Testing for Adrenal Fatigue is done via urine or saliva. In either case, samples are collected at home, four different times over the course of one day. Often, other adrenal hormones such as progesterone and DHEA may be included. Both urine and salivary tests are equally sensitive when testing cortisol levels.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal Fatigue is a modern-day epidemic and results from the overstimulation of the adrenal glands due to chronic stress and over time, low cortisol levels. The most common report is feeling “burnt out”.
Adrenal fatigue is one of the most common health disorders, but it’s not recognized or screened for in conventional medicine – unless you have the extreme case of Addison’s or Cushing’s Disease – and these are uncommon. However, Adrenal Fatigue will impact up to 80% of us at some point our lives. Adrenal fatigue may occur after a major life-changing event such as divorce, surgery, childbirth, or even following a car accident.
The main purpose of your adrenals is to enable your body to deal with stress from every possible source, ranging from injury and disease to work and relationship problems. Adrenal function is of paramount importance because these small glands play a pivotal role in determining the way your body responds to every change in your internal and external environment. For example, the protective activity of anti-inflammatory adrenal hormones such as cortisol help to minimize reactions like swelling and inflammation in situations ranging from allergies to autoimmune disorders. These hormones closely involved in many metabolic processes:
- Blood sugar regulation
- Metabolism of carbohydrates and fats
- Conversion of fats and proteins into energy
- Distribution of stored fat – focused around your waist (the spare tire); & sides of your face
- Cardiovascular function
- Gastrointestinal function
After mid-life (menopause in women, andropause in men), the adrenal glands gradually become the major source of the sex hormones circulating throughout the body in both men and women. These hormones themselves have a whole host of physical, emotional and psychological effects, from the level of your sex drive to the tendency to gain weight.
Adrenal fatigue causes a feeling of generalized “unwellness” which creates havoc on your life. In more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Metabolic changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to, and to compensate for, the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue.
What are Adrenal Glands?
The adrenal glands are tiny hats, one each, that sit atop your kidneys and secrete hormones to help you deal with and manage stress. The outer part of the glands, called the cortex, releases cortisol, for our stress response and metabolism control, as well as aldosterone to regulate blood pressure. The inner part of the glands are the medulla where adrenaline is released, another part of the stress response.
When your central nervous system perceives stress, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release their hormones as a part of the “fight or flight” response. This can happen several times throughout the day and can vary depending on your lifestyle. For example, an alarm clock startling you out of sleep will trigger this response, as will less sudden stressors like feeling overwhelmed by your overflowing email at work or worrying about finances or family members. In the early stages of stress, this response is actually beneficial. It can improve mental clarity, focus and energy. But over time, the benefits start to fade, and the consequences of chronic stress take over.
What are natural treatments for insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome?
Insulin resistance can often be helped by addressing a few key areas of health such as diet, exercise and stress reduction techniques. A diet rich in low starch vegetables, little/no refined sugar, good protein and healthy fats is important to reduce your risk factors for developing insulin resistance. A Ketogenic Diet has been found to be the most impactful for metabolic syndrome, but also for diabetics who are currently on medications.
High stress spikes cortisol, blood sugar and insulin. Stress reduction techniques like yoga (and other exercise), meditation, breathing practice, clinical therapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy can all be beneficial.
Our naturopathic doctors will work with you to help you manage your symptoms, prevent diabetes (or treat existing diabetes), and get to the source of your insulin resistance through your own individualized treatment plan. It may include:
- Specific dietary modifications –– eliminating food intolerances; increase in fibre, vegetables, fats and protein, decrease in starches and sugars; increase omega 3 fatty acid-rich foods; education and recommendation for a ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting.
- Vitamins, minerals, enzymes –– may include chromium, vanadium, alpha-lipoic acid, B Vitamins, and others.
- Botanicals –– such as devils club, gymnema, momordica, and milk thistle.
- Exercise Guidance and recommendations
- Stress reduction techniques, tools, and resources
What are the signs and symptoms of prediabetes?
You may be unaware that you have insulin resistance issues. Some of the signs and symptoms are similar to those of diabetes. Others are evidence of higher than normal amounts of insulin. Symptoms of insulin resistance may include:
- Excess thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight gain
- Hormone imbalances (excess estrogen or testosterone)
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
- Elevated cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Elevated HbA1c or glycated hemoglobin
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Gestational diabetes
- Acanthosis nigricans (darkened patches of skin on the neck, underarms, elbows, knees, knuckles)
What causes insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome?
