healthy weight; managing stress; and exercising regularly. Together these factors provide the best long-term solutions to moderating blood pressure and blood sugar, promoting normal fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.

Dietary Guidelines for Weight Management

fresh vegetables by Flickr user OlearysHave small regular meals and chew well. Here are some tips on foods to include:

  • Low carb (low glycemic), unrefined foods
  • Oils high in Omega 3
  • White meat, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Plenty of vegetables (5-6 servings a day)
  • High potassium foods (most seeds, vegetables and fruit)

And foods to avoid:

  • Caffeine (stimulates cortisol)
  • Sugar and refined carbs (stimulates insulin)
  • Partially hydrogenated oils (disrupts healthy fat metabolism)
  • Reduce calories, fat and sodium

Lifestyle Tips for Stress Management

  • closeup of man meditating on yoga matEliminate as many sources of stress as you can
  • Limit contact with energy robbers (people, environments
    and activities that leave you feeling drained)
  • See the stressors you can’t get rid of in a more positive light
  • Laugh more
  • Make time to just relax (even if it’s only for 10 minutes a day)
  • Practice some simple breathing and meditation techniques daily
  • Don’t do anything else while eating (no TV, work, or texting)
  • Prioritize
  • Learn to say no

Exercise for Weight & Stress Management

Exercising 30-40 minutes a day helps normalize cortisol, insulin and blood sugar, and reduces belly fat. Combine the following:

      • Aerobic (vigorous walking, jogging, swimming,
        dancing, Zoomba)
      • Anaerobic (weights, isotonic, Pilates)
      • Flexibility (yoga, stretching, tai chi)

Dietary Supplements for Stress and Metabolic Balance

Having the right kind of supplemental support in addition to following the dietary, lifestyle and exercise guidelines described can significantly enhance your ability to handle stress and maintain metabolic balance. These supplements should:

      • Promote balanced HPA axis function and blood sugar metabolism
      • Replenish the nutrients used up by stress
      • Support adrenal function
      • Provide extra vitamin C and antioxidants
      • Supply fish oil high in Omega 3

Image Credits: Insulin needles by Flickr user feathy123; Vegetables by Flickr user Olearys

 

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The Link Between Hypoglycemia, Low Cortisol and Adrenal Function

The Link Between Hypoglycemia, Low Cortisol and Adrenal Function

There is a very close relationship between adrenal function and blood sugar levels. We have known for almost a century that people who suffer from low blood sugar frequently suffer from adrenal fatigue. We also know that people who suffer from adrenal fatigue almost always have some form of irregular blood sugar pattern, of which hypoglycemia is the most common. Let us take a closer look at the connection between adrenal function (or lack thereof) and blood sugar.

six donuts by Flickr user rene-germany

Donuts are tasty, but are horrible at balancing blood sugar.

When your adrenals are fatigued, their cortisol output is diminished and you have lower levels of circulating blood cortisol. With lowered blood cortisol, your liver has a more difficult time converting glycogen (stored blood sugar) into glucose (active blood sugar). Fats, proteins and carbohydrates, which normally can be converted into glucose, also cannot be as readily converted into glucose. These reserve energy pools controlled by cortisol are critical to achieving and maintaining normal blood sugar levels, especially during stress. Further complicating this matter is that, during stress, insulin levels are increased because the demand for energy in the cells is greater. Without adequate cortisol levels to facilitate the conversion of glycogen, fats and proteins to new glucose supplies, this increased demand is difficult or impossible to meet. All this combines to produce low blood sugar.

To make matters worse, many sufferers of hypoglycemia try to fix the problem by relying on sugary snacks, coffee and soda to keep going. This is a short-lived fix that temporarily increases blood sugar almost immediately. They can almost feel it hit the back of their brain as their blood sugar moves out of the basement and shoots for the stars, relieving their hypoglycemic symptoms for about 45-90 minutes. However, this is inevitably followed by a precipitous plunge back to even lower blood sugar levels than they started with. Many individuals do this day in and day out, not realizing that hypoglycemia itself is a significant stress on the entire body, and especially on the adrenals.

roller coaster by Flickr user aukirk

Using sugar and caffeine to keep going puts you on the worst. roller coaster. ever.

