Dr. James L. Wilson is the author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. In 1998, Dr. Wilson coined the term “ADRENAL FATIGUE” to identify a group of signs and symptoms that people experience as a result of suboptimal adrenal function. This lack of optimal adrenal performance is often associated with the affects of stress on the human body. The excerpts from the book that follow are reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Smart Publications.
Dietary supplements play a very important role in healing from adrenal fatigue. They not only speed your recovery but are also often necessary for complete recovery to take place at all. The supplements described in this section are chosen specifically for their restorative effects on the adrenal glands. The significance of each will be briefly explained because you need to understand why these nutritional supplements are included as part of your rehabilitation program and the absolute necessity of taking them regularly.
Vitamin C: Of all the vitamins and minerals involved in adrenal metabolism, vitamin C is probably the most important. In fact, the more cortisol made, the more vitamin C used. Vitamin C is so essential to the adrenal hormone cascade and the manufacture of adrenal steroid hormones that before the measurement of adrenal steroid hormones became available, the blood level of vitamin C was used as the best indicator of adrenal function level in animal research studies. Vitamin C is used all along the adrenal cascade and acts as an antioxidant within the adrenal cortex itself.
Vitamin C, as it occurs in nature, always appears as vitamin C complex – a composite of ascorbic acid and certain bioflavinoids. It is this vitamin C complex that is so beneficial, not just ascorbic acid, by itself. Bioflavinoids are essential if ascorbic acid is to be fully metabolized and utilized by your body. The ratio of bioflavinoids to ascorbic acid should be approximately 1:2, that is 1 mg. of bioflavinoids for every 2 mg. of ascorbic acid. Bioflavinoids basically double the effectiveness of ascorbic acid in your body and allow its action to be more complete. The kind of vitamin C you use makes a difference.
Vitamin E: Technically speaking, vitamin E is not required for any part of the adrenal hormone-manufacturing cascade, yet it is essential, indirectly, in at least six different enzymatic reactions in the adrenal cascade. The manufacture of adrenal hormones generates substances called free radicals that can create great damage inside the cells if they are not controlled. An excess number of free radicals slow down the enzymatic reactions and, carried to the extreme, can do physical damage to the adrenal cell structure. Vitamin E absorbs and neutralizes these damaging free radical molecules inside the adrenal glands and elsewhere. Vitamin C enhances vitamin E’s activity inside the cell by regenerating the capacity of vitamin E to sequester the free radicals. These two work hand in hand to keep the adrenal cascade functioning. Therefore, high amounts of vitamin E are necessary in order for the adrenals to maintain high levels of steroid production and recover adequately.
It is important to choose the right vitamin E supplement. Vitamin E, in chemical terms, is a “tocopherol”. Most vitamin E supplements sold in health food and grocery stores are in the form of d-alpha-tocopherol. Although this is a natural form of Vitamin E, it is only a fraction of the complete vitamin E complex. It is the least expensive to manufacture and the most profitable. Therefore, it is not surprising that the majority of companies promote this type of vitamin E, making it the most available type of vitamin E on the market.
However, the vitamin E necessary for adrenal regeneration is a mixed tocopherols supplement, specifically one high in beta-tocopherols. Recent studies have shown that too much d-alpha-tocopherol can actually suppress the beta and other tocopherols necessary for adrenal rejuvenation. Taking a mixed tocopherols vitamin E is critical if you want to restore adrenal health.
Pantothenic Acid: Pantothetic acid, one of the B-complex vitamins, is another essential contributor in the adrenal cascade. Like magnesium, it is important for energy production, as well as to the cascade itself. Pantothetic acid is converted into acetyl CoA, a substance critical to the conversion of glucose into energy. It is present in all cells but in higher quantities in the adrenals because so much energy is needed to produce the adrenal hormones. The combination of pantothetic acid with magnesium, vitamin E and vitamin C increases energy production and takes much of the fatigue out of the adrenals, without over stimulating them. The quantity of pantothetic acid recommended is typically 1,500 mg. per day. Tablets of 500 mg. can usually be purchased in health food stores. Therefore, three tablets per day at this strength are adequate.
Niacin: Niacin, in addition to pantothenic acid, is one of the most important of the B vitamins to the adrenal cascade. Large amounts of niacin are necessary to form the molecular structure of certain niacin dependent coenzymes critical for several steps in this cascade. Therefore, a B complex that is high in niacin is important in facilitating some of the crucial enzymatic reactions that take place during the adrenal cascade. If you cannot find a B complex vitamin that contains more niacin than it does the other B vitamins, you may need to purchase a separate niacin supplement. When you are recovering from adrenal fatigue, 25 to 50 mg. niacin a day is recommended. If niacin’s tendency to make people flush (turn red and tingle) bothers you, buy a “non-flushing” type, such as niacin hexanol.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is also a co-factor in several of the enzymatic pathways in the adrenal cascade. One easy test for vitamin B6 deficiency used by alternative doctors is to ask patients if they can remember their dreams. If they have trouble recalling their dreams, then they often need vitamin B6. When adequate Vitamin B6 is added as a dietary supplement they usually begin to remember their dreams. Typically 50 to 100 mg. a day is plenty.
B Complex: The entire B complex is needed in small quantities throughout the adrenal cascade. All the B vitamins work together in concert with each individual B vitamin while it does its “job”. Therefore, a small amount of all the other B vitamins are necessary to help the actions of niacin, vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid. Most vitamin B supplements contain synthetic B vitamins. Even though the natural forms are preferred, the synthetic can be used effectively to help restore adrenal function. When buying a B complex vitamin supplement, look for one that has the B vitamins in the proper proportions for the human body to utilize. For example it should have 50-100 mg of B6, 75-125 mg of B3, and 200-400 mcg. of B12.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): The herb best known for supporting adrenal function is licorice. Licorice is an anti-stress herb known to increase energy, endurance and vitality and act as a mild tonic. It has been used to ease drug withdrawal and stimulate the hormones for anti-inflammatory action. It is known to naturally fortify cortisone levels, arguably the most important hormone in stress and adrenal fatigue. Licorice has also been used to help decrease symptoms of hypoglycemia, a common side effect of decreased adrenal function.
Licorice is available in capsules, as a liquid herbal extract, and in the original dried root which can be chewed or made into a tea. Follow the directions that accompany whichever product you choose.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Ashwagandha is an ancient Indian herb with a history of therapeutic use dating back to at least 1000 BC, probably because of its direct beneficial effects on adrenal tissue and function. Although it is also known as Indian ginseng, it is not related to ginseng. Traditionally, ashwagandha has been prescribed as a tonic for all kinds of weaknesses, as well as to promote strength and vigor. It has long been regarded as a rejuvenator and mild aphrodisiac. Because of its ant-inflammatory action, Ayruvedic physicians use it as the treatment of choice in rheumatic pains, inflammation of joints and other related conditions that are commonly seen in states of adrenal fatigue.
Ashwagandha is considered to be an adaptogen. An adaptogen is any substance that helps the body function more towards its normal level, for example if cortisol is too high, it lowers it, and if it is too low, it raises it. Studies have shown Ashwagandha is capable of normalizing cortisol levels, whether they are too high or too low.
- Wilson, James. Adrenal Fatigue.
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