STRESS & ADRENAL FATIGUE
The Truth Behind Elevated Cholesterol
by: Bill Leavitt
& ELEVATED CHOLESTEROL
The purpose in preparing this paper is
to shed some light on the most negated cause of elevated Cholesterol. Adrenal
Fatigue initiates a cascading genesis of metabolic changes within multiple
organs of the body, one being the release of Cholesterol by the liver. The most
common treatment is prescribing Statin Drugs to treat the symptom; yet, this is
to ignore the underlying cause. The many side-affects from being on statin
therapy alone should defer someone to seek an alternative course of action.
Just because writing a prescription to lower a total number is the easier
course of action does not make it right.
Although I may be providing more
information than you care to know about, if anything, please take away
- A High Cholesterol
number is not necessarily an indicator of anything other than what those
- Stress, and its
numerous consequences lead to Adrenal Fatigue which can cause a host of other
major health issues if not identified, intervened, and resolved
- Statin Drugs do not
solve the issue of Adrenal Fatigue and in fact create a host of side-effects.
- Elevated Cholesterol is
not necessarily an indicator nor cause of heart disease.
-Bill Leavitt February 2009
Adrenal Exhaustion/Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal exhaustion or adrenal fatigue is a stress
syndrome. The ability to handle stress, physical or emotional, is a cornerstone
to human survival. Our body has a complete set of stress modulation systems in
place and the control center is the Adrenal Glands. But, continued stress over
time depletes the Adrenal Glands reserve store of hormones and continued
taxation eventually weakens the glands to the point of exhaustion forcing the
body to seek out other methods to manufacture vital hormones for survival.
Calling upon the liver to release Cholesterol through an
intricate chain of commands is the Adrenals first and most efficient course of
action to replace lost hormones. This of course shows elevated serum blood
cholesterol upon testing yet the underlying cause is not examined instead
opting to treat the symptom via Statin Therapy. In addition to increased
Cholesterol production, a host of other serious physical, organ, immune,
mental, and digestive issues occur wreaking havoc upon the entire body.
Adrenal Fatigue is caused by: stress whether it be
physical, emotional or psychological, lack of sleep, overexertion, poor diet,
alcohol, smoking, caffeine, too much sugar, allergies, infections,
environmental toxins & heavy metal toxicity, fear.
Its most common signs include: continued fatigue, trouble
getting out of bed, sugar and/or salt cravings, lack of energy, increased
effort to do everyday tasks, decreased sex drive, decreased ability to handle
stress, light headed when standing up, low body temperature, more prone to
colds and flu, depression, poor memory and less tolerance. As a result of
decreased adrenal hormones, people with adrenal fatigue frequently also have
hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), allergies, arthritic pain and low immune
response. Women with it also have increased difficulty with PMS and menopause.
It has been estimated that 80% of adults suffer some
sort of adrenal fatigue however it is one of the most under diagnosed illnesses
in western society. Adrenal fatigue, also known as hypoadrenia,
non-Addison's hypoadrenia and in its most severe form Addison's disease, is a
deficiency in the function of the adrenal glands.
Another commonly overlooked cause of adrenal fatigue is
chronic or severe infection that gives rise to an inflammatory response. Such
infection can occur sub-clinically with no obvious signs at all. Parasitic and
bacterial infections including Giardia and H. pylori are often the main
Although there is a definite need for the body to
initiate adrenal action in response to danger, everyday stress can chip away at
health handing the body an inheritance of unwanted problems and the enormous
task in dealing with them.
The Stress Response is initiated by the Pituitary Gland,
which is located at the base of the brain. It responds to perceived stress by
releasing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which is circulated to the Adrenal
Glands setting off a release of hormones. Of particular interest to us is the
hormone Cortisol which, when depleted due to constant stress, the body has the
liver release cholesterol which the adrenal glands convert to Cortisol, which
initiates a series of profound changes in body chemistry.
ADRENAL GLANDS BASICS
The Adrenal Glands are two small glands, each about the size of a large
grape, which are situated on top of the kidneys. Their purpose is to help the
body to cope with stress and aid in our survival. Each adrenal gland has
two compartments. The inner or medulla modulate the sympathetic nervous system
through secretion and regulation of two hormones called epinephrine and
nor-epinephrine that are responsible for the fight or flight response. The
outer adrenal cortex comprises 80 percent of the adrenal gland and is
responsible for producing over 50 different types of hormones in
three major classes: glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids and androgens.