People who use sugar and caffeine to feel better are on a constant roller coaster ride, with their blood sugar constantly rising and then falling after each “fix.” This throws not only cortisol and insulin levels into turmoil, but also the nervous system and the entire homeostasis of the body. To the body, hypoglycemia is a strong stressor, an emergency call to action that further drains already fatigued adrenals. Therefore, by the end of the day the person may feel nearly exhausted without having done anything. The old Dr. Pepper commercials had this pattern of hypoglycemia pegged when they created the slogan encouraging people to have a Dr. Pepper (high in sugar and caffeine) at “10, 2 & 4 each day.” It is not by accident that work breaks are scheduled at about these times or that people typically have something sweet and/or containing caffeine during these breaks.

Your brain also requires increased energy during times of stress and is especially affected by a lack of glucose. Although your brain uses several different fuels, when it is low on glucose it often does not do well. In fact, most of the mechanisms involved in regulating blood sugar are designed to ensure that your brain always has adequate glucose with which to function. Many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and most of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are the result of insufficient glucose available to brain tissues.

overeating

Overeating and feeling terrible: just two side effects of hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia, without proper snack and meal placement, also encourages overeating when food is available. The overeating causes rapid weight gain because the increased insulin is circulating in your blood, ready to usher that excess energy (glucose) from the extra food into your fat cells where it can be stored as fat. Even though you may not like its effects, this is a beautiful and savvy compensatory mechanism that has helped us survive. Much of human history is a story of feast or famine; excess calories are a luxury in evolutionary terms. Therefore, after coming out of a situation of temporary famine (hypoglycemia) into a situation of excess calories (fat and sugary junk food), our evolutionary history urges us unconsciously to overeat and our bodies are designed to store that energy while it is available.

In this way, hypoglycemia creates a tendency to put on weight. If you do not want to gain weight you should avoid those low blood sugar dips that not only make you so hungry you overeat, but also create a tendency in your body to store energy as fat. This means regular exercise and eating the kinds of meals and foods that control hypoglycemia. It also means not eating those sugary foods and caffeine that send your blood glucose levels on a roller coaster ride.

Image Credits: Donuts by Flickr user rene-germany; Roller coaster by Flickr user aukirk

Dr. James L. WilsonAbout the Author: With a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

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Cortisol and Your Body’s Stress Response

 Cortisol and Your Body’s Stress Response

man pulling his hair out of stress by Flickr user stuartpilbrowNo matter what the source of stress, most challenges to homeostasis stimulate the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands), resulting in increased secretion of cortisol. In animal experiments, those with weakened adrenals died in response to even mild stress. However, when animals with weakened adrenals were given cortisol or similar agents, they survived those same kinds of stress. People with a weakened stress response can often tolerate mild stress, but succumb to severe stress. As stress increases, progressively higher levels of cortisol are required. When these higher levels of cortisol cannot be produced, the person cannot fully or appropriately respond to stress, leading to conditions like adrenal fatigue.

Even at normal levels, cortisol serves the very important function of priming the different mechanisms of your body so they can respond when called into action. During stress, cortisol must simultaneously provide more blood glucose, mobilize fats and proteins for a back-up supply of glucose, and modify immune reactions, heartbeat, blood pressure, brain alertness and nervous system responsiveness. Without cortisol, these mechanisms cannot react adequately to a significant stress. When cortisol levels cannot rise in response to these needs, maintaining your body under stress is nearly impossible. The more extreme the difference between the level of stress and the lack of cortisol, the more significant the consequences.

cortisol protects the cell from stress

How cortisol protects the cell from stress. Click image for larger version.

Cortisol can be viewed as sustaining life through two opposite but related kinds of regulatory actions: releasing and activating existing defense mechanisms of the body and shutting down and modifying the same mechanisms to prevent them from overshooting and causing damage or cell death. If this regulation is defective during stress, as it is when cortisol levels are low, an animal can be endangered or even die because its defense mechanisms cannot react or because they overreact.

When your body is stressed, cortisol is also needed to restrain various physiological mechanisms to prevent them from damaging your body. For example, the elevation of blood sugar by the adrenals during stress helps control the insulin-induced hypoglycemia that would occur if more blood glucose was not available. But cortisol also protects the cells against the detrimental effects of excessive amounts of glucose by helping create insulin resistance at the cell membrane to keep too much glucose from flooding into the cell.

This damping down action of cortisol can also be seen in the way cortisol modifies the immune response to control the amount of inflammation in the involved tissues and suppress potentially toxic chemicals secreted by white blood cells, thus protecting the body from auto-immune processes and uncontrolled inflammation.