Factors that have been shown to cause or contribute to metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance include:
- Poor diet
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise/physical activity
- Sleep apnea
- Hormonal changes such as pregnancy, peri-menopause, menopause and andropause (male menopause)
- Some medications including steroids and antidepressants
- Some medical conditions such as Cushing’s and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Common Signs, Symptoms or concerns patients present with in our office
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal Gas or Bloating
- Acid Reflux or Heart Burn
- Brain fog, poor memory, reduced concentration, poor focus
- Constipation or Diarrhea
- Excessive Burping or Flatulence
- Food allergies or food intolerances.
- Skin problems: acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis & other rashes or itching
- Anxiety and Depression or other mood disorders
- Headaches or Migraines
- Yeast Overgrowth
- Difficulty losing weight, despite a balanced diet and exercise
- Lack of Appetite or Lethargy after eating
- Environmental Allergies (grass, pollen, etc.) or Asthma
- Hormonal Imbalances (painful heavy menses, PMS, PCOS, etc.)
- Autoimmune Conditions: Celiac Disease, Hashimoto’s Hypothyroid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, MS, psoriasis and others
- Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia
Symptoms of food sensitivities
- Chronic constipation
- Heartburn or Indigestion
- Boating and gas
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Eczema or Itchy skin
- Migraines or headaches
- Immediate fatigue after a meal
- Increased heart rate
- Joint pain
- Respiratory problems
Ig E Food Allergy
Ig E Food Allergy is an Immediate Food Reaction that most people are familiar with. As the name implies, this food reaction can occur within minutes or up to 3 hours after ingestion. Peanuts that cause anaphylaxis in a child is an Ig E food allergy. The reaction is caused by the presence of a high Ig E antibody levels in the blood, which sets off an immediate allergic response. Ig E antibodies make up only a small percentage of our immune system (about 5-10% of our white blood cells), but exert the most severe and life threatening reactions. Symptoms can include rashes or full body hives after eating an apple, immediate vomiting or diarrhea from milk, or an intense headache after drinking wine. These reactions can be tested for by either an allergist or a naturopathic doctor.
Ig G Food Sensitivity
Ig G Food Sensitivity (or food intolerance) is a type IV delayed hypersensitivity reaction in the immune system that can occur a few hour and up 72 hours after ingestion of the reactive food. This window of time makes it difficult to link one’s symptom to the food eaten a day or two prior. Such hidden allergies are often the cause of many chronic symptoms. The immune response to delayed food reactions are often caused by antibodies other than Ig E. They are mediated by immunoglobulins: Ig G, Ig A, Ig M and Ig D. The Ig G antibody is the largest circulating antibody in our immune system (about 80-85% of our white blood cells) and can cross the placenta from mother to child. Ig G antibodies are the most common form of immunologic-mediated food responses. These antibodies combine with the food particles in the blood to form “immune complexes” which cause inflammatory reactions in tissues. Such inflammatory reactions can occur in any part of the body, thus producing many kinds of symptoms such as headache, eczema, joint pain, mental disorders, etc.
Testosterone is the main male sex hormone, but it’s important for women as well, in smaller amounts. Testosterone helps maintain muscle mass and bone strength, enhances sex drive and helps with overall sense of well-being and zest for life. Overall, lower testosterone levels are being found among men in the general population. In men, testosterone levels decline about 10% every decade, but sometimes the levels drop sooner or more severe than they should. Environmental factors play a large role and low testosterone in men is commonly overlooked. Some of the warning signs of low testosterone levels include infertility, decreased muscle mass, depression, weight gain, decreased sex drive, and fatigue. There are many natural approaches to balancing hormone levels and supporting men and women in being healthy.
DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is primarily produced in your adrenal glands alongside cortisol, but it’s also produced in the brain and the gonads (Ovaries, testes). DHEA is the precursor to testosterone and even estrogen. Stress and aging are the two main reasons DHEA declines. Low DHEA can lead to low sex drive, muscle and joint pain, reduced bone density, depression and weight gain.
Sometimes, women can suffer from high DHEA called masculinization such as deep voice, facial hair or male-patterned baldness. In men, it can also lead to feminine traits, such as increased breast tissue and testicular wasting. Other possible symptoms include fatigue, sweating, and acne.
