Adrenal Insufficiency

> Adrenal Insufficiency

I was diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency as part of the first hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) report. This means that your adrenal glands are sluggish, usually due to prolonged stress and stimulant use. Sugar, caffeine, alcohol and any kind of stress, even exciting activities, can wear down the adrenal glands if done to excess. Adrenal fatigue is a very common problem these days, and it causes a reduced ability to withstand stress, fatigue, as well as other problems.

The sodium level detected in my hair sample by ARL Labs was the most clear indicator of adrenal gland weakness. Higher sodium level indicates better adrenal strength. The other indicators of sluggish adrenal glands, as well as how to revive them are discussed below.

Jump to chapter:
Adrenal Insufficiency
How to Strengthen the Adrenal Glands
Anxiety
Adrenal Glands Healed - Mineral Analysis
Key Points Regarding Adrenal Insufficiency Sodium-Magnesium Mineral Ratio, The Adrenal Ratio

Adrenal Exhaustion or Burnout

Adrenal exhaustion is a more severe type of adrenal insufficiency, and can also be described as 'burnout'.

"It is extremely common, even among children today. Some doctors call it adrenal insufficiency, adrenal hypofunction, adrenal underactivity, adrenal shutdown or just burnout. [...]

"Symptoms of adrenal burnout: These include unrelenting fatigue and often low blood pressure, low blood sugar, sweet cravings, aches and pains and perhaps recurrent or chronic infections. Emotional symptoms are often prominent and include apathy, depression, despair, low self-esteem, irritability, compulsiveness, and often negative thoughts and sometimes hopelessness. [...]

Burnout is a deeper derangement of the body's energy system than fatigue. Fatigue goes away with a short vacation and a lot of rest. Burnout will not go away by taking a vacation, though symptoms might improve temporarily."

- Dr. Lawrence Wilson in 'Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis' (1)

A physical, not a psychological condition

"When most people go to the doctor complaining of fatigue and depression, most leave with a prescription for an anti-depressant.

"This only gets in the way of healing the adrenals at the deepest level because it adds more toxins to the body and does not address the real causes of adrenal imbalances, which are mainly nutritional, structural and, at times, related to one's attitudes and emotions. In fact, nutritional balancing will correct adrenal exhaustion fully in almost all cases, though time is required to rebuild the nervous system and the body chemistry."

- Dr Wilson (1)

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Jump to chapter:
How to Strengthen the Adrenal Glands
Anxiety
Adrenal Glands Healed - Mineral Analysis
Key Points Regarding Adrenal Insufficiency
Sodium-Magnesium Mineral Ratio, The Adrenal Ratio

Adrenal Insufficiency/ Hair Mineral Testing

Perhaps the most helpful thing that got diagnosed as a result of my first hair mineral analysis, in Dec 2012, was adrenal insufficiency, which is a milder version of adrenal exhaustion or burnout.

The adrenal glands are meant to produce certain hormones, which help your body handle stress, balance blood sugar and to have energy. However, if they are overworked as a result of excess stress and stimulants, for example, their capacity to produce these hormones becomes impaired and the results are difficulty in handling stress (and getting stressed out too easily), blood sugar imbalances and lack of energy. Other organs can suffer from the sluggish adrenal glands as well.

The hair mineral testing report I received explained that the Sodium/ Magnesium Ratio, which is my case was quite low (30% of ideal), was also often referred to as the Adrenal Ratio. The reason for this is that one of the hormones the adrenal glands produce - aldosterone - regulates the retention of sodium (i.e. salt) in the body. So generally, the report explained, high sodium level corresponds with high aldosterone level, which in turn can indicate overactive adrenal glands. In my case, however, the low sodium (compared to the magnesium level) was diagnosed to most likely indicate sluggish adrenal function.

mineral analysis, sodium magnesium ratio, adrenal fatigue, Na/Mg, adrenal insufficiency

My sodium (Na) levels started off a very low when compared to magnesium (Mg). On the third test, the glands had become over-active, whereas the fourth test showed the ratio getting closer to ideal.

I had suspected that I had adrenal fatigue before, since the previous decade and a half of my life had been quite stressful - though largely self-imposed - with very demanding studies, moving between countries and money worries. I had also overburdened my body with copious amounts of coffee, as well as lots of partying, drinking alcohol, staying up late to study, working overtime, etc.