Cortisol is so important that when the HPA axis cannot increase cortisol activity in response to stress, these unrestrained mechanisms overshoot and can damage your body. In summary, these actions of cortisol have evolved to both enhance the body’s response to stress, yet protect it from excessive responses to stress. These mechanisms were probably needed only occasionally in our distant ancestors’ lives. However in modern life, with the myriad of physical, emotional and environmental stresses we face daily, our adrenals’ capacity to rise to the occasion is challenged day after day. It is possible that we experience more stressful events in a year than our ancestors experienced in a lifetime. Yet your adrenal glands require some recovery time each time they are challenged.

The constant “pedal to the metal” lifestyle leaves little room for an adequate adrenal response when the adrenal glands never get the chance to recoup and are already responding at their maximum capacity. The more we understand about the physiology of stress, the more obvious it is that, unless we quickly evolve to have adrenal glands the size of footballs, we must learn to give our adrenals the opportunity they need to recover on a regular basis. This means modifying the effects that stress is having on your body. Otherwise, we will rapidly devolve into a society of the chronically sick and tired that even coffee, colas and other stimulants cannot keep going.

Adapted from Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome

Image Credits: man pulling his hair by Flickr user stuartpilbrow

About the Author:

Dr. James L. WilsonWith a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

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How to Feel Your Best: The 5 Keys to Good Health

How to Feel Your Best: The 5 Keys to Good Health

What is your definition of healthy? When we look at media portrayals of “healthy people,” we typically see younger fitness models with blinding white teeth and too-perfect-to-be-true bodies. Good health can be obtained by people of all walks, ages and sizes, and is often a result of balancing the elements of one’s lifestyle (mind, body and spirit). Let’s look at five key indicators of good health, and what one can do to find that balance.

1. Vitality

a red apple among graysVitality means having adequate energy, not getting sick often, and the ability to enjoy life along with its challenges. This may seem like a mental element but vitality largely has to do with diet and lifestyle (though certain health conditions can hamper vitality). Those with vitality tend to have a strong resistance towards disease and infection, and tend to have good circulation.

What can you do about low vitality?

-The first thing I would check is your diet. Lack of nutritious food, or not eating often enough, can leave you feeling sluggish and not very vital. Another area to check is the digestive system. Do you often have gas, bloating, pain, constipation or diarrhea after meals? There may be an issue afoot.

-A majority of folks do not get enough nutrients from food, so adding a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, along with an Omega 3, could be beneficial. No difference in 2-3 months? You may need to consult your physician for a check-up.

There are many causes of low vitality. You could be suffering from burnout, or feeling the after effects of a separation, loss of a loved one, job loss, childbirth, a traumatic event, or one of a dozen other reasons.

As a practitioner, I often see low vitality linked with hormonal imbalances. Speak with your health practitioner or your local pharmacist about hormone level testing and available treatment options.

2. Good Sleep

sleeping babyGood sleep is sound sleep—deep, uninterrupted, and satisfying. Ideally, you should be able to fall asleep within 10 minutes of getting into bed. Many cases of troubled sleep are labeled as insomnia, which is a disease in its own right, though it’s often part of a bigger problem. Sleep difficulties are rarely remedied with a sleeping aid or potion. Conditions such as anxiety, depression, tension, chronic stress and adrenal fatigue may be causes of not being able to sleep. Sleeplessness can also be a side effect of some medications.

What can you do about sleep difficulties?

-The first thing I recommend is eliminating or reducing all sources of caffeine, especially in the evening or nighttime. Healthier beverages like green tea are fine in moderation, but sodas, energy drinks and other high sugar and caffeine combos are best left alone.

-Check your sleep environment. Keep your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible. Turn off the TV and put away all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.

-Light exercise or meditation can also be beneficial before bedtime. Even showering at night can help.

If sleep difficulties become persistent or chronic, something further will need to be done.

3. Sense of Humor

laughing womanDo you enjoy laughing, even if at times it’s at your own expense? You don’t need to be The Entertainer or a stand-up comic to have a sense of humor. Having a sense of humor simply means being able to let go and enjoy life without taking it too seriously. Laughter and humor makes it easier to maintain a positive outlook on life, even when things are not so easy.

How can you fix your funny bone?

-Simply put, learn to laugh more. Laughter isn’t a weakness; in fact, it can be quite the opposite. Plus, laughter is a proven form of stress relief. It pays to laugh!

-Watch a comedy movie or TV show. Sometimes you may not feel like laughing, and all you want to do is be sad and wallow, but that will do no good. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your spirit can be lifted after a few chuckles.