Estrogen & Progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone are the two dominant female sex hormones produced by the ovaries, as well as the adrenal glands. In a healthy woman, these two hormones are in balance. Estrogen helps the uterine lining develop and is important for ovulation. Estrogen levels normally peak just before ovulation, and then slowly drop off in the second half of a woman’s cycle.
Progesterone is know as the relaxing hormone in the body. It maintains the uterine lining and is necessary for embryo development. Normally, progesterone levels start to rise just before ovulation, and peak around day 21. If a woman does not become pregnant, progesterone levels fall, the uterine lining is then shed and a period begins.
Common conditions occur under the umbrella of “estrogen dominance”, when there is significantly more estrogen than progesterone creating dis-ease such as PMS, migraines or headaches, anxiety or low mood, food cravings, and weight gain.
Estrogen dominance also exists in men, when there is significantly more estrogen than testosterone. This becomes an issue when “aromatization” occurs whereby the body prefers conversion of testosterone to estrogen. In aromatization, men may develop more breast tissue, abdominal weight gain, reduced libido, reduced sexual function, and difficulty maintaining lean muscle mass.
These important hormones are the primary players that shift as women enter into perimenopause. To read more about how these hormones fluctuate during this time and how you can support your transition through pre-, peri- and postmenopausel, click here.
The thyroid gland controls the metabolic rate of every single cell in the body and maintains body temperature. Without enough thyroid hormone, our body slows down. We feel tired and lethargic, gain weight, experience constipation, feel cold, and are prone to depression. The four main thyroid markers we screen for in our office include TSH, free T4, free T3, and Anti-TPO. Sometimes we can include a reverse T3 if necessary.
Ensuring that one has optimal thyroid hormone levels is critical to feeling well. There are many natural treatments, from desiccated thyroid to Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome & Protocol, to herbal-based treatments and lifestyle practices. Read more about Thyroid Health
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to move glucose from your blood stream (after a meal) into your cells. If your life is stressful, especially with a diet high in refined carbohydrates and without regular vigorous exercise, high blood sugar and insulin elevation can create problems over time. The cells in the body become more resistant to insulin to avoid the toxicity of excess glucose. This can leave too much glucose in your blood and too little in your cells. To maintain balance, your body converts and stores the excess blood sugar as fat – usually around your abdomen. Paradoxically, less glucose into your cells means increased hunger and carbohydrate cravings. Adrenal dysfunction is often implicated here too.
Cortisol is our primary stress hormone. It is responsible for regulating many other functions in the body including, but not limited to:
- Blood sugar levels
- Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism to maintain blood glucose
- Immune responses
- Anti-inflammatory actions
- Sex hormone production
- Blood pressure
- Heart and blood vessel tone and contraction
- Central nervous system activation
Cortisol is secreted in high amounts by the adrenal glands during times of stress. After a short period of time cortisol levels should return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the stress response is activated so often that the body does not always have a chance to return to normal. This can lead to “Adrenal Fatigue.” Adrenal fatigue can cause anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight gain and infertility. It is important to note that adrenal fatigue often precedes thyroid conditions as well. Treating your stress, and restoring your adrenal health is possible and often necessary to feeling better and improving your overall health.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
Chronic Stress & Adrenal Fatigue
The adrenal glands take the leading role when it comes to managing stress through the production of cortisol. Research shows that adrenal fatigue has an impact on thyroid function. Even at mild a degree of deficiency, adrenal fatigue can negatively affect thyroid hormone conversion, utilization, and production. For example, high stress can cause too much cortisol in the circulation which promotes inflammation around the thyroid, and this reduces thyroid receptor responsivity. Therefore, when treating thyroid issues it’s important to address the adrenals, this connection and to care for them both effectively.
90% of cases of hypothyroidism are due to an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland by either thyroperoxidase antibodies (TPOAb) or by thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb), a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. What this means is that the body creates immune cells that attack the gland so that function declines over time. This condition can be triggered by gluten in gluten-sensitive individuals. Similarly, in these people, gluten avoidance for at least 3 months may help lower antibody levels to a normal range.
Thyroid Conversion Disorder
In some cases, the conversion of T4 into T3 doesn’t function properly due an enzyme issue or otherwise. Test results will show normal levels of TSH and T4 but severely low levels of T3. Commonly, in these cases, people are often told by their doctors that their thyroid function is “normal” even though they do not feel normal! This is also why some people who are medicated with Levothyroxine or Synthroid (T4) may feel like their medication is ineffective.
