Thank you for this excellent question as it addresses one of the many systems of the body that gluten affects. The adrenal glands are the stress glands. You have two of them and they are located above your kidneys. They are responsible for many different aspects of health. When they are fatigued or exhausted, one can expect such symptoms as:
Weakened immune system
Weight gain (esp. around the mid-section)
Unstable blood sugar / Hypoglycemia
Depression, irritability, anxiety
Joint and organ inflammation
Allergy and asthma symptoms
As you can see by the diversity of the symptoms, the adrenal glands are responsible for the functioning of many systems of the body.
When evaluating why someone would be suffering from such symptoms, it is critical to evaluate the most issues that stress the adrenal glands themselves. In addition to extreme lifestyle stress, the most common source of stress is poor absorption of nutrients. It makes sense that if the body is incapable of absorbing the nutrition from the food that is being ingested that would result in bodily malfunction. That is indeed the case and the adrenal glands are very sensitive to malabsorption as they are responsible for keeping blood sugar levels stable. Such a job is next to impossible with the malabsorption seen with gluten sensitivity and digestive problems.
It is interesting to note that the number of systems affected by adrenal stress are unique to the individual. In other words, the entire list of symptoms mentioned above would not all be present in each and every individual suffering from adrenal fatigue. Typically one finds two to four symptoms positive. Occasionally in a more severely ill patient, most symptoms are present, but that is not typical.
Knowing the symptoms of adrenal fatigue well allows us, as clinicians, to go beyond the concept of one treatment for every symptom and to delve deeper into isolating the root cause of the symptoms. Which would you prefer? A separate drug for your fatigue, sleep problems and joint pain OR discovering the root cause beneath all the symptoms such as gluten intolerance or malabsorption of nutrients. We prefer, and are dedicated to, the latter.
Therefore when a patient arrives to see us with symptoms such as exhaustion, a red flag goes up. We “know” that we are likely looking at adrenal exhaustion but the next question is, why? What is the underlying cause of this condition? Yes, we could simply “treat” the adrenals with nutritional support. But what good is that if the reason behind the problem is not revealed!
It is the search and determination to reveal the root cause that defines our practice. I think it should define more of health care in this country, but I realize that I am extremely biased on the topic! The human body has an amazing capacity to self-heal once enough stressors are removed from it. Adrenal exhaustion is quite epidemic in this country and little is done to treat it until the symptoms have become diseases in their own right. There is no reason to wait.
One of the most exciting aspects of treating the adrenals is that they prefer and respond well to a natural program. No drugs nor surgery are required. Lifestyle changes are a must, but those are not difficult to sustain once improved energy and vitality result.
I hope you find this helpful on your gluten free diet. Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you require any assistance.
For more on adrenal exhaustion please read here.
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