I hadn't really acted upon my suspicions before but as soon as I got diagnosed it made perfect sense.

I then read the book by Dr. James Wilson: "Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome" which was very helpful and explained in detail how it felt like to have adrenal fatigue and what one could do about it.

I recommend the above book for those who suspect they might have adrenal fatigue. There is a spit test you can take to test whether your adrenals are working optimally - a standard doctor most likely won't be able to diagnose this as when it comes to the adrenal glands, their blood tests usually only look for more severe problems. Of course, hair mineral analysis is another way of diagnosing.

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Jump to chapter:
Adrenal Exhaustion or Burnout
Adrenal Insufficiency
Anxiety
Adrenal Glands Healed - Mineral Analysis
Key Points Regarding Adrenal Insufficiency
Sodium-Magnesium Mineral Ratio, The Adrenal Ratio

How to Strengthen the Adrenal Glands

Dr. James Wilson, the author of the book mentioned above and also of the website: www.adrenalfatigue.org, recommends the following actions - among other things - to heal the adrenals:

  1. Reduce stress by cutting out things in your life that are bad for you and identifying energy robbers.
  2. Meditate every morning and take vacations.
  3. Sleep before 10.30pm.
  4. Do whatever makes you laugh.
  5. Eat regularly and have snacks, don't let your blood sugar fluctuate. Combine protein and fibre with any carbohydrate or sugar meals.
  6. You may need to take in more salt than usual.
  7. Limit sex because it takes a huge toll on the adrenal glands to produce hormones.
  8. Stay away from anything stimulating: caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, allergens, excessive exercise, etc.
  9. Eat plenty of sprouts, sea weed, organic food, essential fatty acids, colourful vegetables.
  10. Eliminate body burdens, e.g. hypoglycaemia, allergies, anaemia, heavy metal toxicity, chronic infections, intestinal problems, chemicals in water, congested liver, rancid oils, gum disease, etc. Respiratory infections are especially hard on the adrenal glands.

Dr. James Wilson recommends - additionally - supplementing with panthotenic acid with magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin C, deodorized Kyolic garlic and liver cleanses. He also highlights the importance of liquorice root, Siberian ginseng, ginger, ginkgo biloba and ashwagandha in supporting the adrenal glands.

However, Will Houghton, a hair mineral analysis nutritionist, does not agree with using liquorice and ginseng with exhausted adrenals as he is of the opinion that these only stimulate the adrenal glands and cause them to crash later.

In addition, Dr. Lawrence Wilson (different Dr. Wilson!) advocates the following measures for full correction of adrenal burnout:

  1. Supplementary kelp and sea salt
  2. Avoid all vigorous exercise
  3. Avoid fasting, cleansing diets and most cleansing herbs. [I suspect because cleansing strains the body? And because fasting can interfere with blood sugar balance?]
  4. Avoid bio-identical hormone therapy and all medical drugs as much as possible.
  5. Saunas and coffee enemas are essential for full recovery.
  6. Chiropractic manipulation is very helpful, even essential in some cases.
  7. Foot reflexology, bodywork such as Rolfing, emotional release therapies, meditation with Roy Masters exercise, and other balancing and healing therapies can be an excellent help.

Will Houghton recommended, in addition to the points above, B-vitamins, as they are important for the nervous system, as well as for sleep and adrenal gland function. He also recommends various heavy metal detoxification methods and meditation to induce relaxation. There are also other nutritional supplements he promotes for adrenal healing.

As a result of this research I started taking a B vitamin complex supplement and continued to take fairly high doses of vitamin C, as before. A little later I also added various herbs, namely liquorice root, Siberian ginseng, He Shou Wu and burdock root to my diet.

(To clear confusion, Dr. James Wilson is a doctor who specializes in healing the adrenal glands. Dr. Lawrence Wilson is a hair mineral analysis and Nutritional Balancing doctor, continuing the work of the late Dr. Paul Eck, who developed this form of hair mineral analysis, which goes beyond some of the other types. Will Houghton and Christine Meehan are the nutritionists who I have been working directly with, and who consult with Dr. Lawrence Wilson.)

