BY TAWNYA RITCO, R.H.N
The two walnut-size glands that sit just above each kidney are the unsung heroes of the human body. Our adrenal glands work as batteries to energize our body. Although they secrete adrenalin and other hormones that play a number of essential physiological processes in our body, they are most commonly associated with their ability to help us deal with stress.
The adrenal glands are crucial to our overall health and taking good care of them throughout our life is essential as they also work as our back up sex hormones, a role which becomes even more important as we age. In addition, they help manage our blood sugar, regulating metabolism and controlling blood pressure.
So the three big questions are: How do these dynamos work? How do we know when they are not functioning? And how can we take care of them?
How do our adrenal glands work?
The fact is, we are all subject to stress in our lives and our bodies are hard-wired with what is known as the “fight or flight” stress response. Think of it like pressing the gas pedal on your car. When there is a perceived threat, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the adrenal glands (via the pituitary gland). This causes them to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. It’s what allows us to spring into action with a burst of energy during times of emergency. For many of us, the challenge to our health arises when we are faced with “chronic stress” for protracted periods of time. Sadly, with modern-day living, this scenario is all too common.
Adrenaline and cortisol are released whether we are undergoing acute stress — such as a death in the family, a divorce, surgery and other forms of trauma — or simply dealing with low-grade stressors such as traffic jams, work deadlines, expectations from family and friends, environmental stressors, or even worrying excessively or just feeling irritated. Over time, the constant secretion of these key hormones can cause the adrenals to become stressed to the point of exhaustion. The result: Adrenal exhaustion.
Symptoms of weakened adrenals
Knowing when you’re adrenal “batteries” are low and needing a boost has become more important than ever before. Weakened adrenals can manifest themselves through fatigue and lack or energy, insomnia, irritability, cravings, weight gain and ultimately a weakened immune system. You might find your capacity to deal with workloads has decreased and your overall tolerance to stress and capacity to handling it is much lower than it once was. People often describe what they feel as an overall unwell feeling. For some, just having enough energy to get through the day is a challenge. It’s clear that prolonged stress plays havoc on the body and can potentially create a myriad of issues that can elevate anxiety and potentially affect our working memory.
Recognizing our own self-imposed stress triggers is a huge step towards managing, reducing and possibly eliminating them from our lives. Some of the most effective stress management and lifestyle strategies include diaphragmatic breathing — also known as belly breathing. Walks in nature, meditation and laughing have all been shown to have positive effects on calming the sympathetic system (the fight or flight response) and activating our parasympathetic system (rest and digest).
The role of adaptogens in supporting our adrenals
That’s where adaptogens come into play in mitigating the effects of protracted stress. They are a group of specialized substances that help normalize the body’s response to stress and rebalance the hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis (HPA), which is the body’s central stress response system. Adaptogens such as those found in PURICA Vitality Adrenal Support can literally help revitalize our adrenals and increase our capacity to manage the inevitable stressors that have become synonymous with daily living.
Inspired by the principles of Chinese, Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine, PURICA Vitality is a powerful combination of two certified organic micronized medicinal mushrooms (Chaga and Cordyceps) and the herb ashwaghanda. This powerful blend calms and restores balance within our overworked adrenal glands, enabling them to better deal with the impacts of stress. Especially when used in conjunction with some of the stress management techniques outlined above, it is one of the ways we can replenish the adrenal “batteries” and maintain the kind of energy we need to make the most of our lives, whether at work or at play.
Tawnya Ritco, R.H.N., is Director of Education for PURICA and promotes natural health education and finds inspiration in the connection between nutrition, lifestyle, and vitality.