We’re living in trying times right now, with shelter in place, COVID-19, economic problems, isolation issues, health challenges, and social unrest that seem to be getting more and more common.
These stressors have a direct connection with our immune system. A key part of our initial immune response is located in our mucous membranes. Our nose, throat and gastrointestinal tract are areas of the body that are directly connected to the outside world. We call this the mucosal immune system, or simply put, the body’s first line of immune defense.
The mucosal immune system is largely influenced by the health of our adrenal glands. The adrenal glands sit right above the kidneys and they produce certain hormones that influence nearly every organ system in the body, including the immune system. If the adrenal hormone system is taxed, it can influence the health of the entire immune system.
The adrenals get their instructions from the pituitary gland (which is in your brain). And the pituitary gland gets its instruction from the hypothalamus, also in the brain. We call this the HPA Axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal axis), and it is a feedback mechanism. Cortisol and DHEA communicate with the hypothalamus, and they are responsible for keeping the whole cycle going.
The HPA Axis directly influences our adrenal hormones. You may have heard of certain adrenal hormones, such as cortisol and DHEA, but the adrenal glands also produce epinephrine and norepinephrine ( also known as adrenaline and noradrenaline). They’re a total powerhouse of hormone production.
As our adrenal system and our HPA axis gets taxed, overburdened and overloaded, it can influence how cortisol affects things, such as the immune system. There is a direct relationship.
I’m spending a lot of time these days evaluating my patients’ adrenal glands and adrenal hormones and making specific recommendations. There are some lifestyle changes we can incorporate, such as meditation, mindfulness and exercise to help destress the system. In the past I’ve talked about the Japanese technique called Shinrin-Yoku.
Shinrin-Yoku is the process of spending time in nature. This has been shown to quantify the improvement of things such as the adrenal hormones. Simply spending 15 to 20 minutes out in nature relaxing can make a big difference. And if you go for a simple walk, it can help a little more.
-Dr Chad Larson
Sugar and refined grains can also tax the HPA Axis. This is very common right now, as I’m seeing more and more people coming in with symptoms of fatigue, insomnia and sugar cravings. There is a long list of HPA Axis related symptoms that can wreak havoc on the body. The key is to put as many pieces of the puzzle together in order to help keep our immune system strong.
Some of my patients need more than just diet and exercise, so I help support their HPA Axis with some key botanical herbs that help to decrease the stress threshold. These botanicals include Eleuthero senticosus, Rhodiola and various types of ginsengs, to name a few.
I also want to make sure my patients have certain specific nutrients that help them to produce the necessary adrenal hormones. Cortisol and DHEA are supported by a cascade of nutrients and co-factors that are necessary to help make these adrenal hormones.
In times when a lot of stress is happening to us, it can wipe out the finite amount of nutrients we possess, and it will leave us feeling depleted. So we want to boost those nutrients back up with things like zinc, B vitamins(like pantothenic acid and pyridoxine), copper and biotin. We’ll run out these key nutrients if we’re not consuming enough, and this could stall the process necessary for our bodies to make these key hormones.
The product I recommend for this support is called SR-Adrenal. SR-Adrenal has the adrenal adaptogens I mentioned, such as Eleuthero senticosus, rhodiola and ginseng. And it also has the co-factors like pantothenic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B6, zinc and copper in the correct ratios that the adrenal glands need to help support the production of hormones.
It also contains adrenal gland extract to help bolster the adrenals from a fundamental level in order to help support the body’s own cortisol production. I formulated SR-Adrenal years ago and I am finding it to be more important right now when people are dealing with so many different stressors that are influencing their general health, and more specifically, the health of their adrenal glands.
In addition to consuming the right types of foods and incorporating the right kind of stress management, you may want to consider supplementing with SR-Adrenal.