4. Healthy Appetite and Digestion

A healthy appetite and proper digestion are two key aspects of overall health. Appetites vary, and people should eat for their body style and activity level, but these tips are good for everyone to follow:

  • Keep an eye on your weight, and maintain a sensible weight for your body type.
  • Eat fewer bad fats (trans fat) and more good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats).
  • Eat fewer refined carbohydrates and more complex carbohydrates
  • Opt for healthier, cleaner sources of protein. Be mindful of meat sources.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Reduce your intake of potatoes, pastas and breads.
  • Be mindful of alcohol consumption. If your vitality is lacking, you may want to avoid alcohol altogether.
  • Stay hydrated daily. Water should be a vast majority of your fluid intake.
  • Take a daily multi-vitamin and mineral to ensure against deficiencies.
  • Check your bowel movements. Healthy, vital people have well-functioning bowels with little to no diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or excessive flatulence. Consult with your physician if you are having issues with bowel movements; they’re often the sign of something deeper that needs addressing.
  • Eat less. Most people eat almost 30% more food than they need. Overeating can lead to various problems other than digestive issues.

5. An Active Mind

I once heard it said that we begin aging when we stop learning. An active brain continues to produce dendrites, which are the communication connections between cells. Dendrites help to store and retrieve information more easily. Healthy people are typically known for good memory and clarity of thought—regardless of age. I’ve had quite a few elderly patients over the years, some well into their 90’s, who amazed me with their mental clarity and wit. Keeping an active mind also makes it easier to keep a positive attitude, which is also beneficial to vitality.

How can I keep an active mind?

Scrabble tilesThere are many ways to expand your mind and keep it active. Find something you enjoy and can do daily. Here are some suggestions: Read (but try to stay away from mindless magazines); do crossword puzzles or other word/number games; play strategic board or card games; learn a foreign language; take a course or study a trade (many community centers, libraries and groups offer free or affordable classes); join a local discussion group; take up a creative craft (like woodworking, pottery, drawing).

There are also supplements you can take that can help with cognitive function.

  • Vitamin E (around 400 I.U. per day)
  • Ginkgo Biloba (2.5 – 4 mls per day, standardized liquid extract form). Ginkgo helps to increase blood circulation to the brain and may help to prevent free radical damage to the brain’s neurons).
  • Phosphatidylserine (around 100mg 2-3 times daily). PS has been the most studied nutrient for cognitive decline. Substantial amounts of clinical and research data are available on PS, and the findings indicate PS is very safe to take and highly effective in conserving memory, increasing learning, concentration, and other higher mental capacities.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly the DHA component of Omega 3). Many people have a deficiency of DHA in the brain, particularly as they age. DHA is the building block of human brain tissue and is particularly abundant in the grey matter of the brain and the retina of the eye. Low levels of DHA have recently been associated with depression, memory loss, dementia, and visual problems of the elderly.
  • Zinc (15–30mg per day). Zinc deficiencies often underpin many problems and altered cognitive functions, such as loss of taste and smell, poor vision, and immunity issues.

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Feeling Drained? Get Rid of Those Energy Robbers

Feeling Drained? Get Rid of Those Energy Robbers

Imagine your energy is stored in a barrel. Energy robbers are holes in that barrel, letting energy leak out and making it hard to keep full. It would seem silly to keep demanding more and more energy from your body instead of just plugging as many of the holes as possible. Every time you eliminate or minimize one of these energy robbers, it is like plugging one of the holes in the barrel, allowing your energy reserves to rebuild. As you become aware of and eliminate what is robbing you of your energy, you will see significant differences. Let’s learn how to recognize these people, places and things.

Energy Robbing People

As you go about your day, notice if there are certain people in your life that seem to make you feel more tired, listless, helpless, frustrated, angry or fatigued when you are around them. It may be a casual acquaintance, a social friend, or even a relative, spouse or parent. People you feel drained by or feel worse after coming into contact with are energy robbers in some way, even if by accident. In fact, they are seldom aware of the effect they are having on you. At this point what matters is identifying those who have this effect.

two people having an argumentWhat if someone you are close with is an energy robber? If it is a partner, tell him or her that there are certain times he or she takes away your energy and during those times you need to minimize your contact. You might work out a signal to let him or her know when they are robbing you of your energy so they can stop. If it is someone you cannot easily communicate with, which is in itself a sign of an energy robbing situation, you must do what you can on your own. If this is pervasive throughout your relationship, you should rethink this relationship. Patients often tell me that they feel guilty for minimizing their contact with friends or family members even when that person is robbing them of their energy.  It is important to realize that nobody has a right to your energy and health.

