Adrenal Fatigue, the Na/Mg Ratio, and why HTMA is essential
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The Sodium/Magnesium ratio shows our adrenal health on the HTMA. Ideally, this ratio should be around 4. It tells us whether your adrenals are over-active (high ratio) or under-active (low ratio). It is referred to as the adrenal ratio because sodium levels are directly associated with adrenal gland function. Aldosterone, a mineral corticoid adrenal hormone, regulates retention of sodium in the body. In general, the higher the sodium level, the higher the aldosterone level.
The sodium/magnesium ratio is also a measure of energy output, because the adrenal glands are a major regulator (along with the thyroid gland) of the rate of metabolism. A majority of the HTMA’s I see show under-active adrenals, which is more of the adrenal exhaustion stage. This can be a bit harder to resolve than over-active adrenals, which usually are a sign of the beginning of adrenal fatigue.
What in the world are adrenal glands?!
The adrenal glands are two little pea-sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys. The outer part of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex, secretes the corticosteroid hormones including cortisol that monitor the body’s metabolism, inflammation, and blood pressure. The adrenal medulla is the inner part which secretes adrenaline and noradrenaline, hormones that respond to stressors. When the adrenal medulla fires, it increases the heart rate, boosts blood flow to the muscles, and creates a surge of glucose (blood sugar) in the bloodstream. This mechanism evolved so we could draw from a quick burst of energy in a fight-or-flight situation. The adrenals are extremely vital to our health and well-being!
There are many causes of adrenal fatigue. Every kind of STRESS is the most common cause- working too much, abuse, drug or alcohol use. Stress puts us in a constant “fight-or-flight” mode which is what taxes our adrenals. Heavy metals and mineral imbalances can contribute to adrenal issues. Poor diet is a huge factor- overeating, under-eating, the SAD lifestyle, and vegan/vegetarian diets can all contribute to adrenal issues. Genetics are at play too because if your parents have deficiencies, then so do you. Over-exercising is such a common fad now but we lose minerals when we sweat which taxes the body when not replenished correctly (because most of the popular electrolyte drinks are TERRIBLE!)
Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Low energy through the day and trouble getting out of bed
- low thyroid function (hypothyroid)
- inability to lose weight
- low or no libido
- low blood pressure
- dizzy when standing up
- cravings for salt and sugar
- mental exhaustion,
- a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, or any autoimmune disorder
A general course of action for adrenal fatigue will include good fats like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, grass-fed meats (fat and cholesterol are needed for hormone production), Whole food vitamin C (NOT ascorbic acid), high quality proteins like collagen or whey, animal based vitamin A that you would find in Cod Liver Oil, butter and beef liver, and the most important things are rest, sleep, more rest, and more sleep! It depends on the person’s ratio whether they will need magnesium or a good quality salt like Pink Himalayan, Celtic, Redmond’s Real Salt. Those with OVER-active adrenals need more magnesium, and those with UNDER-active need more sodium (and often cannot tolerate any magnesium!).
Everyone’s treatment will be different, as we are all individuals with different deficiencies and imbalances. Working on the body as a WHOLE is important as well. I cannot stress those 2 sentences enough! The adrenals, liver, and gut all need to be working better in order to heal completely. Adrenal fatigue is often a wake-up call for people to change their lifestyles so they learn to slow down and relax in order to prevent an even worse illness.
Aim for a balanced whole foods diet that include more high quality fats, a good amount of protein, and a lower amount of carbs. Supporting adrenals with adaptogens and minerals is important. We need strong adrenals in order to balance copper too!
Adrenal Support Options
Most of the adrenal support supplements are either adaptogens or glandulars. There are MANY adrenal adaptogens out there, and it gets kind of confusing to know which ones are right for each person. Since “adrenal fatigue” gets lumped into one category, there seems to be a plethora of experts that recommend herbs for general use.
For OVER-active adrenals: Ashwagandha can be great. It is best known for lowering cortisol, which tends to be higher in those with over-active adrenals. Ashwagandha is one of those herbs that is recommended for just adrenal fatigue in genera, but it can create more issues for those with underactive adrenals, or low cortisol.
You can try ashwagandha on its own, but I tend to recommend this awesome Gaia Herbs blend.
For UNDER-active adrenals: Most other herbs are great for under-active adrenals since they tend to balance cortisol instead of lowering it (even though most studies are focused on just lowering cortisol, these herbs are known to be more balancing). So Holy Basil, Rhodiola, Reishi Mushroom, and Schisandra berry are usually good. I like this blend from Herb Pharm that has these herbs.
These new tinctures from Herb Pharm formulated by Dr. Aviva Romm are also on my favorite list.
Glandulars: These also depend on the person’s adrenal status. I have had great results (both in myself and with clients) with Symplex F and Drenamin From Standard Process. You can check their website to find a local practitioner that sells their products.
There can be a bit of trial and error when it comes to finding adrenal support that helps with your symptoms. But it’s important to know the state of your adrenals before trying out supplements!
Also, remember that the adrenals are part of the HPA axis. Sometimes focusing on just the adrenals doesn’t work. Read all about the HPA axis here!
Looking for some more information that is specific about adrenal fatigue? Check out Adrenal Fatigue Solutions.com. They have a of comprehensive information about the adrenals, the HPA axis, recipes, lifestyle changes, and even a new ebook!
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