Adrenal Symptom Patterns and Body Type
When most people stop and think about what contributes to stress in their lives, “adrenal glands” likely doesn’t make the list. We likely imagine how much more manageable everything would seem if we could just get more sleep, feel more energized in our daily lives, or lose a little bit of weight.
But what if the secret to managing our stress actually lay in understanding the adrenal glands?
Adrenal glands, which work together with the endocrine system to process and respond to stress, are in charge of regulating stress and blood sugar. Many people’s adrenal glands are overworked and overstimulated. This is due to our tendency to cope with stress by consuming high quantities of caffeine, energy drinks, and high-fat, high-sugar foods. This coping method leads to the common Adrenal body type and many uncomfortable symptoms such as weight gain and unshakeable feelings of lethargy. It’s an unfair cycle that can seem impossible to break out of, but the good news is: it is possible to do so.
It’s common knowledge that Americans are stressed. The 2015 report by the American Psychological Association shows that stress levels continue to increase every year, with women reporting slightly higher levels than men. Interestingly, the report indicated that Americans grow more aware every year of the negative effects stress can have on the body and mind; nearly a third of respondents reported that stress has a “strong or very strong” impact on their physical and mental health.
It’s clear that stress is a constant, negative presence in most of our lives. What is less clear is how to cope with stress and effectively restore our adrenal glands to full health. Simple tests can reveal when adrenal glands are unhealthy. Normally the size of walnuts, unhealthy adrenal glands are smaller and shrunken-looking. Shrunken adrenal glands are a signal from the body saying that there is a deficiency in important vitamin and minerals. When the deficiency goes unaddressed, patterns of symptoms begin to occur.
The Adrenal Hormone Symptom Pattern
An example of a person—let’s call her Brianna—functioning with shrunken adrenal glands might look like this: Brianna wakes up in the morning exhausted. Her husband greets her affectionately, but she feels disinterested and instead shuffles into the kitchen to get as much coffee into her system as possible. Before heading to work, she notices that she’s starting to break out a little, and wonders tiredly: Wasn’t this supposed to stop after puberty?
She either doesn’t eat breakfast or is drawn to foods high in fat and sugar, such as a pastry from the Starbucks drive-through. The adrenal gland, struggling to process the rush of caffeine, sugar, and fat, signals its distress via the mid-morning “crash” that she experiences just before lunch. The cycle continues throughout the day, interspersed with food cravings (in particular, those of the salty variety). At night, Brianna experiences disrupted sleep patterns such as waking up and being unable to fall back asleep. The next day, she does it all over again.
How did Brianna reach this point?
It all starts when you ignore your adrenal symptoms, which is direct feedback from your body that can cause you to feel alert and content or exhausted and frazzled. Ignoring this feedback can manifest in day-to-day life. In an article for Psychology Today, Annie McKee writes that stress often causes us to “metaphorically (and sometimes literally) shut the office door to keep demands and people at bay.” We do the same thing to our bodies, putting off dealing with the actual problems and instead attempting—and failing—to smother the symptoms.
Tracking adrenal symptom patterns gives us an idea of how well the gland is functioning and communicating with other glands in the endocrine system.
An unhealthy, shrunken adrenal gland will be unable to regulate healthy levels of glucocorticoids such as:
- Cortisol: a stress hormone responsible for balancing blood sugar
- DHEA: a natural steroid-hormone that controls body odor, hair and skin oiliness, and acne
- Progesterone: another natural steroid hormone that regulates weight, sex drive, mood, and menstrual symptoms in women
Adrenal Hormone Body Type
This is the most common body type. The Adrenal body type experiences weight gain in their midsection, face, and may also develop a “buffalo hump” of excess skin on their upper back/neck area. A study conducted by doctors in Portugal looked at the direct effects of stress on adrenocortical function and found that that: “In conditions of chronic stress the adrenal cortex undergoes an adaptation that allows the hypersecretion of glucocorticoids to occur…” This means that over time, the adrenal cortex will secrete more and more hormones in response to stress.
This causes symptoms to worsen
In particular, Adrenal-types secrete too much of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it tears down tissue and results in an aesthetically unpleasing, saggy look to the body. Adrenal types also have ligament issues, take longer to respond to chiropractic adjustments, and experience reoccurring muscle injuries.
Everyone is stressed, but everyone deserves to be less stressed. The health of the adrenal glands is hugely important to individual health because they regulates stress and blood sugar. However, they can be hard to monitor until symptoms are obvious.
Common symptoms of unhealthy adrenal glands include:
- Food and caffeine cravings
- Weight loss/gain
All of these symptoms take a toll over time, but it is possible to restore adrenal glands to full health.
Here at Bright Life Regenerative Medical Clinic, we offer tests to learn exactly what level your adrenal glands are operating on, and also comprehensive treatment plans to recover their function so that you can live a more comfortable, invigorating life. Your first step now is to take the quiz to see what test options are right for you.
American Psychological Association. 2015. 2015 Stress in America. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/snapshot.aspx
McKee, Annie. (June 2017). “The Happiness Killer at Work.” Retrieved from url: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happy-work/201706/stress-the-happiness-killer-work
Perani, C. V., Neumann, I. D., Reber, S. O., & Slattery, D. A. (2015). High-fat diet prevents adaptive peripartum-associated adrenal gland plasticity and anxiolysis. Scientific Reports, 5, 14821. http://doi.org/10.1038/srep14821