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Suzanne Bovenizer cmt, cst

Fighting Adrenal Stress

In this economic climate many people are feeling the proverbial pinch, and this year’s celebrations and gift giving may possibly have to be scaled back a little. Even if we try to take a positive attitude towards spending money, we can’t seem to get away from the financial doom and gloom that the news people spew at us daily. No matter how much we try to ignore the constant fear-mongering money hype, subconsciously we are all still being affected by its negativity.

All this exposure to bad news creates chemicals in the brain that are transmitted to the adrenals sparking subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) stresses and anxieties. The adrenals are the glands that supply hormones such as adrenaline (to make us more focused and alert) and cortisol (to release energy-giving nutrients) to the body. They assist us in the fight or flight response, so that when we need a quick burst of energy to get out of a sticky situation, the adrenals deliver the chemicals to help us. In a crisis situation, we get a boost of adrenaline and cortisol to deal with the immediate challenge, then once safe, the adrenals re-regulate and our bodies return to normal functioning. But sometime when there is chronic stress and worry, the flight or flight mechanism never gets switched off, and we have a constant flow of stress chemicals taxing the body. With sustained high levels of cortisol, healthy organs can become compromised and normal functioning hormone levels become destabilized. At this point we can experience adrenal exhaustion/fatigue. There are many symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue including weight gain, insomnia, tiredness, depression, food craving, mood swings and lack of focus. And with the economic crisis, the wars around the world, the political situation and the crazy weather, we are all probably feeling a little adrenal stress and fatigue. That’s where essential oils can help!

One symptom of adrenal exhaustion is excessive fatigue and tiredness. We have no reserves to rebuild our already overloaded system and so we drag ourselves through life, not even having the energy to feel joy. Resting, relaxing and taking time for one’s self is ideal although it must be remembered that exhaustion was built up over a long period of time so it won’t disappear overnight. Finding a regular time in life to meditate, unwinding in a soothing bath, reading an uplifting book or visiting with friends who inspire you can certainly help and using oils in these situations can heighten the pleasure centers and speed up recovery. Essential oils that help relax and release tension are bergamot, geranium, jasmine, melissa, lavender, marjoram, neroli, rose and ylang ylang. These oils can be burned in an aroma lamp for background atmosphere, or mixed in mineral salts if you are having a bath.

Another symptom that goes hand in hand with fatigue is insomnia and/or a non-refreshing sleep. Often we are so wound up and tense that thoughts persistently cloud the mind and disturb our sleep. Bad dreams or stress dreams keep us from that deep restful sleep and we wake up even more tired than when we went to bed. There are some wonderful herbs that you can take at bedtime to soothe the over-wrought nervous system as well as minerals and homeopathic remedies that assist in sleep. The essential oils that help are chamomile, geranium, lavender, marjoram, orange, sandalwood, verbena and neroli. These can be burned in an aroma lamp by your bed or a few drops can be placed on a tissue and sniffed before bed, or the tissue can be placed on the pillow beside your nose while you sleep.

Because of fatigue, energy/stamina is low and the thought of exercise is anathema. Of course the best solution for zero desire to exercise is to do just that – exercise. We know when you do any form of exercise, endorphins, those feel good hormones, are released and once you pass that exhaustion wall and feel those endorphins kick in, you feel energized, as if you can exercise forever. Stimulating essential oils that assist in keeping the endorphins pumping are clary sage, eucalyptus, ginseng, rosemary and peppermint. These can be rubbed on the chest (with a carrier oil) so when you begin to perspire, you’ll smell them and they’ll invigorate you even more.

Low immune functioning is a very real thing with chronic stress. The adrenals also create hormones that support the endocrine system and when all the cortisols are going to fight tension, there are no reserves for keeping the immune system strong. Continual colds, allergies, flu symptoms, headaches, sensitivity to cold all can be the result of adrenal stress challenging one’s immunity. Vitamins, herbal teas, homeopathics and flower remedies support the immune system in wonderful ways. Essential oils that strengthen immunity and fight colds and flu are angelica, cajeput, eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree and niaouli oil. These can be rubbed on in a carrier oil, bathed in or used in a vaporizer at night.

Depression, anxiety, irritability, fearfulness, panic attacks and difficulty concentrating are some of the more emotional symptoms of adrenal stress. If you are in a continuous state of fight or flight – or sometimes the third “f” : freeze – then the fear levels are being sustained at an exhausting level. Constant cortisol, if not being utilized efficiently, will cause a toxic effect to the body. Toxicity can lead to all sorts of physical and emotional instabilities and irrational thoughts. Essential oils that assist in emotional upliftment are basil, melissa, clary sage, geranium, neroli, jasmine, patchouli, rose and sandalwood.

Because the adrenals are part of hormonal production, when there is an imbalance in one system it can knock onto another, resulting in symptoms like low libido, erectile dysfunction, faulty menses, heightened menopausal and premenstrual problems and a lack of lust for life. Essential oils will not cure any of these challenges, but there are aphrodisiac oils that can assist in releasing the tension or anxiety associated with these imbalances. Some of the aphrodisiac oils are black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, jasmine, neroli, sandalwood, patchouli, and ylang ylang.

Another factor in adrenal stress is diet. Too many refined and processed foods cause increased levels of blood sugar, to which the body responds by producing insulin. It’s too long of a chemical explanation, but suffice it to say that the adrenals try to keep up the production of cortisol in response to the stress caused by sugars and refined foods. To alleviate adrenal fatigue, a diet rich in vegetables and proteins is the first step. Essential oils that aid in digestion are anise, basil, black pepper, crdamom, frankincense, marjoram, peppermint and rosemary.

I know this was a complicated subject to discuss in one article and I probably didn’t do it justice. But I wanted to give you an idea of how important it is to care for the adrenals and to encourage you try to keep stress levels down to a minimum during this hectic time of year. And of course, one of the best ways to bust stress is to drink water. Hydration is key to flushing out the acids that excess cortisols are broken down into.