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Jump to chapter:
Adrenal Exhaustion or Burnout
Adrenal Insufficiency
How to Strengthen the Adrenal Glands
Adrenal Glands Healed - Mineral Analysis
Key Points Regarding Adrenal Insufficiency
Sodium-Magnesium Mineral Ratio, The Adrenal Ratio

Anxiety

I later started taking all the supplements recommended by the lab, as well as some additional ones recommended by the nutritionist, because I didn't see very much improvement in the adrenal ratio in my second test. I also took some chlorella capsules for maybe a month or two. I definitely felt better, more balanced and energetic on the supplements, maybe more calm as well. Adrenal glandulars especially (made from ground-up animal adrenal glands, with hormones taken out) seemed to give me energy and better ability to withstand stress.

However, in the summer of 2013 I started getting many anxiety symptoms, mostly just before and after starting at my new job. I realized that I was unable to take even slight stress and would get extremely fatigued from the smallest upset or challenge. I also started getting hot flashes. My nutritionist said in an email exchange that this would most likely have something to do with the adrenal glands. But I didn't do a retest because I read the book: Get Out of Debt by Allen Carr, which inspired me not to spend money on hair analysis and supplements for now, but to pay my credit card back first!

But I couldn't resist a slightly cheaper option of going to see a Traditional Chinese Doctor, who provided dietary advice, acupuncture and herbs. It was definitely been a very enlightening and helpful experience and crucial in terms of dietary advice and anxiety relief.

I finally realized, after a few weeks on Chinese herbs and 2-3 acupuncture sessions later, that a lot of my anxiety was caused by the adrenal glandular supplement, of which I was still taking 3-4 capsules per day. So in total, by then, I had been on the glandulars close to one year. In the beginning, however the glandulars had had the opposite, anxiety-reducing effect.

Before it was confirmed by the new hair analysis report, I already suspected that the adrenal glands had gone on overdrive. For this reason, and to save money, I stopped taking all the supplements, apart from occasional herbs and Dr. Mercola's krill oil.

Jump to top of article
Jump to chapter:
Adrenal Exhaustion or Burnout
Adrenal Insufficiency
How to Strengthen the Adrenal Glands
Anxiety
Key Points Regarding Adrenal Insufficiency
Sodium-Magnesium Mineral Ratio, The Adrenal Ratio

Adrenal Glands Healed - Mineral Analysis

In March 2014 I took my third test and found out that my adrenal glands were not sluggish anymore but slightly overactive, as I had suspected due to the fairly extreme anxiety symptoms I was experiencing. This didn't necessarily mean that the adrenal glands were fully healed but at least they had become a lot stronger.

To see exactly what I did in terms of healing, refer to my diet diaries in My Natural Health Journey. Generally, however, my approach was stress reduction, supplementing with pink Himalayan salt, herbs from the Chinese doctor and otherwise, acupuncture, some light exercise, different low-sugar and sugar-free diets, and supplements recommended by Dr. Lawrence Wilson, including adrenal glandulars.

As mentioned above, the adrenal gland strength is primarily determined by the sodium level, although there are other markers as well on the mineral test report. An interesting point to note is that prior to the third test, I had been taking 1-2 teasp of sodium every day in the form of pink Himalayan salt mixed in water, and my sodium (Na) level shot up. It would seem like a very straightforward explanation for why this specific mineral quantity increased in the hair sample.

In between the third and the fourth tests, I wasn't supplementing with salt, and the sodium level normalized a little, dropping again to the sluggish side of the ideal sodium ratio.

mineral analysis, sodium-potassium ratio

To complicate things, my new hair mineral analysis nutritionist, Christine Meehan, explained that the adrenals may look strong on these test reports, even though they are still tired, because the toxic metal elimination may be pushing the ratio up. I guess I will see the true health of the adrenals once I stop eliminating metals.

But everything in the test reports seem to be going towards the right direction, my body is slowly healing and things are starting to balance out. Toxic metal elimination itself, which started properly showing on the third test, can often be taken as a sign of strengthened adrenal gland activity as well (though not always).

