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Natural Health News

Stress and the adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are the organs in the body most susceptible to the negative consequences of stress. As they wear down and fatigue the health of the overall body declines and healing becomes more and more difficult. Therefore, it is very important to identify adrenal fatigue or exhaustion and support the adrenal glands to recovery. There are several different botanicals, vitamins, minerals, and glandulars that can be used to successfully restore the health of the adrenal glands.


Adaptogenic Botanicals

Adaptogenic botanicals like licorice, ashwaganda, ginseng, schizandra, wild oat, and macca are often used alone or in combination to support the optimal function of the adrenals. These herbal remedies have been used for decades with very safe and effective track records. I recommend a combination product as it seems that adaptogenic herbs work best for most people in combination.


B Complex

The B complex vitamins are crucial for cellular metabolism and energy production. In fact, the B vitamins are required to produce energy as part of the citric acid cycle. The adrenal glands have a high demand for the B vitamins because they are so metabolically active and this demand increases during periods of high stress and recovery.


Vitamin C

Vitamin C is utilized by the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones like cortisol in healthy amounts. During periods of high stress the amount of Vitamin C required by the adrenal glands increases. If vitamin C is deficient during stressful times the body is not able to respond optimally. When vitamin C is deficient in non-stressful times the adrenal glands may actually produce more cortisol because of the stress of vitamin C deficiency.



The adrenal glands are highly metabolically active organs and thus have a high demand for minerals that act as co-factors in the production of energy and hormones. Magnesium is one of the most important co-factor minerals and also happens to be one of the most deficient minerals in our soils. The trace minerals like zinc, selenium, and copper are required by the adrenal glands for energy production.


Glandular Extracts

Glandular extracts provide the raw materials and nutrients required for regenerating the adrenal glands. In fact, they can significantly increase the speed of recovery. It is important to use high quality sources of glandular extracts because of the potential for toxicity.


Intravenous Nutrient Infusions

Intravenous nutrient infusions are one of the most potent ways to supply the adrenal glands with the vital nutrients it needs for optimal function. IV infusions provide nutrients directly into the bloodstream and thus all cells of the body. IVs bypass faulty digestion and metabolism in the liver. Intravenous infusions are a highly effective way to help regenerate the adrenal glands and provide them with many of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients they require.


Natural treatments for stress

In this week’s column I will highlight four of the most effective natural therapies for reducing stress and supporting the body’s stress coping mechanisms.



Yoga exercises are a fantastic way to handle stress both physically and emotionally. Yoga usually involves stretching, breathing, and visualization techniques. The combination of these activities provides unique support for stress management. I highly recommend incorporating yoga into your exercise and stress management routines.



Acupuncture is one of the best treatments for stress management. It is a great therapy for tapping into the subconscious component of stress. This is the component of stress that can’t be consciously controlled by thought or exercises like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga. Acupuncture is great for helping the body process and let go of old emotions it no longer needs anymore. In fact, it is very common for people to feel weight lifting off their shoulders during and after acupuncture sessions.


Neural Therapy

Neural therapy is known as “German Acupuncture” and involves the injection of vitamins, anaesthetics, and homeopathic remedies into acupuncture points and scar tissue. It provides many of the benefits of acupuncture like tapping into the subconscious but also adds some other unique therapeutic effects. Neural therapy can restore healthy nerve conduction, shut down unnecessary pain signals, and break down scar tissue. Old emotional traumas are often stored in scar tissue, tight muscles, and nerves. Neural therapy addresses these sites of physical stress extremely well and helps prevent emotional stress from taking a physical toll.


Intravenous Nutrient Infusions

Intravenous nutrient infusions are one of the most potent ways to supply the body with the vital nutrients it needs for optimal health. IV infusions provide nutrients directly into the bloodstream and thus all cells of the body. IVs bypass faulty digestion and metabolism in the liver. The body is designed to obtain nutrients primarily through the digestive tract but there are many situations where intravenous infusions provide great benefit. Sometimes oral supplementation can’t be digested well, doesn’t provide high enough dosage, or can’t be administered fast enough.


