Common Causes of Adrenal Stress:
Poor diet / digestion issues
Lack of sleep
Prescription drugs (many)
Sustained stress, trauma, exposure to toxins, poor diet and pregnancy can tax the adrenal glands. But certain medications can also cause the adrenal glands to produce too much of the stress hormone, Cortisol, and in turn start a cascade effect with other chemical messengers.
Antidepressants operate by forcing the amount of serotonin in the brain higher by blocking the natural recycling process to other neurons. But elevated serotonin triggers the production of Cortisol and Adrenaline (Epinephrine); a natural reaction from the body to combat the excess Serotonin levels. This is what gives the boost or euphoric state that can last for a period of time. However, as Serotonin remains unnaturally high, the adrenals become fatigued and cause levels of Adrenaline to decline while the Cortisol increases. The adrenals become exhausted, which helps to explain the fatigue and other symptoms that many SSRI-Antidepressant users report.
Benzodiazepines and sleeping pills initially suppress Cortisol production, but tolerance to the medication and withdrawals can produce severe stress that in turn causes the adrenal glands to produce higher amounts of Cortisol. Benzodiazepines impair the stress response system of the body and not surprisingly a long and varied list of side effects are associated with continued use. As GABA activity increases, the brain’s output of the excitatory neurotransmitters Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline), Serotonin, Acetyl Choline and Dopamine is reduced. These chemicals are necessary for normal alertness, muscle tone, memory, coordination, heart rate, blood pressure and emotional responses, and are all affected by continued use of anxiety medications. Other benzodiazepine receptors that are not linked to GABA are also present in the colon, kidneys, blood cells and adrenal glands. The direct and indirect actions are responsible for the adverse side effects of benzodiazepines and explain why the kidneys, colon, blood cells and adrenal glands are affected. Depletion of Cortisol and alterations in the immune function can also occur. This helps to explain why long term benzodiazepine use (greater than 12 weeks) can have a compromised endocrine system; which includes the adrenal glands, hormones, thyroid, pineal gland, pituitary, and reproductive glands.
Continuous use of sleeping pills disrupt the natural sleep cycle by inducing a hypnotic state almost entirely lacking REM (Rapid Eye Movement). But REM sleep is the restorative and rejuvenating sleep that our body needs to heal itself. Chronic users of sleeping pills will suffer from long term issues of sleep deprivation and fatigue that drive Cortisol levels higher and lead to adrenal fatigue.
Depression, anxiety, insomnia and obsessive-compulsive symptoms are all consequences of elevated Cortisol in the long-term effects on Seratonin and Dopamine production.
Individuals with adrenal fatigue can follow a distinct energy pattern – Fatigued in the morning, rarely feeling awake before 10 am, and not feeling fully awake until after a noon meal. There will be a lull in their Cortisol in the afternoon between 2-4 pm leading to sleepiness or clouded thinking, then an increase in energy level after 6 pm, although they tire easily, they feel best at night and resist going to sleep until after 11 pm.
Cortisol production is naturally high in the early morning hours (around 7 am) to assist with the waking cycle. But those who chronically stress their adrenal glands have lower concentrations in the morning. Many will consume caffeine in an attempt to boost Cortisol, which further stresses the adrenals. Then at night the elevated Cortisol prevents the ability to enter Stage 4 REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which the body needs for recovery. Gastrointestinal issues including bloating, indigestion, heartburn and reflux also add to the stress on your adrenals.
When your digestive system is irritated or inflamed, the body’s natural response is to eliminate the inflammation by producing more Cortisol. However, elevated levels of Cortisol begin to erode the intestinal lining and leave an individual susceptible to food allergies, yeast, fungus, and Candida overgrowth.
Understanding Adrenal Function
Antidepressant & Cortisol
Benzodiazepines & Body Issues
Benzodiazepines: What they do in the body
Cortisol Decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine Increase
The Sleep-Wake Cycle and Sleeping Pills
The HPA Axis
The Adrenal Gland
Nutritional Considerations in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Impaired hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) system is related to severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal in patients with depression
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