Did you know that your adrenal health is important for fertility? Supporting adrenal health is important for proper hormonal balance. Adrenal glands are part of the major endocrine glands. Our endocrine system is comprised of many glands that all serve important function for our bodies to maintain healthy homeostasis. The main function of the endocrine system is to serve as our body’s message center. Hormones deliver messages; the endocrine system coordinates hormones.
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The adrenal glands sit atop our kidneys, like little caps. The adrenals release certain hormones in response to stress. Stress may arise from intense emotion, physical bodily injury or overexertion, or through environmental factors such as toxins. The adrenals are made up of two structures, the adrenal cortex is the outer layer, the medulla is the inner layer. For fertility, the cortex is the most important, it releases androgens. Androgens include DHEA (the precursor to estrogen), testosterone, androstenedione, testosterone being the most recognized of the androgens. Some of our progesterone is also produced by the adrenal glands as well. The adrenal glands also produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
Chronic Stress Affects our Fertility in Two Different Ways
A person that lives a balanced life has adrenal glands that are healthy and function at a normal level. Then over time, a person may find that their life situation is presented with a constant stressful state. At first, the adrenal glands are overworked; they are repeatedly stimulated by stressful situations, causing the constant release of adrenaline and cortisol. The presence of adrenalin, the hormone that is released by our bodies during stressful times, signals to our body that conditions are not ideal for conception. Adrenaline inhibits us from utilizing the hormone progesterone, which is essential for fertility. It also causes the pituitary gland to release higher levels of prolactin, which may contribute to infertility. Research tells us that stress boosts levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which inhibits the body’s main sex hormones GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) and subsequently suppresses ovulation, sexual activity, and sperm count.
As chronic stress continues long-term, the adrenals no longer can keep up. Hormones produced by the adrenals are not produced in abundance; the adrenals become sluggish. This may lead to hormonal imbalance. Not enough hormones are being produced or released. Other endocrine glands are not being signaled to release their hormones and the entire communication of the endocrine system becomes broken. Repeated intense stress response may cause adrenal fatigue.
The role the adrenal glands play in our reproductive health can be very confusing. The body has a complex network of communication to maintain proper function. The adrenals play an important role in this function, especially when it comes to energy, reaction to daily stress, and maintaining hormonal balance that keeps the body fertile. Supporting proper function of the adrenal glands is very important to managing stress on all levels, as well as maintaining hormonal balance for fertility.
Adrenal Fatigue Directly Affects the Thyroid
Our adrenal glands can handle acute stressful situations with no problem, but they cannot handle chronic stress. Chronic stress taxes our adrenals. When our adrenals have a lot of stress placed on them, it puts our body into a state of catabolism. Catabolism is the break-down of our bodies; destructive metabolism. Over time the body will slow down the thyroid as a protective measure. To maintain both thyroid and adrenal health, we must consider the health of our stress management skills each day. The thyroid function is reliant on the adrenals. Each of our endocrine glands play a key role in the health of the others. Adrenal fatigue may lead to not only thyroid issues, but a compromised immune system as well.
Signs Your Adrenals May Need Support
-Premature menopause, POF
-Poor egg health
-Worsening of PMS symptoms
-Anxiety or panic attacks
-Weight gain, cravings for carbs, salt, sugary foods in the evening
-Intolerance to cold
-High blood pressure (associated with overly exerted adrenal function)
-Low blood pressure (associated with underactive adrenal function)
-Lethargy, low energy, with feelings of being wired at the same time
-Irritability, short temper
-Frequent illness, longer recovery time from illness or injury
Ways to Support Proper Adrenal Function
- Eat a whole food nutrient-dense diet. If we do not get enough of the vital nutrients and minerals needed for optimum health through our foods, then when the body is faced with stress, it may not be able to handle the stress as well as someone who is well-nourished. Well-nourished people that consume a whole food, nutrient-dense diet, have a lesser chance of stress impacting their health negatively.
- Exercise regularly, but start off slowly and with a good plan! Studies show that exercise keeps stress and depression at bay. Extreme exercise is not a good idea if you have adrenal fatigue, and may actually tax the adrenals more. Begin with walking or yoga. Go for a daily brisk walk outdoors! Yoga is restorative to the body.
