The 3 stages of adrenal dysfunction and what to do about it….

The 3 stages of adrenal dysfunction and what to do about it….

I was told I had chronic fatigue by a naturopath when I was 22. I could function on a daily basis, but barely, as I dragged myself through days with no energy, intense cravings for sugar and bread, a cloudy / fuzzy head and IBS symptoms which kept me guessing what to eat every day and usually left me flat on my back with abdominal cramps every night.  Some days I found it even difficult to talk or think straight. I would also get hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) daily, even though I ate like a horse and had suffered a few mild panic attacks. I also had anxiety, which I thought at the time was normal.

Now 23 years later, I look back and realise it was adrenal dysfunction, leading to adrenal exhaustion, but no one had really explained this to me, not even the naturopaths I then saw. Or that it was triggered by digestive problems, stress and EBV (Epstein Barr Virus, it causes glandular fever which I had when I was a teenager).  Although, they really helped me on the road to recovery and I am very grateful they helped me. This also led me to study naturopathy later on in my 20’s, which I now practice  and am very passionate about!

Adrenal dysfunction or adrenal insufficiency

Have you heard of adrenal exhaustion? Or Adrenal insufficiency? More and more commonly people are suffering from this syndrome now days. Almost everyone will experience some form of adrenal dysfunction at some time in their lives.  I say ‘dysfunction’, as the adrenal glands can be overactive, underactive, or fluctuate between the two. More on these stages of dysfunction later in the blog.

What do the adrenal glands do?

The adrenal glands are our 2 glands that sit above our kidneys. ‘Ad’   ‘renal’ means over the kidneys! They are about the size of a walnut. One of the main purposes of the adrenals is to help our body deal with stressors from different sources.

There are two parts the Adrenal gland, the adrenal medulla (the main part) and it surrounds the middle part of the gland; the adrenal cortex.

Hormones produced in the adrenal medulla;

  • Adrenaline and noradrenalin- the flight and fright or stress hormones

Hormones produced in the adrenal cortex;

  •  Glucocorticoids –mainly cortisol, cortisone and also corticosterone, include controlling inflammation, helps control resistance to stress and with glucose formation.
  • Aldosterone - which increase water retention and blood pressure
  • Androgens such as DHEA - the hormone involved in the production of the sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen, and plays a role in cholesterol balance and bone density.

When there is too much stress to the adrenal glands…..

The adrenals react to all kinds of ‘stressors’ such as allergies, injuries and illnesses, emotional or physical stress - including exercise, not getting enough sleep or sleep problems, poor diet, high carbohydrate diets, stimulants (i.e.; caffeine, alcohol and sugar) and hormonal imbalances. The sympathetic nervous system controls the adrenal ‘medulla’; when stimulated produces adrenaline and noradrenaline.

Stage 1 - The Alarm phase.

Generally the beginnings of stress when you feel anxious and ‘stressed out’ and stuck in the ‘flight and fight’ response

Signs and symptoms of the alarm phase include-

  •  anxiety, racing thoughts
  • rapid pulse, palpitations
  • Disrupted sleep and nightmares
  • easily startled
  • frequent worry and racing thoughts
  • Argumentative
  • Diarrhoea
  • loss of or increased appetite
  • elevated blood pressure

During this stage Cortisol levels are high and DHEA levels are high.

Stage 2; The Adpation or Resistance Phase.

You can fluctuate between fatigue and anxiety

Symptoms can include;

  • Intense anxiety
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Allergies/ infections
  • IBS – irritable bowel syndrome
  • Low thyroid function
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Emotional tension
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Helplessness
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Elevated cholesterol

During this stage Cortisol is high or normal and DHEA is low.

Stage 3 - The Exhaustion phase.

Your adrenals are burnt out and you’ve crashed! 

