It’s hard to love deeply and live your dreams while you’re suffering from frequent colds, bronchitis, allergies and asthma. Regain your best health now. Discover the unexpected cause and a safe, elegant natural remedy in this guest post from naturopathic physician and integrative medicine expert–
By Mark A. Stengler NMD:
Millions of people are walking around suffering from respiratory allergies… asthma… recurring colds… and bronchitis—and they don’t have to be. Pam, a woman in her 40s, had three colds in a row that turned into bronchitis. She told me that she had been struggling with allergies and persistent fatigue for most of her adult life. I see so many patients with this combination of symptoms that I immediately suspected that she had an altogether different problem. It is called adrenal fatigue (AF), a collection of symptoms that occur when the adrenal glands, which produce stress- and inflammation-fighting hormones, no longer function properly.
You might wonder what AF has to do with these other conditions. My answer: Everything. What’s really going on is that AF is masquerading as allergies or asthma. Once AF is properly diagnosed and treated, these other conditions quickly clear up. I prescribed a treatment plan for Pam designed to get her adrenal glands functioning normally again. After just two months on the program, her respiratory problems disappeared and her energy level was higher than it had been in years.
What you need to know: AF is most often associated with a wide range of symptoms, including lack of energy, insomnia, blood sugar swings, cognitive impairment and depressed mood. But AF also can have a significant impact on your immune system. In addition, it often is not recognized by conventional physicians because it doesn’t show up on regular lab tests. As surprising as it may sound, if you suffer from a respiratory allergy to dust, pollen, ragweed, pet dander or other environmental allergen—or if you have asthma that recurs despite treatment—there’s a chance that your real problem is improperly functioning adrenal glands. (I have even found that AF is associated with asthma in some children, although it is more common in adults with asthma.)
AF CAN BE THE ROOT OF OTHER PROBLEMS
The adrenal glands are responsible for producing the hormones cortisol (released into the bloodstream in response to stress) and dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA (a precursor to hormones such as estrogen and testosterone). AF usually occurs when patients undergo extended periods of stress, which cause levels of DHEA and cortisol to become elevated for long periods of time, usually four months or longer (although this varies by patient). The surplus production of DHEA and cortisol overtaxes the adrenals, resulting in a sharp drop in DHEA and cortisol levels.
What AF does to the immune system: Both cortisol and DHEA modulate the immune system’s inflammatory response. When the glands no longer produce sufficient amounts of these hormones, the immune system becomes overactive, producing inflammatory responses even when there’s no real threat or infection looming. Result: Allergic responses… respiratory infections… and asthma. Most conventional medical doctors treat these conditions by prescribing antihistamines for allergy symptoms and corticosteroids to ward off asthma. In other words, they treat the symptoms, not the disease.
DIAGNOSIS AND TESTING
If you suspect that you have AF, it’s best to see a naturopathic physician and have your adrenal function tested. My preference is a saliva test, which is more accurate than a blood or urine test. Your physician will retest you three or four months after treatment begins to see if your levels have improved.
HOW TO HEAL THE ADRENALS
My treatment protocol for AF involves supplements to boost adrenal function and/or increase resistance to stress. Patients follow the protocol for four to six months, which is the time it usually takes to get the adrenals working properly again. Most patients begin to feel better within the first month or two. When patients are doing well, I help wean them off their allergy or asthma medications during this time. People with very severe cases usually stay on my regimen for eight to 10 months. After treatment, patients either take lower doses or stop taking these supplements altogether, depending on their overall health. The supplements that I recommend below include herbs (which are most important in helping this condition) and B vitamins. There are no side effects except as noted.
Ashwagandha. This herb, used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammation, is a potent adaptogen, an herb that helps to bring physiological processes into balance and enhances the body’s ability to handle stress. It has a strong effect on the adrenal glands and normalizes production of cortisol. Dose: 250 milligrams (mg) daily of ashwagandha standardized to contain 8% of the active ingredient with anolide.
Rhodiola. Another adaptogen, rhodiola is an herb that has been used for centuries in Eastern Europe and Asia as an energy and mood enhancer. It boosts adrenal function, and studies show that it also improves the body’s resistance to stress. Dose: 300 mg daily of rhodiola standardized to contain 3% of the active ingredient rosavin.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus). Another adaptogen, this herbal extract has been used for centuries in Russia and Asia to boost energy and fight stress. Dose: 150 mg to 200 mg daily of Siberian ginseng extract standardized to contain 0.8% eleutheroside. Side effects: Can cause insomnia if taken before bedtime and can affect some diabetes drugs. Should not be used during pregnancy.
Vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid). Vitamin B-5 helps adrenal function and is used by the body to manufacture cortisol. Dose: 250 mg to 500 mg of vitamin B-5 daily.
Vitamin B-12. This vitamin helps boost resistance to the effects of stress. Dose: 50 micrograms (mcg) to 100 mcg of vitamin B-12 daily.
Finally, I advise my patients to take steps to reduce stress in their daily lives. Recommendations: Get enough sleep (seven to eight hours a night)… take a 30-minute midday nap, if possible… eliminate all refined sugars from your diet… take regular vacations… and minimize daily stress by exercising or participating in relaxing activities, such as listening to calming music.
Mark A. Stengler, NMD, is a naturopathic medical doctor and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine. Dr. Stengler is author of the Bottom Line Natural Healing newsletter, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies (Bottom Line Books), founder and medical director of the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine in Encinitas, California, and adjunct associate clinical professor at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. www.DrStengler.com
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