Nelson BC Holistic Health & Nutrition Consultant Aaron Ander

Stress, Sugar Cravings, and Adrenal Gland Fatigue

I want to talk about STRESS. When we push ourselves past the boiling point, warning lights and sirens go off. Stress is anything really, from pollution in our city air, to internally produced activities like obsessing. Some things we can control about how stress affects us and others are beyond our control. Elevated cortisol is the long term stress hormone that has its effects on the immune system. When we support the body nutritionally, we may still experience stress but the effects of stress do not need to manifest as illness.

The adrenal glands are our organ of stress and respond to any threatening situation. The adrenal glands will produce the stress hormones when we are in an actual life or death situation. The same hormone is produced if the stress is an actual threat to our lives or if it is “all in our mind”. Notice that your heart races when the boss comes in the room or when we come close to a cliff . It’s the same response as when we nearly avoid a car accident. If we think we are being threatened the body knows no different. Blood pressure and heart rate increase, digestion stops, pupils dilate, and we have a heightened sense of our surroundings. We become protective and defensive, in other words “on edge”. How many of us are living in survival mode from day to day?

There is good news. Controlling this stress response is not limited to “mind over matter”. You do not need to be a yogi master to have a better handle on things. There is a class of herbs called “adaptogenic herbs” which have the effect of balancing hormones of the endocrine system. Ginseng, licorice, astragalus are some examples of this class of herbs. Controlling blood sugar by having many small meals throughout the day and avoiding refined sugar will help ease the effort required by the adrenals. B vitamins, especially B-5 and vitamin C are necessarily for the production of adrenal hormones. There are also concentrated adrenal gland tissue supplements called glandulars which have the ability to stimulate re-growth of the adrenal glands themselves.

All of these nutritional solutions will help to support the body in maintaining a balance of hormones and keep stress under control. It’s not just about what we do, it’s also about what we don’t do. Coffee stimulates adrenaline to be released from the adrenal glands initiating this survival mechanism. It is a cycle where we need the stimulation because the adrenals themselves are weak. If our blood sugar is chronically low, a precondition to type II diabetes, we can feel tired, low in energy, lethargic, and unable to concentrate. In this case a coffee or a candy bar will bring us right back, again signaling that the adrenals aren’t producing enough of their hormones. We have to cut out the coffee, refined sugar if we hope to bring balance to our stress response.

It does take willpower to hold off on the doughnuts. You can make it easier on yourself by supporting the body and the adrenals glands nutritionally. Don’t beat on yourself if you have cravings for sugar or coffee, rather look at the symptom as a clue as to what is going on deeper so you can make small changes for the benefit of your life. Often small changes, like smaller more frequent meals, multivitamin support, and proper rest can make all the difference.

Michael M. Murray N.D. & Joseph Pizzorno N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine 2nd edition Prima Publishing 1998.
David W. Rowlad Endocrine Harmony Health Naturally Publications Inc. 1997.