So your stressful life has contributed to sleeping issues? You have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue or all at the very least the symptoms seem to fit. Your energy levels have dropped off significantly over the years and it’s especially problematic during afternoons.
However, there is no such thing as adrenal fatigue. Unless you have Addison's disease, your adrenal glands are working as intended. It’s the signaling upstream that is the problem.
Adrenal glands don’t excessively secrete cortisol to the point where they can’t produce unless damaged. This is the finding by the vast majority of scientific research. So why do adrenal fatigue support formulations work? It’s because the effective formulas are resetting the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) just as the vitamins, minerals and herbs previously mentioned.
Whether we referred to this as Adrenal Fatigue or HPA Axis Dysfunction, the best natural remedies combine:
B-Vitamins, Magnesium, Adaptogenic Herbs, Critical Amino Acids like GABA.
Why is this distinction important? If only your cortisol levels are tested a patient can get a false negative for “adrenal fatigue” or worse. Then the patient is given cortisol that might exacerbate the situation. This is one more reason to always choose well-formulated herbal based supplements rather than synthetic stimulating or suppressing cortisol drugs.
Cortisol plays a critical role in sleep, stress and inflammation. Our cortisol levels should be highest when we first awake so we are alert and then it tapers off quickly. When perceived stress or chronic inflammation occurs, cortisol secretion is initiated. During times of stress it boosts our system in a threatening situation. Where there is chronic inflammation, cortisol reduces the inflammatory response to protect us from the aging process. Unfortunately sleep is interrupted when cortisol is secreted anytime other then early in the day.
There are four triggers causing HPA axis imbalance between these three glands mistakenly referred to as, “adrenal fatigue,” according to Dr. Thomas Guilliams, an expert the field of Molecular Immunology.
While this topic deserves a deeper dive, the important takeaway is that the HPA axis includes a set of neurotransmitters with self-regulating feedback loops. When the body isn’t in balanced, the pathways either no longer result in cortisol secretion or the cells become cortisol insensitive like a diabetic in the presence of too much insulin. This is the body’s system of checks and balances.
To address the four triggers, incorporate stress-reducing behaviors like mediation, yoga, essential oils and supplements like Zen Calm and Zen Sleep. Begin by reducing inflammation in the gut by eating a healthy diet reducing sugar and eliminating rancid vegetable oils. Try to get outside and take in natural light and stay away from your computer screen late at night.
Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for the body and plays a huge role in reducing aging, especially for the brain. At night the brain literally detoxifies itself during sleep draining the byproducts from the day’s activities. Other parts of the body also go through reparative processes that help maintain organ and tissue health.
To understand why sleep aids don’t work we have to review some key basic knowledge.
What Controls Sleep?
Biochemically speaking, sleep is controlled by a neurotransmitter-like compound called melatonin. Commonly referred to as the, ‘the hormone of darkness,’ it helps regulate circadian rhythms among other things.
Simply put, serotonin is a precursor for melatonin. The pineal gland converts serotonin to melatonin in the presence of darkness. Think of serotonin and melatonin as two opposite sides of the same coin. Serotonin is created in the presence of light and is referred to as the ‘happiness hormone’. Melatonin needs three basic things to exist; serotonin, the pineal gland to be working properly, and darkness to be most effective.
Four Main Factors Impact Sleep
Endocrine balance (hormone suppliers)
The amino acid required for both serotonin and melatonin is tryptophan. While it’s true that some people have a tryptophan deficiency, and increasing intake alone can solve sleep problems, this is by no means a majority of cases. It may initially be beneficial, but quickly fails to improve sleep.
A Few Bad Actors
A majority of people suffering from insomnia have the following contributing factors; stress, inflammation, and poor gut health. People also need to consider that sleep studies can determine if sleep apnea contributes to their insomnia.
Increased stress levels increase the cortisol levels and decrease B vitamins. Elevated cortisol levels in the morning wakes us up, so this clearly is not going to contribute to a good night’s sleep.
Inflammation and Gut Health; while these two in combination cause many people to suffer from chronic inflammation, people are unaware that it stems from poor gut health. The typical diet increases candida overgrowth, decreasing healthy bacteria leading to a leaky gut. Once the digestive tract is compromised inflammation begins and the body reacts by secreting cortisol to suppress the inflammation. Again, we are in the presence of elevated cortisol which interrupts sleep. This connection between gut health and sleep is now widely accepted in the scientific community.
Sleep Aids – Why They Don’t Work
Finally! … why don’t sleep aids work?
Sleep aids don’t address the four triggers discussed earlier; muscle relaxation, mid-brain hyperactivity, endocrine imbalance or intestinal health.
3 Types of Sleep Aids
Melatonin receptors stimulants such as Rozerem.
Benzodiazepines target GABA (amino acid reduces anxiety & mid-brain activity)
i.e., Ativan and Restoril.
Nonbenzodiazepines – also target GABA
i.e., Ambien and Lunesta
Prescription drugs known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) stop serotonin from being reabsorbed.
In addition to not addressing all the issues, these sleep aids have serious side effects and can become addictive. Even natural melatonin is addictive, a condition of which many people are unaware. Any amount large or small of external melatonin is recognized by the body and triggers the pineal gland to reduce its own melatonin secretion. So that is not a successful path and it creates long-term problems.
Proper exercise, diet, the right amount of exposure to light and darkness plus addressing the four causes of sleep interruption are the best solutions to getting a good night’s sleep. People also need to consider participating in sleep studies to determine if they are suffering from sleep apnea.
The four biochemical causes of insomnia are covered in our product Zen Sleep and often people find that combining this with Leaky Gut Repair will improve their digestive health to reduce chronic inflammation. More information on leaky gut and how it originates can be found in this article.