In next week’s column I will investigate the natural treatments for adrenal fatigue.

Signs of stress

Many of the signs of stress are relatively straightforward and easy to see. In fact, most people inherently know when they are under too much stress. These more obvious signs include feeling stressed out, feeling overwhelmed with responsibility, high blood pressure, anxiety, agitation, heartburn, and difficulty falling asleep. There are many less obvious signs like difficulty staying asleep, headaches, weight gain, difficulty losing abdominal fat, heart palpitations, indigestion, bowel disorders, constipation, diarrhea, abnormal hair loss, acne, and shingles to name a few.


What’s on your mind? What’s in your mind? Where is your mind?

You know that stress is a problem when your mind is occupied with things that your body is not presently facing. When you are thinking about the past or future too much and neglecting the present moment. You also know stress is a problem when you get stressed out by relatively small or unimportant things. Remember the sayings, “don’t sweat the small things”, and “don’t make mountains out of molehills”. If you are doing these things and have difficulty changing it is time to seek help from a counselor, life coach, or physician.

TCM philosophy

In Traditional Chinese Medicine and many other traditional medical philosophies emotions are not seen as good or bad. Since all emotions exists they are seen to serve purpose. In Western cultures, we often think of emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and regret as being “bad”. However, the traditional belief is that these emotions are just as important and functional as “good” emotions like happiness, satisfaction, and joy. All emotions “good” or “bad” have the same potential problems. When they are in excess or deficient they lead to emotional and energetic imbalance.

Emotional imbalance leads to anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders. In TCM philosophy it is important to honor emotions, process them, and then let them go. This prevents us from neglecting emotions and it prevents emotions from lingering. The Traditional Chinese approach to stress management and emotional health can be very helpful for many people.



Physical Exam

A good physical exam should look for the signs of stress like high or low blood pressure, abnormal orthostatic blood pressure, the response of the pupils to light, rapid or thready pulse, abnormal hair loss, poor wound healing, and digestive disturbances.

Orthostatic blood pressure is extremely valuable to check. This is the change of blood pressure when a patient goes from seated to standing. When the adrenal glands are able to produce adrenaline appropriately blood pressure increases. However, when the adrenal glands are not working properly blood pressure will drop upon rising.

Blood Tests

Blood tests are not very useful for identifying stress. However, certain blood tests can give some valuable information for the health of organs that are often injured with chronic stress. It is very important to investigate the health of the thyroid gland and the conversion rate of thyroid hormones. However, many people who suffer from thyroid conditions do so unknowingly because the proper testing was not conducted.

A thorough thyroid panel includes TSH, Free T3, Free T4, and TPO. TSH identifies how well the pituitary gland is communicating with the thyroid gland. Free T3 and Free T4 identifies the levels of each of these hormones and gives a very good indication for how well T4 is converting to T3. TPO is a marker for autoimmune thyroid disease. The most common form of hypothyroid is autoimmune and it is very important to routinely test for this so that it is not overlooked.

Saliva Tests

Saliva testing is the most accurate way to identify imbalances in adrenal gland hormones and sex hormones. An adrenal gland panel should include at least 4 samples identifying cortisol levels. This shows the amount of cortisol in the system at 4 specific times in the day and compares your levels to the ideal. An adrenal gland panel should also include DHEA. Low levels of DHEA are a major sign of adrenal gland fatigue or exhaustion and often indicate problems with sex hormone production.

A sex hormone panel can identify the toll stress has taken on sex hormone production. This can be very important for women, especially women looking to conceive or women experiencing menopause-related complications. A sex hormone panel should include estrone, estradiol, estriol, progesterone, and testosterone. Imbalances in any of these sex hormones can be treated with natural agents.