A normal functioning adrenal gland produces a whole array of
hormones but of particular interest with adrenal exhaustion are Cortisol and
DHEA as these two hormones are continuously secreted in response to long-term
chronic stress. Other adrenal hormones, which include adrenaline and nor adrenaline,
are secreted in short bursts in response to an acute situation, which is
referred to as the fight, and flight response. These two hormones are generally
not considered significant in adrenal exhaustion. Conditions where these two
hormones are continuously secreted (dysautonia) cause the following symptoms:
anxiety, nervousness, over stimulated, insomnia, jittery, palpitations,
shortness of breath, etc. This requires the CNS to be balanced with inhibitory
neurotransmitters such as GABA to counteract the excessive excitation.
Cortisol (or Hydrocortisone)
hormone tends to get a lot of negative
press, it is an extremely important
hormone and the most important human glucocorticoid. It is essential for
life and regulates or supports a variety of important cardiovascular,
metabolic, immunologic, and homeostatic functions. Of importance to Adrenal
Fatigue, it controls the activation of Demolase which causes the initail
conversion of Cholesterol to Pregnenolone.
The adrenal glands of a healthy person produce about 20mg
of Cortisol each day. Normal Cortisol levels are responsible for maintaining
normal blood sugar levels, it immobilizes fat and protein stores for more
energy, it is an anti-inflammatory, controls and modifies most blood cells that
participate in immune and/or inflammatory reactions, effects blood vessels and
therefore blood pressure, and electrolyte levels in the heart tissue, heart
beat, as well as influencing the central nervous system controlling mood and
During early stage adrenal stress Cortisol levels are
usually elevated which can increase obesity, cholesterol, blood pressure, alter
brain chemistry which causes depression and anxiety, causes insulin resistance
and osteoporosis, to name a few.
During later stage adrenal exhaustion, the once high
levels of Cortisol plummet to very low levels where it is insufficient to
adequately maintain normal physiological function. Therefore it is very
important that Cortisol levels are maintained at a normal healthy optimal level
for normal physiological function.
Increases the size of the Adrenal Cortex; may increase
up to 1/3 or more the size of the kidney
Causes Insulin resistance
Decreases immune function and causes shrinkage of the
Causes visceral weight gain and obesity
Promotes mineral loss from bone
Decreases gut lining and promotes ulcers and IBS
Hypertension by increasing blood volume and pressure
Suppresses white blood cells, natural killer cells,
monocytes, macrophages, and mast cells
The adrenal glands are controlled via the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal
(HPA) axis. There is an existing negative feedback loop that governs the amount
of adrenal hormones secreted under normal circumstances in people with adrenal
fatigue. For example, the HPA axis adjusts Cortisol levels according to the
body's need via a hormone called Adrenal Corticotrophic Hormone (ACTH) that is
secreted from the pituitary gland in response to signals from the hypothalamus.
When the ACTH binds to the walls of the adrenal cells, a chain reaction occurs
within the cell. This leads to the release of cholesterol where it is
manufactured into Pregnenolone, the first hormone in the adrenal cascade.
After this, Cortisol is released into the blood stream where it travels in the
circulatory system to all parts of the body and back to the hypothalamus, where
it is measured. This completes the negative feedback loop.
Due to the over manufacture and resulting depletion of
Cortisol, those undergoing Adrenal Fatigue will have cholesterol released from
the liver to manufacture more:
- Cortisone, Hydrocortisone (Cortisol), Testosterone,
Estrogen, DHEA, Pregnenolone, Aldosterone, Androstenedione, Progesterone,
- Aldosterone, Cortisone, Hydrocortisone are produced
ONLY in the Adrenals
- Aldosterone regulates sodium and Potassium balance and
Another adrenal hormone of particular interest that
declines during periods of stress is DHEA. If low DHEA levels are not
rectified, a hormonal cascade effect could occur resulting with a deficiency of
other sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. If these
hormones get too low then a whole range of other systems and problems can also
occur such as Hypothyroidism.