Food sources that contain melatonin are tart cherries. Other sources that contribute to melatonin creation include bananas, oatmeal and milk. Serotonin boosting foods include the amino acid tryptophan, seafood, dairy, chicken, nuts, seeds and eggs. Recall that the more serotonin in your system the more melatonin potential at night.
Magnesium is the most abundant mineral in the body. At the same time it is typically the most deficient. This makes sense since 50% of it is needed in your bones with additional magnesium needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium is critical within the nervous system for skeletal and cardiac muscle operations. It should be no surprise then that a deficiency in this critical mineral results in difficulty handling stress, sleep and overall weakness.
But how are you going to know which form to use? For sleep and stress the overwhelming choice is magnesium glycinate. However, we have created an entire checklist of common forms of magnesium for an easy to use reference:
Magnesium is an ion and the chelated forms have been chemically attached to an amino acid. These compounds typically improve absorption like magnesium glycinate, lactate, aspartate, malate, taurate, etc.
This is a very common form and when people complain that magnesium gives them diarrhea, this is the form they are consuming. This application is mainly as a laxative. This is the most common form in supplements as it is cheap and has a very low absorption rate. Good quality supplements will not use this form.
This is formed when magnesium is treated with citric acid to form a salt. It has a lower concentration of magnesium, but is high in bioavailability. This is also used as a laxative with the benefit of aiding kidney stone passage.
Like magnesium citrate this is a salt that is formed in the presence of orotic acid. This is easily the most expensive form of magnesium and is occasionally marketed as having the highest bioavailability with the added benefit of easy cell membrane passage. There is no scientific proof of this and savvy shoppers would be smart to avoid this form.
This is a very effective form of magnesium and is helpful in supporting electrolyte balance. It is also helpful in detoxification, though too much can cause nausea.
Often employed when treating digestive issues. This should be avoided with individuals having kidney related problems.
This commonly goes by the name of Epsom Salt™ It has a low level of magnesium and low absorption rates as well. It’s mostly used in therapeutic baths to relieve muscle tension and inflammation.
This is chalk and is a drying agent. This can be used as a laxative though citrate is preferable.
This magnesium has the highest bioavailability and is the most readily absorbed form. The glycinate is also optimal in applications for sleep and stress. Magnesium glycinate has been shown to improve secretion of melatonin aiding in returning individuals to their normal circadian rhythms. It is also thought of as a mood elevator because of its influence in serotonin melatonin secretion.
This form is most often used as an excipient (additive) in supplements. It is used as a flow agent to make the powders flow easily through manufacturing equipment. Some have speculated that it reduces t-cell count in the immune system, but the science seems somewhat inconclusive. This form of magnesium should be avoided just in case.
It’s practically common knowledge that one must cleanse the body to stay healthy. People are more aware than ever that our environment and foods contain endocrine disrupting compounds, herbicides and pesticides that need to be filtered from the body and needing our help to do so. It is not however, common knowledge how to begin detoxification.
There are two main areas of the body that should consider a focal point; our intestinal tract and liver. Breaking down nutrients, absorbing those nutrients while defending against harmful organisms and chemicals is the very complicated balancing act performed by our intestinal wall. When health is compromised the gut is often where the problems first arise, so it’s important to incorporate a detox regimen that focuses here.
Probiotics and the prebiotics that stabilize and feed the new and beneficial microbes is important. There are situations where harmful bacteria and other organisms have gained a foothold and they need to be cleansed from the gut so the benefits of probiotics can be realized.
A cleanse focused on rebalancing candida would be a great first step since most people have candida overgrowth, which often leads to increased permeability of the gut lining (leaky gut). There are many natural ingredients that safely support this rebalancing and the best approach combines enzymes with oregano oil, caprylic acid and anti-parasitic compounds (these and more can be found in CandidaComplex).
Always drink plenty of water during these cleanses. A typical cleanse should run for two weeks to two months depending on the supplement(s), intensity of the cleanse and the person’s current state of health. A good guide for daily water consumption is take the pounds an individual weighs, divide by two to arrive at the correct number of ounces.
During these cleanses, many toxins are released into the blood stream. Often people complain about the side effects of a successful cleanse. They range from chronic fatigue to headaches and joint pain. It’s considered best practice to compliment any cleanse with a liver supplement or liver detoxifying foods. This is especially the case with candida cleansing as it releases over 70 endotoxins during a “die-off”. Taking a liver supplement like Hepatiben is good practice not only to mitigate cleansing side effects, but also to help reduce the build-up of stored toxins in the liver.
The liver conducts over five hundred chemical reactions and regulates everything from DNA repair to blood glucose levels, fat-soluble vitamin storage and ongoing toxin removal. If the liver is burdened by toxin buildup, the liver’s ability to perform these functions will be compromised. Recent studies show a negative impact in diabetes, adrenal health, LDL cholesterol levels, chronic inflammation and even cognitive decline in people with toxic livers.
Combining intestinal cleanses with liver cleansing supplements or foods are great ways to reboot for maximum nutrient absorption, increasing energy levels and reducing the likelihood of disease long-term.
Drink 20oz of water with lemon first thing in the morning. This initiates toxin filled bile to flow into the intestines from the liver washing the gallbladder in the process. Then follow these supplement steps below.
Morning: 1 Candida / 1 Serrapeptase
Afternoon: 1 Candida / 1 Serrapeptase
Evening: 2 Hepatiben [takes advantage of your liver detox cycle]
Advanced Use: Morning: 2 Hepatiben / 1 Candida / 1 Serrapeptase Afternoon: 1 Candida / 1 Serrapeptase Evening: 2 Hepatiben