Being aware of the energy suckers in your life will allow you to change how you interact with them. Changing your social contacts is sometimes the key to tipping the scales in your favor for recovery. No matter how many right things you put into your body and your lifestyle, their positive effects can be undermined by too much contact with people who leave you feeling drained. Therefore, if you look at your life and you find that energy suckers are a factor, it is important to do something about it. If they are people you know casually or have little contact with, you should consider eliminating them altogether from your life. If you find that someone is robbing you of your energy during a particular interaction, end your contact as quickly as possible at that time.

Energy Robbers at Work and Home

on my way to work please shoot me bumpersticker by Flickr user mtsofanIf you feel weakened or drained by home or work conditions, it is usually specific aspects of these that are the energy robbers, not the entire situation. Particular duties, tasks, hours, environmental factors or people may zap your energy. You might feel great while working with clients but exhausted while preparing reports, or full of energy outdoors but tired soon after you get to work.

Sometimes, the solution needs to be rather unconventional. For example, I know of one company president who was overwhelmed with work. He identified phone calls as being one of the chief energy robbers in his life. It was not so much that each phone call was draining him, but that the calls so frequently interrupted his other tasks that it was hard to get things done. His solution, though radical, was to not answer the phone at all. Instead, he let the answering machine take all of his messages. He set aside two times during the day to return phone calls, and returned them as briefly as possible. Whenever possible, he delegated the return phone call to someone else in his office to further minimize the negative impact of the task that drained him.

Energy Robbers in Your Food and Environment

You might think of the environment as the great outdoors but the environment that concerns us in this book is what is all around you. It includes things like the lighting in your home and workplace, cooling and heating, air quality, the fabrics, fragrances and cosmetic preparations you wear, and the many other details of your daily surroundings. These factors and the particular foods you eat can be serious energy robbers that drain your adrenal resources. If you feel groggy or tired in particular locations or clothing, or after eating certain foods, or around some odors and fragrances, then examine which foods and environmental factors are energy robbers for you. Removing or changing the offending items can do a lot to alleviate these body burdens and free up your energy.

Image Credits: Bumper sticker photo by Flickr user mtsofan

Adapted from Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome

About the Author:

Dr. James L. WilsonWith a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nutrition Essentials: Why You Need Magnesium

Nutrition Essentials: Why You Need Magnesium

magnesium crystals

It is almost impossible to find a part of the body that wouldn’t be affected by a magnesium deficiency. For example: your brain, cardiovascular and digestive systems, muscular and nervous systems, liver and kidneys, hormone secreting glands and even your blood all rely on magnesium for proper metabolic functioning. Like other macro minerals, your body doesn’t naturally produce magnesium. In this blog we’ll take a closer look at the roles magnesium plays in the body, what happens when you don’t get enough, and my recommended food sources.

Magnesium and Bone Health

Did you know nearly two-thirds of all magnesium in your body is found in your bones? Bone magnesium plays two quite different roles. Some of it aids in the physical structure of the bone, while some of it acts as a cache for the body to draw from if levels are low. Incorporating magnesium rich foods into your diet and supplementing when necessary can help support bone health now and in the future.

Magnesium, Nerves and Muscle Relaxation

woman relaxing in a beach chairMagnesium is commonly known as the anti-cramp mineral, but did you know that your nerves also depend upon magnesium to avoid becoming overexcited? Both magnesium and calcium work together to help regulate your body’s nerve and muscle tone. Here’s how: Magnesium serves as a chemical gate blocker in many of the body’s nerve cells. Magnesium helps oppose the activity of calcium, preventing it from moving too quickly and activating the nerve. This delicate balance helps to keep nerves (and therefore muscles) relaxed. Too little magnesium causes nerve cells to activate and become over-excited. This imbalance can trigger muscle fatigue and tension, cramps, spasms and muscle soreness.

Magnesium And Blood Pressure

Research has shown that diets high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and low in sodium and fat are associated with lower blood pressure. Practitioners often call magnesium ”nature’s calcium channel blocker” because it mimics what calcium channel blocker heart drugs do to modulate vascular tone. Magnesium also stimulates nitric oxide, a process that happens when we exercise, which helps us to relax by dilating blood vessels. One of the first things I recommend to those struggling with high blood pressure is to check that they’re getting enough magnesium.

Magnesium, Adrenal Function and the Stress Response

Magnesium acts like a spark plug for the adrenal glands and for the energy system of every cell in the body. It is essential to the enzyme and energy generation necessary for the adrenal hormone cascade that produces hormones like cortisol to deal with stress. Several of the steps that create energy in every cell, and especially in the adrenal glands, are dependent on magnesium. When there is not enough magnesium, the stress response can be triggered with less provocation, leading to increased irritability and frustration.