The Cortisol levels and DHEA levels are both low and the adrenal glands are producing insufficient levels of these hormones. You can have;

  • Decreased stress tolerance
  • Depleted energy and immune system
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Chemical sensitivity
  • Depression/ nervous breakdown
  • Salt and sugar cravings
  • Apathy
  • Fatigue
  • Increased abdominal fat
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Swollen glands/ sore throat
  • Dry skin, red palms, clammy hands
  • Lowered blood pressure, and postural hypotension. Postural hypotension is when your blood pressure drops on standing quickly from a sitting or lying position causing dizziness or even fainting.
  • sparse hair
  • scanty perspiration
  • mid back pain/tenderness which is known as “Rogoff’s sign”
  • frequent urination


 Other adrenal insufficiency signs

Another set of signs that someone has a tendency to adrenal insufficiency is to do with their body shape. Their arm span is taller than their height, their second toe is longer than their big toe, and their index or pointer finger is longer than their ring finger.

I think this is very interesting;

“John Tintera, M.D. was an early pioneer in recognizing and treating adrenal insufficiency. He wrote that salt is a diuretic and that hypoadrenocortics (patients with low adrenal cortex function) retain fluid because the body is trying to hold onto the salt. When enough salt is consumed, the body takes what it needs and excretes the rest. If the ankle oedema is due to insufficient salt, the oedema will usually disappear in three days after taking adequate salt. If it does not disappear in five to six days, potassium may also be needed. Vitamin B6 is also helpful for oedema not only because it has a diuretic effect but also supports the adrenal cortex.” [1]

So when you see a person being licked by a dog next time think of that person maybe having adrenal insufficiency! If you do add salt to your diet, make sure it is a good quality mineral salt such as Himalayan or Celtic sea salt.

So which phase are you?

You can fluctuate between all three phases, but when people generally get to the exhaustion stage they generally stay there until they have treatment/ change their lifestyle and diet and they will gradually improve. Some people, if they are at the exhaustion stage take up to a year to feel better and to get the adrenals back to normal. If it’s taken a year or two, or even ten years to get your adrenals to exhaustion stage then you can’t expect them to restore to normal function overnight! Each stage is treated very differently with diet and supplement suggestions and lifestyle changes.

Rebuilding your adrenals and your energy

To rebuild the adrenals, you should avoid all stimulants where possible. This includes caffeine in chocolate, coffee, cola and guarana in supplements, sugar, alcohol, and white flour products/ refined starches. Reduce stress and get plenty of sleep.

Eating for your adrenals

  •  Eat within 2 hours of waking up
  • Eat frequently through the day to regulate your blood sugar levels, at least every 4-5 hours. This will prevent a drop in your blood sugar levels and will make a difference to your adrenal health and energy levels.
  • Eat good quality protein at every meal. These can include organic free range eggs and chicken, fish and nuts and seeds.
  • Eat a wide variety of whole, natural foods
  • Combine a healthy fat, protein and carbohydrate source with every meal
  • Eat lots of vegetables, especially the brightly coloured ones and preferably organic

Nutrients for adrenal health

Magnesium is a very important mineral for adrenal gland function. It is estimated that at least 80% of the population are magnesium deficient. Please be aware that there are many forms of magnesium and they are not all the same! Practitioner ranges have the most bio-available forms, meaning they are very efficiently absorbed. Potassium and magnesium together are the ‘nervous system Nutrients’. (2).

B complex vitamins are important but may be too stimulating for some people when they are extremely adrenally fatigued. In these cases, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C are the best nutrients to nourish the adrenals glands. ‘Activated’ B vitamins should be used for more efficient absorption. Vitamins B5 and B6 especially help to restore adrenal function. Always take a B- complex if you are taking singular B vitamins to avoid an imbalance occurring. Be careful during intense anxiety as the B vitamins maybe too stimulating, also when there is Chronic fatigue, take small amounts to begin with and see how you feel.

Herbs for adrenal health

There are many herbs for the adrenal glands that can help strengthen the adrenals, but also act as adaptogens. Adaptogens help your body adapt to stress and protect the adrenals from any ongoing stressors. An example of an adaptogen are; siberian ginseng, panax ginseng, withania and Rhodiola. I use other herbs simultaneously to strengthen the adrenals glands, such as Rehmannia and licorice. When there is anxiety, herbs such as withania, skullcap, magnolia and ziziphus, are great to reduce the flight and fright hormones. It is important to check your Thyroid function through a basal body temperature testing or a thyroid function test. The thyroid gland may need support also. The adrenals and thyroid work together to help regulate the nervous system.

