Adrenal fatigue has become a standardized term in the alternative health world. And with good reason too. Excess adrenal output and diminished adrenal output can both be primary issues that can derail a person’s health. I have seen the benefit of taking adrenal glandular extracts, nutritional supplements that inhibit or increase sympathetic nervous system output, certain bio-identical hormones and of course a nutrition plan that is compatible with your Metabolic Type.
But what underlies adrenal issues? Are all of those nutritional supplements doing anything to help your adrenals?
Adrenal hyperfunction indicates an excess of cortisol and adrenal activity. Adrenal hyperfunction is indicative of a loss of certain mineralcorticoid hormones, and consequently a loss in potassium through the urine. Adrenal hyperfunction can be a primary cause of hypertension (which quite often involves a loss of potassium and an increase in sodium in the blood and cells) as well as anxiety, irritability and headaches.
On a blood test, when potassium levels are decreased (about 4.0 or lower) and sodium is increased (greater than 142) and chloride levels are higher than 105, it is a sign of adrenal hyperfunction.
Because there is a loss of potassium from inside the cell, in the blood and in the urine, there is the tendency for metabolic acidosis. Hypertension, metabolic acidosis, adrenal hyperfunction and anxiety are very often seen together because of the chronic loss/deficiency of potassium intracellularly.
Adrenal hypofunction indicates an insufficient amount of cortisol and adrenal activity, exactly the opposite of adrenal hyperfunction. in adrenal hypofunction there is an excess in the amount of mineralcorticoids in the blood. This causes an increase in the amount of potassium in the cells and blood, and a decrease in the amount of sodium in the blood. Adrenal hypofunction, sometimes referred to as adrenal burnout, can result in chronic fatigue, exhaustion after exercise, abnormal fluid dynamics, low blood pressure and hypothyroid function.
On a blood test, adrenal hypofunction is indicated by the following: potassium levels greater than 4.5, sodium less than 136 and chloride values 101 or less.
Because there is excess potassium and decreased sodium, this is a major marker for metabolic alkalosis. It is wrong to assume that only acidosis is pathological. Alkalosis is just as common as acidosis, if not more so.
Low blood pressure, low blood volume, metabolic alkalosis, hypothyroid function and adrenal hypofunction are very commonly seen in the same clinical picture.
Electrolyte Balance & Adrenal Function
Your cells are electrically charged by mineral salts. It is this electric charge that moves water in and out of your cells and makes energy. There are a number of primary electrolyte minerals: sodium, potassium, chloride, sulfate, magnesium, calcium and phosphate.
Of primary importance for your adrenal function are sodium and potassium. The ratio between these 2 minerals is so critical to your health. Potassium is primarily found inside of the cells, while sodium is found primarily outside of the cells. Flip the correct proportion of these minerals and your health will suffer, especially your adrenals.
The ratio between sodium and potassium will determine fluid and electrolyte dynamics, blood pressure activity, nervous system output and energy production and utilization. When there is excessive sodium and deficient potassium, excess adrenal activity will take place. When there is deficient sodium and excess potassium, diminished adrenal activity will take place.
Many people’s adrenal function will improve by increasing their electrolyte function. It is true that many people are dehydrated. A person’s typical response to me telling them that their cells are dehydrated is: “but I drink tons of water.” While water is important for a number of reasons, it is minerals which fuel and hydrate and electrically charge your cells.
Minerals are harder to come by than they were 100-150 years ago. Soil depletion due to agricultural industrialization has removed significant minerals from our food. For example, magnesium in most foods is approximately 50% less than it was 100 years ago.
Many mineral supplements are not absorbed well by the body because so many people are deficient in hydrochloric acid (HCL) and can have any number of digestive inadequacies.
Stay tuned as I am working with some new mineral/electrolyte formulations that are aimed to restore hydration, mineralization and adrenal function.