In addition to the sodium itself, it is also the amount of sodium in relation to the amount of magnesium that reveals the health of the adrenal glands (see image higher up showing my readings). My first test showed 30% of the ideal levels of Na/Mg (sodium/magnesium) - this indicated sluggish adrenals. However, my third test reading was 512% of the ideal, which according to Will Houghton was 'slightly' overactive adrenal glands... Would seem to me like very overactive adrenal glands but I guess it's not that simple!

Jump to top of article
Jump to chapter:
Adrenal Exhaustion or Burnout
Adrenal Insufficiency
How to Strengthen the Adrenal Glands
Anxiety
Adrenal Glands Healed - Mineral Analysis
Sodium-Magnesium Mineral Ratio, The Adrenal Ratio

Key Points Regarding Adrenal Insufficiency

Extracts from Dr. Lawrence Wilson's book (1) regarding adrenal insufficiency:

  • The condition of the adrenal glands is the single most important clue to understanding the stress response system of the body.
  • The adrenal glands help regulate many systems of the body, such as blood sugar, blood salts, blood pressure and the autonomic nervous system.
  • Low sodium level shows reduced adrenal effect at cellular level. Elevated sodium level tends to indicate excessive adrenal activity or effect, however, toxic metals or other factors can elevate the reading falsely on early hair analyses (closer to the beginning of following the Nutritional Balancing program).
  • Sodium-potassium ratio (Na/K): Too low ratio indicates adrenal weakness and exhaustion, and too high ratio indicates acute stress on the adrenals.
  • mineral analysis, sodium potassium ratio, adrenal insufficiency

    My sodium-potassium ratio started off ideal, then shot very high in tests 2 and 3, and was again very close to ideal in test 4.
  • High sodium-potassium ratio can be roughly correlated with more inflammation in the body. Low ratio means that the cells can't create enough energy (disturbed electro-chemical potential of cells due to the sodium pump failure).
  • Sodium-magnesium ratio (Na/Mg): Indicates strength, joy and an aspect of the oxidation rate.
  • Faster oxidation rate is associated with increased adrenal effect at the cellular level.
  • There may be many levels of healing that need to be completed before the adrenal glands balance out.
  • 'Cortisol reversal' is typical with a person suffering from adrenal gland imbalance. The cortisol, stress hormone, level is low in the morning and increases as the day goes on, peaking around midnight. This is the opposite of an ideal adrenal secretion pattern and indicates autonomic nervous system imbalance.

Jump to top of article
Jump to chapter:
Adrenal Exhaustion or Burnout
Adrenal Insufficiency
How to Strengthen the Adrenal Glands
Anxiety
Adrenal Glands Healed - Mineral Analysis
Key Points Regarding Adrenal Insufficiency

Sodium-Magnesium Mineral Ratio, The Adrenal Ratio

The ideal level for sodium-magnesium mineral ratio is 4.17, according to Dr. Lawrence Wilson (1). My ratio started off too low (1.25) in December 2012, then increased slightly (to 1.85) in July 2013, shot up way above the ideal (to 21.33) and then came down a little lower (to 9.50). A graphic of the test results is shown higher up, towards the top of this article.

The primary causes of an imbalanced sodium-magnesium ratio, and thus also causes of adrenal insufficiency, are: autonomic nervous system imbalance combined with nutritional deficiencies, toxic metal excess, and too much stress on the body (1).

"A high sodium-magnesium (Na/Mg) is associated with anxiety, irritability, higher blood pressure and blood sugar, anger and acute stress conditions.

"A low Na/Mg ratio is associated with fatigue, perhaps lower blood sugar in most cases, low blood pressure, low body temperature, sweet cravings, salt craving and other symptoms of weak adrenal glands. [...]

"Psychology: A high ratio is more associated with extroversion, joy and aggressiveness. A low ratio is associated with apathy, lethargy, depression and despair."

- Dr. Lawrence Wilson (1)

Sources

(1) Dr. Lawrence Wilson: Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis: A New Science of Energy (2010).

Jump to chapter:
Adrenal Exhaustion or Burnout
Adrenal Insufficiency
How to Strengthen the Adrenal Glands
Anxiety
Adrenal Glands Healed - Mineral Analysis
Key Points Regarding Adrenal Insufficiency
Sodium-Magnesium Mineral Ratio, The Adrenal Ratio

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