Relax and meditate

The adrenals cannot rebuild themselves when they continually stimulated. It’s like whipping a dead horse! If you are tired, avoid ‘soldering on ‘, as this will only make the adrenals weaker. De- stress often, by meditating or doing yoga or Tai chi. Have regular massages and enjoy some time to yourself every day. During times of anxiety more intense exercise may be needed to help the body rid the stress hormones and relieve tension.

Have an Epsom salt bath before bed to get you into a deeper sleep. If you haven’t got a bath, have a warm shower and afterwards rub some lavender oil on your temples. Magnesium oil can be rubbed on the tops of your feet before bed to give the same effect as the Epsom salt bath (Epsom salt is magnesium). Sleeping well and for at least 8 hours a night is an integral part of helping the adrenals recover.

And …..Breathe!!

Try and practice breathing from the lower part of your diaphragm. Too many people shallow breathe when they are stressed or have anxiety. Breathe in for a count of 3, and out for a count of 5, when you feel anxious or finding it hard to get to sleep.


Also, our adrenals are patterned from birth, we pick up stresses in utero (the womb) and during childhood, which can have long term effects on our adrenal glands. In families, there may be a genetic pattern, where the all of family members have a similar weakened adrenal response.

No matter what stage you are in, there is a sure road to recovery! I am here, better than I have ever been in my life, to help you recover also!  

Please contact me if you feel you have a problem with your adrenals




1; an excerpt From Angela Hywood on ‘The Adrenal insufficiency syndrome’

NLS Salivary hormones training manual, 2009


Has winter got you SAD?

Has winter got you SAD?

Do you get sad and down in winter? In Australia about 1 in 300 people are effected by seasonal affective disorder. (1)

Especially in the southern states of Australia where there is less sun and cooler temperatures in winter.

SAD is also known as ‘ winter blues’ and is a mood disorder that affects people in the winter months when there is less sunlight. These people get down and depressed in the winter months, have less energy and sleep for longer than usual. They may also experience weight gain, mood swings irritability, have appetite changes and be hypersensitive. Withdrawing from social situations is also common.

BUT…. Did you know that you can also get the opposite in summer? When there is more sun and longer daylight hours some people experience more anxiety and energy and less sleep. Melatonin is our sleep hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain.

In the colder winter months, the reduction in sunlight means our melatonin is produced earlier in the day and sometimes its production is also prolonged in the mornings. This upsets our ‘ circadian rhythm’ which is our internal 24 hour sleep/ wake cycle. Research suggests that SADs is to do with the delay in our circadian rhythm. These changes in melatonin also influence our serotonin levels which is our ‘happy ‘ hormone and in turn influences our mood.

More on Melatonin ….. for more than just sleeping

Melatonin also regulates core body temperature, is immune enhancing and has antioxidant properties. Most people are familiar with it helping lessen jet lag whilst traveling.

It treats age related insomnia and improves sleep efficiency in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Hungtinton’s diseases.

It also reduces blood pressure in people that are hypertensive (already have high blood pressure. )


C’mon get happy again!

Natural Treatment options


US research showed that walking 3 times a week for 30 minutes if you are depressed can make you feel less depressed. I would recommend if you suffer from SADS you exercise every day and outdoors so then you get natural sunlight and vitamin D as well. Sunlight stimulates the pineal gland in the brain to produce melatonin at night time to induce sleep and regulates our circadian rhythm.

Light therapy

A dose of sunlight first thing in the morning can help with our serotonin and melatonin production and set our body clock or circadian Rhythm.

The more we are exposed to sunlight the more serotonin we produce which can stave off day time melatonin and depression. Melatonin makes us feel sleepy and is produced as the sun goes down.

Research has shown that 15 minutes of blue light therapy is equivalent to 2 hours of natural sunlight. Blue light is used as research has found that this specific colour light stimulates the part of our retina which differentiates night time from day time. You can read more about this HERE

Jeff Collings, clinical director of sleep and snoring solutions company MCS Australia, recommends busy office workers getting little to no natural light keep a blue light box on their desk. “A ten minute burst when you are feeling a little low can really perk you up. The light works instantly and is completely natural.”

