You’ve probably heard about adrenal fatigue. In fact, I treat many patients for this disorder.
But while adrenal fatigue is a serious issue, it’s not the only chronic condition your adrenals play a role in.
I’ve told you before how adrenal burnout is linked to high blood pressure—which is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease.
And now, new research shows that problems with your adrenal glands can also lead to kidney disease. Which can be just as life threatening as heart disease.
Let’s take a look at why your adrenal glands are so vital to your health. And then I’ll share with you my go-to natural approaches that are scientifically proven to support your adrenal glands and, in turn, help protect you from deadly disease.
The tiny glands that have a huge impact on your health
When you think of the adrenal glands, you probably think of adrenaline. And while it’s true that these small glands do produce the adrenaline hormone that helps you deal with life-and-death situations, your adrenals have many other critical functions as well.
The adrenal glands also produce cortisol and aldosterone—hormones that help your body control blood sugar, regulate metabolism, react to stressors like a major illness or injury, and manage blood pressure.
When your adrenals become fatigued, it can affect the production of these hormones. Which, in turn, can play havoc with all of the vital processes these hormones help regulate.
In the simplest terms, adrenal fatigue is a group of signs and symptoms that occur when your adrenal glands aren’t working properly. Causes include:
- intense or prolonged stress
- lack of sleep
- frequent travel
- noise and light pollution
- and of course, a diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates
Considering just about everyone suffers from at least one of these causes, it’s no surprise that adrenal fatigue is so common. What may surprise you is just how dangerous it can be to let adrenal fatigue go unchecked.
How tired adrenals can put your blood
pressure into overdrive
When your adrenals are fatigued, they can start pumping out too much of the aldosterone hormone. And that can send your blood pressure racing—a condition called primary aldosteronism or PA.
According to a new study, PA occurs in one in 10 cases of high blood pressure, and affects one in every 50 adults.1
That doesn’t sound like very serious odds until you look at the other data the researchers discovered. Up to 20% of people have mutations in their adrenal gland cells that interfere with hormone production. The researchers believe this is the first step toward developing PA. And it affects women more than men.
If PA is the cause of your high blood pressure, it can quickly affect your heart, kidneys, and other organs. In fact, this type of hypertension is the deadliest kind.
I can’t tell you how many doctors never bother to check to see what’s really causing their patients’ hypertension. (That’s probably because prescribing a blood pressure drug is much quicker.)
But as this study shows, more people have hypertension caused by PA than the so-called “experts” originally thought. So if you’re taking multiple blood pressure medications and your hypertension is still not under control, you should ask your doctor to test your aldosterone levels.
Ideal aldosterone levels vary depending on your position when the blood is drawn. If you’re standing, they should be 7-30 mg/dl. If you’re lying down, they should be 3-16 mg/dl.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.
If your adrenals aren’t operating up to snuff, it can make your blood pressure go up. In turn, high blood pressure can cause kidney damage. And kidney damage can eventually kill you.
It is a potentially deadly domino-effect of disease. But once you understand it, it’s easier to fix.
I’ll tell you how in a moment. But first let’s take a closer look at your kidneys, and why it’s so critical to keep them in good working order.
Why kidney health is so important as you age
Like your heart, your kidneys move a lot of blood. The kidneys’ job is to filter that blood and turn its waste products into urine. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, making it more difficult for them to do their job.
Researchers have long known that the older you get, the more likely you are to develop chronic kidney disease (CKD)—which can lead to kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, and death. In fact, 47% of people over the age of 70 have CKD.2
But researchers haven’t been able to determine exactly why your chances of CKD increase as you age. Until recently, that is.
A new study out of Iceland followed 805 people for 30 years—beginning when their average age was 51 and ending when they reached an average of 81 years.3
And researchers found that the higher the subjects’ blood pressure in midlife, the greater their chance of developing CKD in later life.
But the Icelandic researchers in this study said their results support the notion that CKD is related—at least in part—to modifiable factors rather than to age alone.
In other words, you can take control and make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
But rather than just focusing on repairing your kidneys…or even lowering your blood pressure…I think it’s important to back up a step further and start by addressing the first domino in the row: your adrenals.
Feed your ADRENALS properly
to fight fatigue
Diet is the most critical component when it comes to restoring adrenal function. Cut out all sugars and grains and focus every meal on whole, organic, nutrient-rich produce and grass-fed and finished protein. And don’t forget to incorporate plenty of healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). You can get MUFAs from avocados, olives, nuts, and my personal favorite—macadamia nut oil.
The second most important thing to do is to get enough sleep. If you don’t rest, your adrenal glands just won’t be able to recover. Of course, as I discussed in the May 2014 issue, sometimes adrenal burnout can actually be an underlying cause of insomnia. So if you’ve been having trouble sleeping, and constantly feel like you’re running on fumes, this could be why. And if that’s the case, you’ll probably need a helping hand from some nutritional supplements.
