The Adrenals, Small and Mighty Glands with a Big Job

Stress     The adrenals are small glands that sit on top of each kidney. They control hormones like DHEA, adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These glands are known as the stress glands because they help one to respond to stress using a cascade of hormones. If there is stress a high cortisol situation may arise. High cortisol is linked to a larger waistline, increased incidence of a stroke and alzheimer’s disease. Low cortisol and adrenal output is called adrenal fatigue. This can happen for a number of reasons. Adrenal fatigue is not a disease but a collection of symptoms. In the clinic we see more and more cases of adrenal fatigue.

Some common symptoms of adrenal fatigue are:

  • difficulty waking, fatigue not helped by sleep and waking unrefreshed
  • craving for salt and salty foods, craving more alcohol and coffee
  • lack of energy where everything feels like a chore, increased effort to do every day tasks
  • low sex drive
  • decreased ability to handle stress, irritability, weeping
  • slow recovery time from injuries
  • dizziness on standing up quickly
  • mild depression, less enjoyment in life
  • weight gain especially around the middle
  • increased PMS symptoms
  • feeling worse missing meals, hypoglycemia
  • thyroid disorders
  • difficulty focusing, memory weak
  • allergies and respiratory infections that take a long time to resolve, environmental sensitivities
  • decreased tolerance and irritability
  • skin pigmentation disorders
  • poor energy on waking, between 3:00 and 4:00p.m. and more energy in the evening
  • eating disorders such as binge eating or anorexia

Saliva cortisol testing can detect if the adrenals produce enough or too little of cortisol at the right times of the day. Too much at night can trigger a restless sleep and too little in the morning produces fatigue. Consistently low cortisol output is considered to be adrenal dysfunction (AD). AD can improve if obstacles to good health are removed. Shift work, working long hours, ongoing stress, illness, poor diet, chronic pain or certain medications such as steroids are linked to AD. A diet that is low protein, high in prepackaged goods, caffeine and refined carbohydrates, is linked to AD. Refined carbohydrates are high glycemic which means they convert to a sugar in the bloodstream and can cause blood sugar to spike. These foods like white rice, white flour and white sugar negatively impact the adrenal glands. In fact, people with low adrenal function often suffer more often from bouts of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). They tend to get headaches, dizziness, trembling and irritability if they miss a meal or exercise too vigorously. Lastly certain mental illness and certain anxious personality types will be more apt to suffer from AD due to stressful thought processes.

If you suffer from any of the common symptoms of adrenal burnout there are a few things you can do for yourself at home:

  • Eat a whole food diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Limit refined carbohydrates like white flour, rice and sugar
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks, they increase energy temporarily but they drain the energy from the adrenals in the long run
  • Drink licorice or rosehips tea (avoid licorice if you have high blood pressure)
  • Limit your exposure to stress
  • Try some relaxing exercises such as yoga, meditiation, tai chi
  • Walk and talk with a friend or your family
  • Ask for help instead of trying to do everything yourself

If you take any medication or have an underlying condition check with your doctor or homeopath before taking any supplements. However, the list below highlights a few common supplements to support the adrenal glands.

  • Vitamin C helps to support the adrenal glands, energy and immune system. Typical dose is 1000mgs per day.
  • Magnesium is a nice relaxing mineral that helps with a peaceful sleep, anxiety, supports the adrenals and is good for cardiovascular health. Take magnesium glycinate form to prevent loose stools. Typical dose ranges from 150 to 400 mgs daily.
  • B complex helps with a wide range of issues including adrenal function, nervous system support, red blood cell production, positive mood and energy. Take 50 to 100 mgs in the morning because later in the day it may interfere with sleep.
  • Rhodiola is a great herb that improves energy, endurance, mental and physical performance and supports the adrenals. Typical dose is 200 mgs once a day with breakfast.
  • Panax or Asian ginseng is an excellent adaptogenic herb that improves energy, reduces inflammation, supports the adrenals and improves the immune system.
  • Avena Sativa is useful for those who are fatigued, overworked and exhausted. They may have sleeplessness due to exhaustion. These types over indulge in drugs or alcohol.

Homeopathy is a medicine that is suited to one’s unique symptom picture, so two people suffering with symptoms of adrenal fatigue may require different remedies according to their symptoms. Homeopathic medicine in a potency higher than 6CH does not carry any side effects. There are many remedies for symptoms of adrenal fatigue but here are a few that are most commonly indicated:

  • Cocculus is a good remedy for ailments from nursing a sick person, working shift work or even for new moms with a baby who wakes frequently. These types may be dizzy, have ailments from loss of sleep such as mental fatigue, dizziness and nausea. They can be anxious and feel worse thinking about not getting enough sleep. They may be intolerant to noises, oversensitive and irritable when interrupted.
  • Ignatia is a good remedy for acute grief and worry. The symptoms of a person needing this remedy are frequent sighing, weeping and worrying. These types are moody, feel nervous, oversensitive, weak and quarrelsome. They are oversensitive to pain and hate to be consoled. These types may have the sensation of a lump in their throat. Ignatia types are worse after the loss of a loved one, broken hearts or any other disappointment.
  • Kali Phos is useful for those people who tend to feel fatigued, foggy brained and weepy from prolonged stress. They tend to have a weak memory, feel easily run down and have a hard time focusing due to fatigue. They may suffer from a poor sleep or nightmares due to job or school worries.
  • Nux Vomica is a homeopathic remedy for those people who have sedentary jobs, work sitting at a desk, take too many stimulants like tea, coffee, tobacco or drink too much alcohol. They tend to be irritable types who have a fiery temperament. They can’t bear noises, odors, light or touch. They are impatient workaholics. They tend to be tidy, ambitious and competitive people.
  • Surreinum 4CH is a remedy that helps to support the adrenal gland. It is useful in depleted adrenals and prolonged stress of overwork. It helps with fatigue, rapid pulse, loss of strength and wasting of the body. It may be useful in symptoms of asthma, allergies and addison’s disease.

As you can see homeopathic medicine is very individualized and two people may get different remedies depending on their unique symptom picture. In an ideal world, everyone would have access to a homeopath and a medical doctor and they don’t disparage the other person’s treatment. This way the patient can have the best of both worlds.

In my 20 years of practice, I have treated many people with adrenal fatigue. The beauty of homeopathy is that it is suited to someone’s unique symptom picture and they don’t just perk people up with an artificial stimulant, like cortisone. Logical people know that pharmaceutical drugs don’t heal but they just suppress symptoms and have side effects. The beauty of homeopathy is that it can work in conjunction with these pharmaceuticals or as a standalone treatment, so that the patient can heel deeply and experience their best outcome using homeopathy.

Heather Caruso is a homeopath and holistic nutritionist for the past 20 years in Guelph Ontario. For more information or to book a free get acquainted chat go to


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