The adrenal glands are multifaceted glands that sit on top of the kidneys and regulate minerals, stress hormones, and steroid hormones. The adrenal glands and the hormones that they produce are involved in many aspects of the body including blood sugar stability, hormone regulation, digestion, thyroid balance, metabolism and weight management, inflammation, brain health, immune health, and other physiological functions.
Adrenal function can vary greatly among individuals. When the adrenals are under functioning it can result in fatigue and a lack of energy and focus, while over functioning adrenals result in anxiety, sleeplessness, and distractedness. The adrenal hormones respond to stress, which includes all of life’s stressors, whether it is emotional stress from work, family, relationships, or physical stressors from what we are exposed in our environment, foods, and pollutants.
Our immune system struggles with the amount of stress we are under. High stress times will actually suppress immune function acting similarly to the immunosuppressant drug Prednisone. Long term and chronic stress weaken the immune system making us more vulnerable to illnesses, allergies, chronic infections, and cancer.
I often hear patients stating that their allergies are worse every year or that they seem to grow worse with age. I liken this to the “total load” phenomenon or to the saying “the straw that broke the camels back.” We can only handle so many stressors at once and eventually when we just can’t handle any more, we will begin to react or just fall apart.
Over the counter allergy treatments only provide short term relief and do not even begin to resolve the problem. Not only do they further burden the body and require elimination, they also increase the demand on the liver and kidney’s detoxification pathways. I encourage short term measures for treating any condition when necessary as long as the individual understand that long term work is necessary to cure the problem, in this case allergies.
10 Ways to Improve your Adrenal Function and
Strengthen your Immune System to Decrease your Allergies
1. Relocate - Move to a place where you are not allergic to your environment or don’t go outside. This may be unrealistic, so keep on reading...
2. Remove Stressors - Sometimes it has to get really bad to make changes, but it doesn’t have to. Set aside time for yourself to make short and long term goals. Work with your family to address issues before they become problems that can’t be resolved. There is something to be said about work-life balance, and it is possible if you want it to be.
3. Avoid Food Sensitivities - Avoid foods that you react to, slow you down and cause inflammation. Its amazing what removing a food sensitivity can do for your health. Top food sensitivities include: wheat, dairy, eggs, sugar, corn, soy, peanuts. If you need help identifying your food sensitivities, please see your doctor at West Seattle Natural Medicine for assistance.
4. Sleep - Since your immune system is suppressed during the day while you are busy at work and play, you need adequate sleep to allow your immune system to recover and rebuild itself. The hours before midnight are the most restorative for the adrenal glands. It is best to go to bed early and wake early rather than staying up late, which increases your stress hormones at a time when they should be off.
5. Hydrate - Drink water throughout the day at regular intervals to stay well hydrated. Water helps keep the adrenals functioning well throughout the day. Most people need about ½ of their body weight in ounces plus an extra glass for additional exercise or coffee or alcohol or soda beverage. For example a 180 pound adult who drinks one cup of coffee a day would need 90 ounces plus an additional 8 ounces for the coffee, which would total 98 ounces or about 3 liters.
6. Eat Regularly- Keeping blood sugar stable with regular meals and snacks will prevent stress hormones from being elevated in times of hunger. Eat instead of working through hunger. A balanced meal or snack should include some protein, fat and fiber to allow for slow release of glucose into the bloodstream compared to a high calorie snack that will immediately spike and crash blood sugar. When eating something sweet have it with a meal or after a meal to minimize the elevation in the blood.
7. Avoid Sugar - Sugary foods not only create major blood sugar instability but also suppress immune function. Any form of sugar will suppress immune function. Read labels and keep sugar in foods to a minimum. Four grams of sugar on a nutrition label is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of table sugar.
8. Probiotics - The beneficial bacteria that live in your gut that regulate your immune system are a key to good health! Don’t load up on yogurt especially if you are sensitive to dairy. Include other cultured foods in your diet like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha or supplement with a high quality probiotic. West Seattle Natural Medicine carries a number of high strain probiotics for infants, children, and adults.
9. Vitamin C - With all the other vitamins recently taking the limelight, don’t forget about good ol’ Vitamin C. It is an amazing antioxidant that assists in liver detoxification. Vitamin C also helps regulate histamine in response to allergens and also supports the adrenal glands. A regular dose of 1000 mg a day is recommended for most adults, but when allergies and stress are underway you can push the dose along the day 1000-2000 mg 3-4 x a day. You’ll know if you reach too much if your stools become loose.
10. Adrenal Supplements - Your doctor can advise you of the best adrenal support for you. There are a number on the market that include actual adrenal hormone, adrenal gland, adaptogenic herbs, and vitamins. Most patients, with or without allergies, need some form of adrenal support beyond this list. We live in a chronically stressed society and humans haven’t adapted to this lifestyle yet, we some how just seem to continue to make life more complicated.
Continue to strive for wellness and health. It is a way of life and does not come from a pill. Keep it simple when you can, and remember other tools that help you manage your stress like exercise, yoga, meditation, prayer, being with loved ones, reading a good book, taking a walk, looking at the trees. With less allergies you will be able to enjoy and be connected to nature rather than hiding indoors or feeling like you need to move away from the beautiful NorthWest.