Mineralcorticoids such as Aldosterone modulate the delicate balance of
minerals in the cell, especially sodium and potassium which regulate blood
pressure. Stress increases the release of Aldosterone, causing sodium
retention, leading to water retention and high blood pressure, and loss of
potassium and magnesium. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions
in the body. When the body lacks magnesium, it will suffer from a variety of
pathological conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias, uterine fibroids and
This is one of the most important intermediate
hormones being produced in the hormonal cascade. DHEA, together with
testosterone and estrogen, are made from Pregnenolone, which in turn comes from
also leads to the production of progesterone and is one of the intermediary
steps in the making of Cortisol. Prolonged deficiencies in Pregnenolone as that
in adrenal fatigue will lead to reduction of both glucocorticosteroids and
mineralcorticoids such as Cortisol and Aldosterone respectively.
with all of that said, for those with more of a visual side to the brain,
perhaps this chart will be of significant use.
most important thing to see in this chart is right at the top: how Cholesterol
is the able to provide manufacture for all hormones down the chain.
CLICK HERE FOR CHART
Stages of Adrenal Exhaustion
The Stress Response is actually part of a larger response
know as the General Adaptation Syndrome.
It is broken down into three phases: Alarm,
Resistance, and Exhaustion.
1 (Alarm Phase)
The first stage, which is called hyper-adrenalism, is
characterized by abnormally high Cortisol levels and subnormal DHEA levels.
Often called the ‘Fight-or Flight response, it is designed to counteract danger
by mobilizing the body’s resources for immediate physical activity.
- Heart rate and force of contraction increase to provide
blood to muscle needed for the stress response.
- Breathing increases to supply necessary oxygen to the
heart, brain, and exercising muscle
- Production of digestive enzymes is severely reduced.
- Blood sugar levels are increased s the liver dumps
glucose into the bloodstream to feed muscle contraction.
- Melatonin levels decrease which adds to poor sleep
- Immune system becomes suppressed which may result in
frequent infections and illness
- The adrenal glands also secrete another hormone called
epinephrine. This hormone constricts the blood vessels and increases blood
pressure in order to ensure that the brain has adequate blood flow and oxygen
to help us deal with impending danger.
2 (Resistance Phase)
While the Alarm Phase is usually short lived, the
Resistance Phases allows the body to continue fighting a stressor long after
the effects of the fight-or –flight response has worn off.
- Cortisol and other corticosteroids are secreted by the
- Stimulate the conversion of protein to energy so that
the body had a large supply of energy after glucose stores are depleted.
- Retention of Sodium to keep blood pressure elevated
- Continued stress or prolongation of the resistance
reaction increases the risk of significant disease including” Diabetes, high
blood pressure, and cancer.
- Cortisol decreases serotonin levels, which may cause
- Excess Cortisol cannibalizes muscle for energy
resulting in muscle weakness and loss in muscle mass
- ‘Moon face’ is a common condition and weight gain
around the trunk as well as fluid retention
3 (Exhaustion Phase)
Exhaustion may manifest as a total collapse of body
function or a collapse of specific organs. The tow major causes are loss of
Potassium ions and depletion of Adrenal Hormones. Hypoglycemia, and cellular
- Cortisol and DHEA levels are low for most of the day
leaving you with low energy levels
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Lack of mental alertness, depression
- Constant fatigue
- Salt and/or sugar cravings
Stressors that can lead to adrenal fatigue
Fear and guilt
Low blood sugar
Severe or chronic stress
Excessive sugar in diet
Excessive caffeine intake from coffee and tea
TIPS FOR HEALTHY ADRENAL
Sleep by 10 p.m.
Sleep in until 9:00 a.m., if possible
Do the things that you like
Avoid coffee or other caffeine containing
Have a glass of water in the morning with ½ to 1
teaspoon of salt
Avoid grains such as bread
Avoid starchy foods such as potato
Avoid trans-fat such as French fries
Laugh several times a day
Take vitamin C, pantethanic acid, magnesium, and
Take Pregnenolone and DHEA as needed
Avoid getting over-tired
Avoid sugary fruits such as melons
Never skip breakfast
ADRENAL FATIQUE DIET
Michael Lam, MD, MPH, ABAAM, CNC and Dorine Tan, RD, MPH, ABAAHP
1) Eat before 10:00 a.m.
2) Eat frequent, small meals: 6-8 am (breakfast), 12 noon (lunch), Snacks - 10am, 3pm and
3) Eat 30-40% whole grains, 30-40% Vegetables (50% should be
raw), 10-15% Beans, seeds & nuts, 10-20% animal foods, 5-10% fruits
Banana, dried figs, raisins, dates, oranges, grapefruit
High in potassium - make adrenal fatigue worse
Fruit and juices in the morning
High in potassium and fructose.