Here’s an overview of some of the critical supplements I prescribe to all of my patients battling adrenal exhaustion:
DHEA. This hormone is produced by your adrenal glands, and is also available in supplement form. I like to think of supplemental DHEA as a Band-Aid that helps support your adrenal glands and gives them some much-needed rest.
However, there are some people who should never take DHEA—including those with hormonally related cancers (like breast cancer), pregnant and lactating women, and men with an elevated PSA. Of course, you should check with your personal physician. But for most, DHEA is harmless.
I recommend anywhere from 5 to 50 mg of DHEA per day, depending on the case.
Rhodiola rosea. I use this supplement a great deal with my patients. It’s a great herbal adaptogen that helps support the adrenal glands. Research shows that Rhodiola can increase your body’s resistance to a variety of chemicals and other biological and physical stressors. (That includes exercise—which is why I recommend all “gym rats” take this supplement.)
Rhodiola has heart benefits as well. In fact, it’s widely used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat heart disease. An analysis of 13 studies found that Rhodiola is significantly more effective than drugs at relieving the symptoms of heart disease and improving electrocardiogram (ECG) readings.4
And new research shows it can help lower your blood pressure and promote angiogenesis—the development of new blood vessels.5,6 I recommend 30 mg of Rhodiola, three times per day.
Schizandra chinensis. This is another adaptogen I use widely in my practice. It helps stabilize the adrenal glands and acts in much the same way as Rhodiola. I recommend 60 mg three times per day.
Ashwagandha extract. Research shows that along with helping to fight adrenal fatigue, this adaptogen also supports your immune system and may promote healthy blood sugar levels. And it has powerful effects in the brain—helping with cognition, memory, anxiety, and poor mood. I recommend 150 mg three times a day.
Eleutherococcus sinensis root extract. This adaptogen is also known as Siberian ginseng. I recommend 150 mg three times per day.
Panax ginseng. This is another classic adaptogen. I recommend 50 mg three times per day.
Phosphatidylserene (PS). This is a component of your cell membranes—and particularly your neurons—so it works a little differently than the other adaptogens.
PS doesn’t alleviate stress. Instead, it helps keep your cells healthy and functioning at their best. I recommend 50 mg three times per day.
Licorice. This is a good detoxifying agent. Try 10 mg three times per day.
I realize this is quite a supplement regimen to take every day. But there are some good, quality combination products available that include a blend of several of these ingredients into one formula.
Once you’ve addressed your adrenal health, it’s time to give your blood pressure some added support.
The famous blood pressure diet you SHOULDN’T be following
While getting your adrenals in good working order will help keep your blood pressure in check, there are some additional things you can and should do to support those efforts.
In my practice, I encourage patients with high blood pressure to start simple. By doing two things that can prevent—and improve—every illness.
The first is exercise. This doesn’t have to be strenuous—it just has to be regular. Even something as low-impact as that evening walk I’m always reminding you to take can make a big difference.
The second step is to improve your diet. Following my New Hamptons Health Miracle is, by far, the easiest, most enjoyable way to rein in your blood pressure.
Whatever you do, don’t fall for the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. I’m honestly shocked that it was listed this year (again) as the No. 1 diet by U.S. News & World Report. DASH is based on the NIH’s archaic, out-of-touch “nutrition” recommendations.
For instance, DASH promotes fish and chicken as the only good protein sources—and warns people against eating red meat and pork. This simply isn’t based on sound science. In fact, a new study showed that eating pork has the same blood pressure benefits as eating fish or chicken.7 I bet researchers would get the same results for beef, if they weren’t too afraid to do that type of study (and if they used organic, grass-fed and finished beef).
7 safe, natural ways to soothe stress and support HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE
Following the proper diet and exercising regularly absolutely lay the foundation for healthy blood pressure (and healthy adrenals). But there are also some tremendously effective—and safe—nutritional supplements than can help your efforts even further.
- Pycnogenol®. This brand of French maritime pine bark helps keep the collagen and elastin in your blood vessel walls healthy. And that helps your blood flow smoothly, which is key for lowering blood pressure. I recommend 100 mg per day.
- Black raspberry. A new study shows that supplements containing a dried powder extract from black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) can reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading) by as much as 5.4 mm Hg.8 You can find black raspberry powder in capsules or in “purples” blends, which you can mix with water and drink.
- Magnesium orotate. Regulating blood pressure is one of magnesium’s many roles in the body. And orotate is the most absorbable form. I recommend 60 mg per day.
- Taurine. This amino acid acts as a natural diuretic—which helps regulate your blood pressure. Take 1,000 mg twice per day.
- Garlic. Probably the oldest blood pressure “medication” there is. It’s been used for centuries—and is just as effective today as it was hundreds of years ago. I recommend 300 mg three times per day.
- Theanine. This amino acid has significant calming properties. And since stress is a major factor in hypertension, theanine is one of the most helpful supplements. I recommend 200 mg three to four times per day.
- SAM-e. Another amino acid I’ve found to be exceptionally helpful for regulating mood and stress. And, in turn, blood pressure. I generally recommend 400 mg each morning.