Signs You May be Deficient in Magnesium

Because magnesium does so much, signs of deficiency can vary greatly. Many initial symptoms involve small muscle changes, including weakness, tremors, and spasms. Do you tire easy, or are your muscles often cramped and sore? Is premenstrual pain a regular part of your monthly cycle? These are also possible signs of a magnesium deficiency. Because of its role in bone structure, the softening and weakening of bone can also be a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Other signs of magnesium deficiency include headaches, hypertension, anxiety, depression, nausea, lack of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. For restlessness at night, I recommend taking 400mg of magnesium citrate about a half an hour before bedtime.

How Magnesium Deficiency Happens

Did you know the health of your digestive system and kidneys have a lot to do with magnesium levels? Magnesium is absorbed primarily in the intestines and is then transported through the blood to cells and tissues. Your body only uses one-third to one-half of the magnesium you take in, the rest is passed through sweat and urination. For this reason, it pays to optimize digestive and kidney function to increase the uptake of magnesium. Certain digestive disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, can hamper mineral absorption. These conditions can deplete the body’s magnesium storage and can sometimes lead to deficiency. Poorly-controlled diabetes can also lead to mineral loss in the body.

If these signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency seem familiar to you, I urge you to speak with a practitioner. Getting your fill of magnesium daily is important, though many signs and symptoms of a deficiency can be caused by other issues as well. It’s always best to make sure of the cause before you start trying to fix yourself.

Food Sources of Magnesium

Here’s some of the foods on my “Magnesium V.I.P.” list. These foods have high yield per serving, and offer other essential nutrients as well.

  • roasted pumpkin seeds by Flickr user jaxzinPumpkin seeds (raw): 184.58 mg per 1/4 cup
  • Spinach (boiled): 156.60 mg per 1 cup
  • Swiss chard: 150.50 mg per 1 cup
  • Soybeans (cooked): 147.92 mg per 1 cup
  • Salmon (baked): 138.34 mg per 100 gr
  • Sunflower seeds (raw): 127.44 mg per 100 gr
  • Sesame seeds (raw): 126.36 mg per 1/4 cup
  • Halibut (baked): 121.35 mg per 100 gr
  • Black beans: 120.40 mg per 1 cup
  • Navy beans: 107.38 mg per 1 cup
  • Almonds (roasted): 98.67 mg per 1/4 cup

Image Credits: Magnesium crystals via Wikimedia Commons; Roasted pumpkin seeds by Flickr user jaxzin

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Nutrition Essentials: Why Your Body Needs (Complete) Protein

Nutrition Essentials: Why Your Body Needs (Complete) Protein

Myoglobin

No, this isn’t confetti. It’s a closeup of myoglobin, a type of protein.

Most people, vegetarian or not, don’t eat enough protein to sustain them throughout the day. So what’s the big deal? Proteins are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of your body’s tissues such as your skin, internal organs and muscles. Proteins break down to amino acids, the building blocks of many parts of your body–even blood cells, which make up your immune system and hormones.

So you’re probably asking, “Okay then, how much do I need?” There’s no one size fits all recommendations for protein, but the more active you are the bigger your body’s demand becomes. This demand can be from mental or physical work. A person’s required protein intake also depends on sex, height, weight and exercise levels, but a normal protein intake ranges anywhere from 20 to 50 grams with each meal. In many cases, I have found that when a person eats more quality protein they start to notice improvements in energy levels, mood, sleep and their overall levels of well-being.

Incomplete vs. Complete Proteins

quinoa with mushrooms and kale by Flickr user sweetonveg

Quinoa is widely considered to be a complete protein

Proteins are made up of substances called amino acids, 22 of which are considered essential for good health. Your body can make 14, but the other 8–known as essential amino acids–must be obtained from diet and supplementation. Proteins are classified into two types: complete and incomplete. If the protein in a food provides adequate essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. If the food does not provide all the essential amino acids, it is considered an incomplete protein.

Proteins are found in most types of food, but only a few qualify as a complete protein. Those that make the grade are most meats, eggs, and cheeses (animal-derived foods). Soybeans, quinoa, spirulina, seaweed, hempseed, amaranth and a few other non-animal derived foods are also considered complete proteins. Incomplete protein foods can be combined to include all essential amino acids, forming a complete protein. Some examples are rice and beans, milk and wheat cereal, and corn and beans.