In next week’s column we will investigate the natural treatments for stress management.


The negative effects of cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone that is absolutely crucial for life. Without it we would not be able to survive. However, when we live in chronic strain, worry, and stress the adrenal glands produce relatively high amounts of cortisol. The problem with cortisol is that our bodies are not meant to be exposed to these relatively high amounts for long periods of time. However, many people who have stress as an obstacle to cure are experiencing the negative effects of cortisol.


1.  High cortisol decreases immunity.  Cortisol is a corticosteroid and like prednisone, cortisone, and beclomethasone, it inhibits the actions of white blood cells. Initially, this usually leads to increased susceptibility to infections. Eventually, this may actually lead to long stretches of time without colds because the immune system is so weakened.

2.  High cortisol increases abdominal fat deposition.  For reasons still unknown, high levels of cortisol induce the body to lay down adipose tissue in the abdomen and upper back/neck. In fact, for those people affected it is next to impossible to lose abdominal fat without addressing stress.

3.  High cortisol breaks down muscle, bone, and connective tissue.  Cortisol is a gluconeogenic hormone. Gluconeogenesis is a process that creates sugar from existing tissue. Cortisol promotes the breakdown of muscle, bone, and connective tissue in order to increase blood sugar for the brain.

4.  High cortisol inhibits thyroid hormone activation. The thyroid gland makes 2 major hormones; thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroine (T3). It predominantly makes T4, which is actually an in-active hormone. T4 is carried in the bloodstream and eventually hits a receptor on or in a cell and becomes activate to T3. High cortisol inhibits this conversion and thus creates a form of hypothyroid.


Healthy Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is a hormone that fluctuates during the course of the day with the circadian rhythm of the body. However, stress can greatly affect the way cortisol is produced and secreted and result in significant changes from the optimal circadian rhythm. Upon rising each morning cortisol levels are about at their highest. In fact, relatively high cortisol levels are one of the things that wakes us up in the morning. As the day goes on cortisol levels should gradually decline until they hit a trough around 8-10pm. They will stay low during deep sleep and gradually begin to increase around 4-6am until you awake.

Stress significantly impacts the production and secretion of cortisol during the day and night. Chronic stress not only elevates cortisol levels during the stressor but may also lead to cortisol spikes during the evening and overnight. High cortisol in the evening is one of the major reasons for insomnia, frequent waking, and night sweats.

Natural treatments to restore healthy cortisol levels are crucial for anyone suffering from the effects of elevated cortisol. Stress management techniques are extremely important and may include deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Adaptogenic herbs, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, glandular extracts, and homeopathic remedies support the adrenal glands and help restore the circadian rhythm. Consult your naturopathic physician for a specific plan to evaluate and address your cortisol levels.


In next week’s column we will investigate the signs that stress is contributing to your health concerns. We will also examine the lab tests that can help determine the physiological impact of stress on the body.

Read more Natural Health News articles


About the Author

Dr. Brent Barlow is a Naturopathic Physician practicing at The Kelowna Wellness Clinic in downtown Kelowna. Dr. Barlow has been in practice in Kelowna since graduating from the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver in 2009.

Naturopathic Doctors are trained as primary care physicians, and primarily use natural medicine to treat disease and promote wellness. Dr. Barlow believes strongly in identifying and treating the causes of disease rather than focusing on the treatment of symptoms.

Naturopathic medicine utilizes diet therapy, botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, spinal manipulation and other physical medicine treatments to treat the causes of disease. Dr. Barlow also trained in the specialized treatments of prolotherapy, neural therapy, intravenous nutrient infusions, and chelation therapy.

Dr. Barlow is in general practice and welcomes all individuals and families. As a naturopathic physician he is trained to treat all health conditions in the manner that best suits the goals of each individual patient. He also has special interests in natural treatments for pain management and digestive health.

To learn more about Dr. Barlow's treatments or to schedule a consultation, visit his website at or call 250-448-5610.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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