- Consider specific nutritional supplementation for adrenal support. We like the nutritional supplement Adrenal Strength because this 100% whole food nutritional supplement contains specific nutrients and herbs that have been shown to not only support adrenal health, but stress response as well.
- Maca is wonderful for mind/body stress support; it is nourishing to the entire endocrine system. Maca supports healthy hormonal balance through nourishing support of the entire endocrine system. Maca may be protective to adrenal health as long-term nutritional support.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Nicotine stimulates the adrenals to release adrenaline. The release of adrenaline signals release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Repeated exposure to nicotine creates a tolerance. Over time, the body needs more nicotine to create the same high. This may create adrenal fatigue, as the adrenals are stimulated repeatedly to maintain the “high” from nicotine. Caffeine consumed regularly is also overstimulating to the adrenals, though not nearly as extreme as nicotine. Over time, repeated consumption of caffeine can be hard on the adrenals function. Alcohol depresses the adrenal glands and slows the release of hormones these glands produce. These may directly impair egg health and libido.
Make a stress reduction plan and stick to it!
- Meditation has been shown to aid people in training themselves to completely relax and return the body systems to homeostasis.
- Fertility Yoga uses key yoga poses that help to nurture, support, and strengthen the endocrine and the reproductive system. Your endocrine system is essential for proper hormonal balance, so using fertility yoga poses that promote healthy endocrine function is just as important as using poses that support the reproductive system as well. Yoga is one of the best overall exercises and stress reduction techniques for both men and women!
- Pay attention to your breath pattern. Stop right now and notice how you are breathing. Do this periodically throughout each day. When you feel stressful situations coming on, through negative thought patterns, going over finances or even going to the grocery store, just stop, slow your breathing down consciously.
- Replace known stressful situations with something you deeply enjoy. You often know beforehand if a situation is going to be stressful or not. If you know that a situation is going to be stressful, consider how you can change it. Can you avoid it altogether? Can you do something you truly enjoy instead? How can you change your thoughts about the situation to make it go more smoothly and with ease, rather than anxiety? How will you breathe through this situation? Will you be calm and centered? While we cannot always change the situation, we can change how we react to it. Make a conscious decision to work to change how you react to stressful situations.
- Sleep! A good 8 hours a night of restful sleep is restorative for the adrenal glands. Be sure you create a dark, quiet, comfortable environment for sleeping. Avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol prior to going to bed for the night. Avoid the computer and TV prior to sleeping; these may affect sleep patterns. Consider a natural homeopathic sleep aid or calming herbal tea before bed if you know you have difficulty sleeping. If you feel tired in the middle of the day and have time to get a nap in, do it! Listening to needs of your body is healthy; ignoring its needs may have detrimental health impact!
In order to support hormonal balance, we must first consider the role each of our endocrine glands play. The adrenal glands support proper stress response. Without proper function of the adrenals, we cannot have healthy fertility, because the adrenals play a key role in hormonal balance. We must first support proper function of the adrenals through not only a nourishing diet and exercise plan, but through daily stress management skills. We cannot heal our fertility issues without considering the state of our stress management skills. If you are a person with high stress, you must make a plan to support proper adrenal function. Ask your doctor for help if you need it. It is healthy to reach out for help. We live in a time where stress levels are out of control. We all deserve to be healthy and happy, but we are the makers of our own happiness. Take some time today to check in with your body and mind. How are you feeling? What areas of your body need to be nourished and paid attention to? Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs!
- M., V. D., Fox, S. I., & LaFleur, K. M. (1997). Synopsis of human anatomy & physiology. Boston, Mass: WCB/McGraw-Hill.
- Pick, M., MSN, & NP. (2018). Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue. Retrieved from: https://www.marcellepick.com/symptoms-adrenal-fatigue/
- DiPlacido, P. L. (n.d.). Alcohol’s Effects on Adrenal Glands. Retrieved from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/75283-alcohols-effects-adrenal-glands/
- Rodriguez C.H., C.M.T., H. (n.d.). Stress and Your Fertility. Retrieved from: https://natural-fertility-info.com/stress-and-your-fertility.html
- Progesterone: Uses and Risks. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/progesterone-uses-and-risks#1