Sources of Protein

dairy products by Flickr user jamiesrabbitsDon’t go heavy on dairy. Many people who go light on meats go heavy on dairy products, especially cheese and milk. This can create more problems than benefits, especially if one has a sensitivity or intolerance to dairy products (as so many people do). If you have any allergies, consider avoiding all dairy products for some time. So how do you get your fair share of calcium? There are non-dairy foods that contain significant amounts of calcium, including spinach, broccoli, tofu, salmon, almonds, parsley, and dried figs. You do not need to depend on cow’s milk for calcium, and probably shouldn’t bother with it at all unless you can get natural, raw milk. As for yogurt products, look at the labels. Avoid the ones “enhanced” with artificial flavors or corn syrup. Low-fat dairy products tend to be packed with carbohydrates and should be avoided as well.

Avoid processed meats. Avoid most meats from the deli, especially sausages, processed meats, salami, bacon and hams. Stick to naturally cooked or raw chicken, fish, beef, bison, sheep, or goat (organic when possible).

Eat more fish. Fish can be a great source of protein and essential fatty acids. With fish, be cautious of the source. I recommend avoiding farmed fish when possible. Opt for wild caught, if available.

Be careful with unfermented soy. Soy is a healthy food when consumed in fermented form like tempeh or miso. I generally recommend avoiding soy milk, especially to those with an allergy or sensitivity, but also to those with thyroid issues. That said, a regular glass of soy milk can be beneficial for older males and menopausal women (if well tolerated). I do not believe that all unfermented soy is “poison.” I have known many people who have eaten soy protein for many years with no health concerns. Ultimately, it is YOU who decides what is right, and informed consent is the way to go.

Don’t forget the nuts and seeds. Regular servings of fresh nuts and seeds can help manage blood sugar levels throughout the day. Aim for a handful each day, and be sure to chew well. Fresh nuts are best, and my personal favorite choices are almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts. Generally speaking I say avoid peanuts, and be cautious with cashews (high fat) and pistachios (high in salt).

Image Credits: Myoglobin via Wikimedia Commons; Quinoa by Flickr user sweetonveg; Dairy products by Flickr user jamesrabbits

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

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Dr. Bakker’s Tips for Healthy Eating on a Tight Budget

Dr. Bakker’s Tips for Healthy Eating on a Tight Budget

foods at a produce standThere’s a common misconception that you have to be wealthy to eat healthy. The fact is, processed and prepared meals are usually much more costly than their natural counterparts. And if you’re calculating health cost, it’s simple: no one can afford to eat junk food. Here are some tips that I bet can not only make your grocery haul healthier, but also cheaper:

  • Choose local whenever possible. A lot of produce and meat in stores is trucked in from another state, or even another country. Food loses freshness and nutrient value during transit. Buying home-grown ensures freshness and supports local business.
  • Always bring a list. Even if you’re going in for a few items, list it up. Going off a list makes it much easier to avoid overspending and buying things you don’t need.
  • Don’t stress about organic. If the organic option isn’t affordable, go with ‘regular.’ With fruits and vegetables, a good wash should take care of any pesticide residue or germs. There are simple natural washes you can make at home for this purpose (here’s a couple via The Sprouting Seed).
  • Scope out your local food co-op and market scene. Many local growers and producers will sell the public, even if they don’t advertise. Need help with your search? There are websites where you can search your area for locally grown food. LocalHarvest.org and EatWellGuide.org are good places to get started.
  • Stay away from premade, precooked and processed foods from the frozen and pantry sections. They may seem cheap, but you’re basically paying for artificial flavor, lots of salt, and very little to no nutrition. A better solution is to make an entrée in bulk, then freeze single, meal-ready portions that are just as fast but much healthier.
  • Become a meal planner. Many of us will shrug when asked ‘what’s for dinner?’ Planning meals ahead of time, if even for a few days, makes it easier to stay disciplined and avoid opting for takeout or delivery. If you’re about to make that call, think of the groceries you could buy with the money from one takeout order. You might be shocked!
  • Keep the impulses in check. Avoid those register sale cookies and giant bags of fat and salt-ridden chips. Just say no! Your wallet (and digestive system) will thank you.
  • Buy fresh over frozen. Fresh and raw produce will always be the best option. Choose fresh over frozen whenever possible, and when not choose frozen over canned.
  • Stick with what you need. Do a fridge, freezer and pantry check before grocery shopping. Make note of things you already have stock of to avoid overbuying.
  • Check out the store brands. For most things there is little to no discernable difference, and many times it’s the exact same product as the name brand but with a different label!
  • Become coupon-savvy. Coupons are all over: in the mail, online, on your receipts, and even on the product itself.
  • Always take a calculator. Not all price tags list the per unit price. Using a calculator makes it easier to compare and break down unit prices. Don’t forget: most phones have a basic calculator (even the old flip phones!).
  • Stick to the periphery. In most food stores, produce and other fresh foods are located around the outsides, with processed and frozen foods in the middle aisles. It will also save time to not have to cruise up and down each aisle.
  • Buy in bulk when it makes sense. Many foods you’ll use regularly–particularly grains, flours, nuts, cereals, and spices–are available in bulk. These bulk items are usually much cheaper per unit than prepackaged versions, so you get more for less money.
  • Check store flyers before heading out. If you have options, check weekly flyers to compare prices and specials. Use this to help build your list.
  • Grown your own. If you have space for growing, make the most of it. Even a tiny plot or indoor herb garden can make a difference. Growing ensures freshness, a clean source, and you’ll feel good about growing your own food!
  • Always check your bill. Technology has made checkout a quicker and more accurate experience, but mistakes happen. Go over your receipt to check for any inaccuracies before leaving the store.

