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In addition to making lifestyle and dietary changes, the use of nutritional supplements can greatly enhance your ability to handle stress, maintain metabolic balance and restore adrenal health. But, no supplement will work by itself and heal you from Adrenal Fatigue. You will also have to make adjustments to your lifestyle. This means reducing your stress levels, following a healthy diet, exercising in moderation, taking care of your emotional/spiritual health and schedule adequate rest and relaxation.
Nutrient deficiencies didn’t just occur in pirates and medievalers, many people today suffer from nutrient deficiencies. They are overfed, but undernourished because our modern Western diets are typically energy dense (too many calories) but nutrient poor (not enough vitamins and minerals due to depleted soil and processing and refining of nutrients)(1).
Research shows that stress may play a significant role too in depleting a number of essential nutrients, which help our body cope with stress. When these nutrients are lost they cannot help protect us from the symptoms of stress which put our body under even more stress further increasing the need for those essential nutrients. Stress also impairs digestion which causes malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies. In addition, allergic reactions to foods such as wheat and dairy products can damage the intestines and reduce the absorption of nutrients.
Nutrients that are especially important for adrenal activity are vitamins B, C, D, E as well as essential minerals such as magnesium, sodium and chromium. The use of a digestive aid is also highly recommended, because without the right combination of digestive enzymes, food can’t be broken down efficiently, which again leads to vitamin, mineral, and amino acid deficiencies.
This is certainly not an exhausted list of supplements for Adrenal Fatigue, but below is a brief overview of the most common ones used when healing the adrenal glands and supporting the body during times of stress.
The adrenal glands produce several hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, aldosterone, estrogen and testosterone that regulate our body’s functioning and helps us cope with stress. This hormone production system is known as the adrenal hormone cascade. The entire B complex is needed in varying quantities throughout the adrenal hormone cascade as the B vitamins all work together with the individual B vitamins. B vitamins are important for our nervous system, they are involved in many bodily processes and are critical for energy production and utilization. They also play a role in cell multiplication and the creation of red blood cells (2).
There are a lot of vitamins and minerals needed for the adrenal glands to function properly, but vitamin C is probably the most important one. The highest concentrations of vitamin C in the body are found in the adrenal glands (and in white blood cells, eyes, brain, pituitary gland). Vitamin C is directly involved in producing cortisol in the adrenal glands and while most animals can produce their own vitamin C, humans can’t, so this means that we must get it regularly from our diet. Vitamin C also protects the adrenal glands from oxidative damage that occurs during stress.
Vitamin D deficiency is considered a major public health problem worldwide in all age groups. The lack of vitamin D in our diet is one reason behind this deficiency, but as you are likely aware, the primary source of vitamin D is the sun. With the help of sunlight our skin, kidneys and liver produce vitamin D from cholesterol. For several reasons many of us don’t get enough sunlight to make vitamin D:
There are also people who simply do not make enough vitamin D from the sun, among them, people with a darker skin tone, people who are overweight, older and who cover up when they are in the sun (3).
Physical or emotional stress are known to deplete vitamin D as cortisol is, just like vitamin D, created from cholesterol and when under stress the body prioritizes the creation of cortisol over vitamin D. However, being sufficient in vitamin D does not generally cause Adrenal Fatigue, it may contribute to poor adrenal function though.
Vitamin E is another key Adrenal Fatigue supplement for optimal adrenal health. It may not be directly involved in the adrenal hormone cascade, but indirectly it plays an important part in several enzymatic reactions in the adrenal hormone cascade. Environmental forces from outside and the production of adrenal hormones generate free radicals and vitamin E helps to absorb and neutralize them.
Poor adrenal function is often related to poor digestion and low gastric acidity. Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is naturally secreted in the stomach to digest food in order to be absorbed in the bloodstream, but chronic stress can deplete HCL and the body’s ability to produce HCL begins to decline after the age of 50. Low hydrochloric acid can cause nutrient deficiencies, as the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, amino acids, and minerals becomes severely impaired.
Poor digestion may also cause food to become stagnant, ferment and even putrefy in the gut, which may result in bacteria and yeast overgrowth that will cause inflammation in the gut lining. Supplementation with a good probiotic (probiotics are “good” live bacteria and yeast) can aid in digestive health as they play a key role in regulating healthy intestinal function and digestion by balancing intestinal microflora.
Just like whole foods are better for you than refined foods, so are whole food supplements better for you than refined, isolated vitamins. Dr. Daniel Chong (4), a licensed naturopathic physician, asserted in his article for Dr. Mercola that:
“just like refined foods, these refined vitamins have been robbed of all of the extra accessory nutrients that they naturally come with as well. In turn, like refined foods, they can create numerous problems and imbalances in your body if taken at high levels for long periods of time. They can also act more like drugs in your body, forcing themselves down one pathway or another. At the very least, they won’t help you as much as high quality food and food-based supplements”(5).
Isolated and synthetic vitamins are unnatural, as they cannot be found in nature by themselves. Supplementing these isolated and synthetic vitamins, especially in the ultra-high doses that they often come in, is similar to taking a drug. Think about how your urine turns florescent yellow when you use (too much) synthetic vitamins. This doesn’t happen when you use whole food supplements, no matter how much broccoli (a good source of vitamin C) you eat.
Just like drugs, they can cause problems in the body too. You should know that vitamins in foods are blended together in a certain way for a reason, they work best in that particular format. For an isolated vitamin to work properly, it needs the other components that are naturally present in the food as well. When you consume a supplement that only contains isolated vitamins your body has to use the other components from the body’s stored supply to turn the isolated vitamins into complex vitamins. That’s the reason why isolated vitamins often work for a short period, once the body’s store is used up, they seem to stop working. What’s even worse is that isolated vitamins can create a deficiency of these extra vitamins and components in the body. Often when the other components are not sufficiently present in the body, the supplement you take will simply just not be absorbed and eliminated through urine.
Whole food supplements are exactly what the name implies: Supplements made from concentrated, dehydrated whole foods, the vitamins and nutrients within whole food supplements are not isolated. They contain highly complex structures that combine a variety of antioxidants, enzymes, coenzymes, trace elements, activators plus many other unknown or undiscovered factors all working together creating a synergy, to enable this vitamin complex to do its job in your body.
For example, most vitamin C products on the market contain only “ascorbic acid”, while in nature vitamin C always appears as “vitamin C complex”, containing both ascorbic acid and certain bioflavonoids (such as quercetin ). For ascorbic acid to be fully utilized by the body, it needs bioflavonoids. Therefore it is best to supplement the complete complex of vitamin C. Similarly, most vitamin E supplements contain only d-alpha tocopherol, a less expensive and therefore more profitable form of vitamin E. D-alpha tocopherol is only a fraction of the complete vitamin E complex and can actually suppress other tocopherols necessary for adrenal restoration.
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