Refined flour products: pasta, white rice, bread, pastry,
Drop blood sugar fast, robbed of nutrients
Honey, sugar, syrups, soft drinks
Drop blood sugar too fast in one hour
Dried fruits, fruit
Most detrimental food early in the day - drop blood sugar too
coffee, tea, black tea, hot chocolate, alcohol, colas,
Drop blood sugar too fast in one hour
Avoid Foods you are Addicted to or Allergic or Sensitive to
These food cause more stress on your body.
Avoid fruits for breakfast
Raise and drop blood sugar fast
Avoid rushed and hectic meals
Create more stress for your body.
Avoid deep-frying and browning; hydrogenated oils
Eat before 10am
Eat frequent small meals
Coast through low energy time
Bedtime Snack (use soaked raw nuts)
Help to have more peaceful sleep.
Combine fat, protein and whole grains at every meal and snack.
Provide a steady source of energy over a longer period of time
Mix 1-2 tbsp essential oils into grains, veg, and meats daily
Good quality protein (meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy), legumes)
Provide good protein and fats
Take digestive enzymes and HCL with meals
Help to properly break down protein and high fiber foods in
Eat 6-8 servings of a wide variety of bright colored
You will not gain weight; provide vitamins, minerals,
phytochemicals, antioxidants which are crucial for optimal health.
High quality concentrated nutrients
Rich in trace minerals, good quality vegetable protein, easily
used for low heat cooking, put a little water in the pan
before the oil to keep the oil from getting too hot
Fresh and Raw nuts & seeds (soaked in water) - store in
Good source of essential fatty acids
- take in moderation
Whole unrefined grains
provide sustained energy and nutrients
Caution: take it easy as breakfast food. Some people may need to avoid for
Limited intake of fruits: Papaya, mango, plums, pears, kiwi,
apples, few grapes, cherries
Polyunsaturated fats (corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut oil)
Never cook with this oil, add after the food is cooked.
Provide essential fatty acids
Hans Selye, the father of modern stress research states
that stress itself should not be viewed as negative phenomenon. It is the
individuals highly personalized internal reaction to a stressor that determines
the response. Understanding what stresses you out and having your system being prepared to take it is the best form
Stress Management Components:
Techniques to calm the mind and promote a positive mental
Lifestyle factors: time management, relationship issues, work,
Responsible eating habits designed to nourish the body
instead of creating internal physical stress
Supplemental measures designed to support the body and
esp. the Adrenals
Restful and quality sleep
Nutritional & Herbal Support
out the professional opinion of a Doctor of Natural Medicine or a Medical
Doctor who has training in Nutrition. These are my recommendations based upon
personal research. There are many more qualified people than myself to help
you. And, if you are taking prescription medication some herbs may interfere
with their effectiveness.
These nutrients play a critical role in the health of the
Adrenal Glands as well as the manufacture of adrenal hormones. Although all of
these nutrients are available in pill form, try to seek out natural sources of
food that contain them.
- Vitamin C
- Pantotheic Acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6 & B12
There is always controversy surrounding herbal
supplementation. I think that most of the confusion comes from the fact that
there is not necessarily less documented research than pharmaceuticals, but
that there is not one single organization that standardizes benefits and
dosages. What one qualified herbal practitioner or NMd prescribes is undone by
a wide variety of sources who claim to be experts. Claiming an herb will treat
20 different conditions or cure terminal illness is a problem the industry
That being said, there is a lot of unneeded negative
gibberish generated by the medical community and large Pharma. In addition to
these companies, a large proportion of the medical field tends to downplay the
importance and viability of herbology simply because they know nothing about it
and do not take the time to learn. To speak negatively of something you do not
know the facts of is ignorance. Yes, there is caution to be taken, but the
immense benefit of Herbal Supplementation is not to be dismissed.
These are recommended herbs based on research though, as
with any other program of rejuvenation, regeneration, and lifestyle change
there are many different approaches in treating a problem. And, as always, seek
out the advice of a qualified and experienced practitioner to address your
- Rejuvenates, balances, strengthens, and calms the
- Promotes tissue regeneration, and calm sleep
- Increases red and white blood cell counts
Licorice Root Powder (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Purifies Liver and blood
- Great for Adrenal Insufficiency, counteracts stress and
- Potent Anti-inflammatory
- Protects against cancer-causing toxins
- Stops the production of toxic free radicals
- Strengthens immune system
- Strengthens lungs
Ginseng: Panax (Chinese) & Siberian
- Classified as a General Tonic (whole body) or Adaptogen
- Extreme benefit to adrenals increasing tone and function
- Enhance resistance to stress