About the Author:

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com

 

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Frequently Asked Questions on Adrenal Fatigue, Part 2

Frequently Asked Questions on Adrenal Fatigue, Part 2

Part 1 can be read here

Q: What exactly is adrenal fatigue?

stressed out soldier by Flickr user Justin ConnaherAdrenal fatigue is any decrease (but not failure) in the ability of the adrenal glands to carry out their normal functions. The chief symptom of adrenal fatigue is, indeed, fatigue, but is accompanied by many other signs and symptoms. Adrenal fatigue occurs when stress from any source (physical, emotional, mental, or environmental) exceeds, either cumulatively or in intensity, the body’s capacity to adjust appropriately to the demands placed upon it by the stress. When this happens, the adrenals become fatigued and are unable to continue responding adequately to further stress. Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life.

In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

Q: What’s the difference between adrenal fatigue, hypoadrenia, Addison’s and Cushing’s?

Hypoadrenia more commonly manifests itself within a broad spectrum of less serious, yet often debilitating, disorders that are only too familiar to many people. This spectrum has been known by many names throughout the past century, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue. I prefer to use the term adrenal fatigue when referring to this common form of hypoadrenia. Not only does it remind us of the chief symptom of hypoadrenia, but it also most aptly describes this common syndrome in which the paramount symptom is fatigue. Adrenal fatigue affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world in many ways and for many reasons.

Addison’s Disease is a rare, chronic endocrine disorder where the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones. This condition is typically caused by damage to the adrenal glands, usually by the body’s own immune system. Cushing’s Syndrome is the result of prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol–the stress hormone–usually due to external causes, like prolonged corticosteroid use. Cushing’s Disease is also the result of excess cortisol, though is caused by internal sources (typically a pituitary tumor). Addison’s and both forms of Cushing’s are quite serious and require immediate and sometimes chronic treatment.

Q: Does adrenal fatigue affect the thyroid gland?

In short, yes. Approximately 80% of the people suffering from adrenal fatigue also suffer some form of decreased thyroid function. Often people who are shown to be low thyroid and are unresponsive to thyroid therapy are suffering from adrenal fatigue as well. For these people to get well, the adrenals must be supported in addition to the thyroid. If your adrenal fatigue has a thyroid component, it is usually necessary to strengthen both the adrenals and the thyroid simultaneously for full recovery to take place.

Q: Can adrenal fatigue become chronic?

Yes, in some people the adrenal glands do not return to normal levels of function without help, either because the stress was too great or too prolonged, or because their general health is poor. However, when adrenal fatigue becomes chronic it is almost always because of factors that can be changed. That is why I wrote this book, to provide the knowledge people need to recover from adrenal fatigue.

Q: My physician says there’s no such thing as adrenal fatigue. What do I do?

Unfortunately, this is the view of many conventional doctors, but they are not as well informed as they believe. Adrenal fatigue was first diagnosed over 100 years ago and has been successfully treated for decades. However, for various reasons that largely have to do with the close association between medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, the medical community has ignored the existence of adrenal fatigue syndrome over the past 40 years. The best thing to do is to switch to a doctor who is familiar with adrenal fatigue. If you need help, you can search our database of practitioners nationwide.

Image credit: Soldier on floor with head in hands by Flickr user Justin Connaher

 

 

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