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  Are you suffering from an adrenal dysfunction?
  If you are not
coping with stress
it might be time to check out your
adrenal health, explains Dr Vijay Chandraraj
The adrenal glands play a critical role in our body’s ability to react to stress. They have evolved an incredibly effective response that equips
our body to ‘fight’ potential threats or prepares us for ‘flight’ away from danger.
This occurs though the release of a hormone called cortisol, which has a multitude of effects throughout the body, including raising blood sugar to provide energy, increasing heart rate and blood pressure to improve supply to muscles.
The hectic, fast pace of modern lifestyles produces a huge array of stresses on our bodies, which can stem from financial worries, relationship strains, managing children, work pressures, poor quality nutrition, food intolerances, toxin exposure and hidden infections.
The adrenal system is highly effective at responding to acute, sudden and short- lived situations of stress, but in modern life, most stresses are chronic and long- term.
The resulting prolonged high cortisol levels can result in detrimental effects on all of the organ systems it works upon; creating symptoms we refer to as adrenal dysfunction.
Symptoms of adrenal dysfunction include fatigue, lack of motivation, irritability, anxiety, brain fog, disturbed sleep and cravings, alongside a weakened immune system.
There may also be knock-on effects to the thyroid hormones and sex hormones, causing weight gain and low libido.
The functional medicine investigative approach, if the history and symptoms are suggestive of adrenal dysfunction begin with an adrenal stress test. This involves analysing a series of saliva samples taken at key times throughout the day to monitor cortisol levels to assess how well the adrenals are functioning to measure the degree of adrenal dysfunction.
Normally cortisol is high in the morning triggering us to wake up. Once awake there is a further surge to help up prepare for the stresses of the day ahead.
Over the rest of the day, levels slowly decline until bedtime, when levels reach the lowest point. Paradoxically, when cortisol is lowest, the sleep hormone melatonin peaks, helping us to drift off to sleep.
As always, the functional medicine approach seeks to identify the root- causes of the problem, in this case, the depleted adrenals. Additional investigations may be needed to identify the factors contributing to each individual’s cause before a personalised treatment plan can be developed.
Assessment includes a detailed history, focused on the specific stress factors in each patient’s current situation. Advanced gut functional tests may reveal inflammatory issues, food sensitivities, uncover infections or microbiome disturbances.
Nutritional-status tests can uncover any significant deficiencies in micronutrients vital for optimal adrenal function such as the B-vitamins, vitamin C, selenium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D and essential Fatty Acids.
If lacking, the individual’s diet can be adapted to include more of the required nutrients or supplements can be recommended. Microbiome issues or infections can be addressed if required.
It is impossible to avoid stress completely in modern day life, but we can learn techniques to balance it through stress management activities such as massage, yoga, meditation or mindfulness, to reduce the impact.
Gentle exercise, such as yoga, walking or swimming are better than more strenuous physical activities for patients with adrenal dysfunction, as patients are very often in a depleted and exhausted state at the time of initial consultation.
Sleep is a huge factor. It is often significantly disturbed in adrenal dyfunction. Good sleep hygiene routines are essential. When we treat adrenal dysfunction, patients often notice improvement in sleep quality relatively quickly.
In some cases, herbal adrenal adaptogens such as ashwagandha, ginseng or rhodiola may be beneficial.
Adrenal health is vital to our ability to cope with stress; when you realise you are no longer coping, it may well be time to get checked-out, before you burn-out.

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