Added support for your KIDNEYS
As I mentioned above, stopping the domino effect of adrenal burnout and high blood pressure before it results in kidney disease is the goal. But there are some specific measures you can take to support your kidney health directly. Starting, again, with what you eat.
Just as it is for your adrenals and blood pressure, proper diet is vital for keeping your kidneys healthy.
And along with a healthy diet, I also recommend the following supplements to help support kidney health:
Pycnogenol. Here it is again. And with good reason. In the April 2012 issue of Logical Health Alternatives (“The silent killer hiding behind the diabetes epidemic”), I told you about a study that showed how people who took French maritime pine bark extract for six months had a dramatic improvement in a multitude of markers of healthy kidney function. Again, I recommend 100 mg of Pycnogenol a day.
Diosmin and hesperidin. These antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients are found mainly in citrus fruits. They’re often taken together to support the circulatory system and treat heart disease. And that can also help improve kidney function. I recommend 250 mg of diosmin and 25 mg of hesperidin a day.
Curcumin. This active ingredient in the spice turmeric has been shown in numerous studies to improve kidney function in people with diabetes.
Curcumin is not very bioavailable in supplements, so in the past I’ve felt it’s better that you get this nutrient from curry and other foods with turmeric. But I recently discovered a curcumin extract called Meriva®, in which the curcumin is paired with fat. It’s absorbed so well in the body that I now regularly recommend this form of curcumin. I recommend up to 500 mg a day.
Tienchi ginseng. Also known as Panax notoginseng, this herbal extract is a common ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s used to relax blood vessels, which improves blood flow and boosts kidney function. Take 100 mg a day.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA). This antioxidant is found in every cell in the body. Several studies in rats show ALA helps stop the development of kidney disease (technically known as diabetic nephropathy). It’s thought to do this by inhibiting the oxidative stress that can damage blood vessels in the kidneys. I recommend 100 mg of ALA three times a day.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Like ALA, CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant with quite a few studies showing it can help prevent kidney disease. I recommend 300 mg of CoQ10 per day.
Pyridoxamine. A team of researchers at Harvard University found that this form of vitamin B6 significantly blocked the rise of creatinine (a marker of kidney disease) in diabetic patients with kidney disease.9 I recommend 55 mg per day.
Silymarin. This herbal supplement is derived from milk thistle. It has a long history of use for both liver and kidney support.
In fact, in a study of rats given the chemotherapy drug adriamycin, silymarin was shown to reduce and even prevent kidney damage.10 Several other studies have supported that finding. And if silymarin can protect kidneys from toxic chemo drugs, there’s no doubt it can protect them from the effects of adrenal fatigue too.
Resveratrol. This powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory has been shown in a host of animal studies to protect against kidney damage. And one recent study found that resveratrol significantly reduced inflammation in people with chronic kidney disease.11 I typically recommend 500 mg of resveratrol a day.
L-carnitine. This amino acid compound is critical to kidney health, and a deficiency can trigger kidney disease. Take 500 to 1,000 mg three times a day.
As you can see, kidneys, blood pressure, and your adrenals are completely intertwined in good health. But with a healthful diet and a smart supplement regimen, you don’t have to be a victim of the deadly diseases that cascade from adrenal fatigue.
1“Aldosterone-stimulating somatic gene mutations are common in normal adrenal glands.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Aug 18;112(33):E4591-9.
2“A new equation to estimate glomerular filtration rate.” Ann Intern Med. 2009; 150: 604–612.
3“Midlife Blood Pressure and Late-Life GFR and Albuminuria: An Elderly General Population Cohort.” Am J Kidney Dis. 2015 Aug;66(2):240-8.
4“The efficacy and safety of Chinese herbal medicine, Rhodiola formulation in treating ischemic heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Complement Ther Med. 2014 Aug;22(4):814-25.
5“Salidroside attenuates chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension via adenosine A2a receptor related mitochondria-dependent apoptosis pathway.” J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2015 May;82:153-66.
6“Angiomodulatory properties of Rhodiola spp. and other natural antioxidants.” Cent Eur J Immunol. 2015;40(2):249-62.
7“Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet retains effectiveness to reduce blood pressure when lean pork is substituted for chicken and fish as the predominant source of protein.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Aug;102(2):302-8.
8“Effects of Rubus occidentalis extract on blood pressure in patients with prehypertension: Randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Nutrition. 2015 Nov 6. pii: S0899-9007(15)00453-0.
9“Effects of pyridoxamine in combined phase 2 studies of patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and overt nephropathy.” Am J Nephrol. 2007;27(6):605-14.
10“The protective effects of silymarin against doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity and hepatotoxicity in rats.” Molecules. 2011 Oct 12;16(10):8601-13.
11“Anti-inflammatory effect of white wine in CKD patients and healthy volunteers.” Blood Purif. 2015;39(1-3):218-23.
12“Proton Pump Inhibitor Use and the Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease.” JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(2):238-246.