Thyroid Hormone Resistance
Thyroid hormone resistance can be thought of in the same way as insulin resistance is in diabetics. In this condition, the body’s cells are unresponsive to thyroid hormones. In these individuals, T3 and T4 levels can be normal but TSH levels are elevated.
For proper function and the creation of thyroid hormones, the thyroid gland requires the trace minerals iodine, selenium and zinc as well as an amino acid, thyroxine. Deficiency in any of these nutrients, can create symptoms of hypothyroidism. Iodine is found in iodized salt and sea vegetables (such as nori and dulse flakes). I have come to find that iodine deficiency is more prevalent than previous given credit for (a 24 Hour Urine Iodine Challenge Test can determine this). The trace mineral Selenium is abundantly found in Oysters and Brazil nuts, and Zinc is rich in pumpkin seeds and beef. Thyroxine, is the amino acid building block of thyroid hormones and can be found in most sources of protein.
Heavy Metal Toxicity and Mercury
The thyroid hormone and the heavy metal mercury have strikingly similar biochemistry. If an individual has ever had mercury amalgams in their mouth (even if they have now been long removed), both the fact of having had them and likely having had them removed without the proper biological dentistry, the long term exposure of this metal wreaks havoc on the thyroid gland. Sometimes it is prudent to screen for heavy metal toxicity and high levels of mercury that may be causing thyroid suppression. Chelation Therapy for removal of mercury from deep tissue store is one way to treat the underlying hypothyroid condition.
In rare cases, disorders of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus in the brain may be an underlying cause for central Hypothyroidism (AKA secondary or tertiary hypothyroidism). There are usually other concerning symptoms (beyond the list seen on this page) that would warrant imaging and more advanced hospital testing.
What and Where is the Thyroid Gland?
Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ in the front of your neck. The thyroid plays an important role in your body’s energy and metabolism. The thyroid gland takes up trace minerals, such as iodine, selenium and tyrosine, and uses these to make thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones circulate through the liver, brain and several other organs in the body as part of the endocrine system. If the thyroid is not functioning properly, you can develop health problems.
If you have the following health concerns – It could be your Thyroid:
- Anxiety or Panic Attacks
- Unexplained weight gain
- Generalized swelling
- Puffy eyes & face
- Muscle aches or pain
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain, joint stiffness or swelling
- Hair loss
- Low sex drive
- Asthma & allergies
- Recurrent miscarriage / Infertility
- Lack of ovulation
- Decreased memory
- Decreased Concentration or ”Brain Fog”
- Dry Skin, Dry Hair
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- High cholesterol
- Low heart rate
- Loss of outer 1/3 of eyebrows
Do You Offer Seasonal Allergy Tests?
Dr. Emina offers an in-office blood test, following an initial consultation. This test is sent to the lab for objective blood screening of IgE allergic reactions to local Okanagan environmental allergens.
Natural Treatment for Seasonal Allergies:
Based on your allergy test results, we are able to help desensitize you to your allergens in one of two ways:
- Individually compounded medicines are created and compounded by the pharmacy based on your results. Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) works by delivering low dose drops of these allergens at frequent intervals, two to three times a day, under the tongue to build up the body’s tolerance over time. It is an ideal treatment for patients with an aversion to needles, like young children and those with busy schedules that can’t make appointments for shots. Sublingual immunotherapy has been recognized as an efficient and effective treatment for allergies by the World Health Organization and has been used extensively in Europe for over 15 years.
- Low Dose Allergen Therapy is a novel and convenient way to desensitize the body to common allergens. Ultra Low Dose Enzyme Activated Immunotherapy is a novel and effective option in the treatment of all forms of allergies. Patients who have used this therapy have found it to be cost effective and enjoy the fact that no further testing is required in order to commence therapy. With less frequent injections, it is time-saving and preferred by many patients, especially those who are weary of needles. It is a very safe therapy, when compared to conventional injections (that can be life-threatening).
How do I know if I have allergies or just a cold?
There are several symptoms to consider to ensure that you have allergies and not a cold:
- You are sneezing in rapid, repeated sequences
- Your nose, ears and throat (especially the roof of your mouth) are itchy
- You do not have a fever or achy muscles
- Your mucousal secretions are clear and runny
- Your symptoms are lasting longer than 10 days
If you’re still not convinced, your Naturopathic Doctor can perform skin or blood tests to confirm whether you are allergic to something.