We all get stressed! No disagreement there. The concern is when chronic stress causes a medical problem, and if it does where is the problem. Well, if we believe medical physiology (the study of our body functions) then the key location is the adrenal gland.
The adrenal gland secretes several different hormones that are so critically involved in our response to stress in our daily lives.
We are all familiar with the hormone adrenalin – this is our body’s signal of “fight or flight”. In Paleolithic days it meant us outrunning the dinosaur from devouring us; today it would mean hiding from the guy with a gun in his hand. This fight or flight response was built into our system for emergency use- not to get stressed if our internet wasn’t working.
Another key hormone produced by the adrenal gland is cortisol. Cortisol has many functions: regulating our blood sugar in contrast to insulin. When our body is under chronic stress, we tend to make too much cortisol to try and keep us going. The problem with this is the analogy I make to squeezing a lemon – it’s ok to squeeze a lemon a few times to get some juice, but if you squeeze a lemon to its pulp then all the juice is gone! If you keep stressing the adrenal gland it too becomes fatigued or dried up.
An excellent study done on medical students at Ohio State showed that their cortisol levels were high just before their exams (when studying to pass) and then dropped after the exams were over; however, the researchers also found the students tended to get sick in the rebound phase when their cortisol levels dropped low because cortisol also affects your body’s immune response.
The final key hormone I want to mention in regards to adrenal fatigue is aldosterone. This is a special hormone involved in regulating your potassium and sodium levels in your blood, and it is also very important in affecting your blood pressure. In adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue, we tend to see patients that have abnormally low blood pressure! We tend to think of low blood pressure as a good thing, but not when you have other symptoms indicating the adrenal gland is malfunctioning.
At Mitchell Medical Group in NYC & Long Island, we carefully evaluate a patient’s adrenal function based on their history, physical exam and blood tests.
A history pointing to adrenal fatigue may include the following symptoms:
- Chronic infections
- Sugar or Salt cravings
- Extreme difficulty waking up in the morning
- Low blood pressure
The blood tests we order are from certified labs – and the key is that we order these tests to be done first thing in the morning for the highest accuracy.
The good news is that adrenal fatigue can be successfully treated with supplements, hormone replacement and of course restful sleep and good nutrition.
– Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Mitchell Medical Group in NYC & Long Island
About the Author – Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. is a Board Certified Allergist and Immunologist based out of NYC. He graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine and completed training at the Robert Cooke Allergy Institute in New York City. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the author of Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution: The Ultimate Program for Reversing Your Symptoms One Drop at a Time. Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. has also been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Fitness Magazine, Dr. Oz and News NY 1. Dr. Mitchell also hosts the podcast The Smartest Doctor in the Room – a combination of a lively, personal and in-depth interview with top healthcare specialists.