Bright white full spectrum light at 10,000 lux, blue light at a wavelength of 480 nm at 2,500 lux or green (actually cyan or blue-green) light at a wavelength of 500 nm at 350 lux are used, with the first-mentioned historically preferred. (3)

For comparisons on the different types of light therapies available, check out

Pub med have many research papers on Light therapy and depression. Have a look at this one “The efficacy of light therapy in the treatment of mood disorders: a review and meta-analysis of the evidence”  HERE

Professor Trevor Norman is a psychiatrist in Melbourne and he says research into bright light therapy has offered the most hope. “In one study at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne, they found sitting in front of a bright fluorescent light effectively reduced symptoms.” (4)


To Supplement or not to supplement?


A study showed that St. Johns wort improve the condition in those who regularly experienced winter depression. Is has been shown to be more effective in conjunction with light therapy. Other adrenal and adpatogen hebs can lift mood and help us feel more alive in the winter months. These include the ginsengs, Siberian and panax, and other herbs to keep in mind are Rhodiola and Withania. Withania is one of my favourite herbs. It helps us with moods, sleeping, reduces anxiety and has mild antidepressant qualities.

Vitamin D and Essential Fatty acids

If you are getting less sunlight then you may be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is important for all round brain health as vitamin D receptors in increase nerve growth in the brain. Optimal levels are at least 100 mol/l. As vitamin D is fat soluble taking it with fats will increase its absorption. Omega 3 fatty acids are also important for brain health. These fats found in fish oil help stabilise moods and emotions.


5HTP or 5 – hydroxytryptophan, an activated form of the amino acid tryptophan, is the precursor to serotonin, along with co factors vitamin B6, magnesium and folate. This is a practitioner only product and is best discussed with your naturopath.


Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) have found that melatonin, a naturally occurring brain substance, can relieve the doldrums of winter depression,   known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. I would not recommend this in all cases.

Get your gut health right!!

The majority of serotonin is produced in our gut. So it’s imperative to have a good balance of the gut flora. Eating a healthy diet of fresh foods with plenty of vegetables will help our gut produce more of the good bacteria. You may crave carbohydrates and processed foods but they will only encourage growth of the bad bacteria and result in less serotonin production. A good quality probiotic will be valuable here.

So to Sum up

A combination of different therapies is suggested to counteract SAD.  I would recommend that if you suffer from this, that you exercise and get sunlight daily at the very least. Come and see me for a consultation if you would like more help with this or any other aspects of your health.


You can contact me on 0419 106 019 or email me at



2  Sleep, health and consciousness, a physicians guide. Reza Samvat and Henry Oseki.



Boost your immune system and energy this winter

Boost your immune system and energy this winter

Did you know that 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are in the gut? This is because the food and water we consume contains the most common source of antigenic invasion, so the gut needs the most protection. The digestive system is home to gut –associated lymphoid tissue (GALT).  An example of lymph tissue in the gut are ‘Peyer’s patches’, which are patches of elongated tissue in the small intestine which produce the T – Lymphocytes, T and B cells.  Lymphocytes are white blood cells and are named as such as they are found in lymph tissue. Other examples of lymph tissue are lymph nodes, the spleen, tonsils and the appendix.

For your immune system to be strong you need to have a healthy gut…. More on this later.

 So what is the immune system anyway?

The immune system protects the body from potentially harmful substances. It does this by recognising and responding to Antigens, which are large protein molecules on the surface of bacterial, viral, cancer or fungal cells. Or antigens can be chemicals, toxins and drugs. Antigens stimulate the production of antibodies, which attack these antigens and promotes inflammation. Antibodies, or immunoglobulins are proteins that prevent harm in the body.

B cells are white blood cells which produce antibodies which are proteins which are specific for an antigen which invade the body.  T-cells mainly produce antibodies which fight viruses. GALT plays a large role in protecting against pathogenic infections such as parasites, bacteria, yeast and fungus and viruses.

Now back to the gut and digestion…

A poor diet containing excessive caffeine, excessive alcohol, sugar and junk food all weaken the immune system. Exposure to chemicals and toxins such as car fumes, pesticides sprays and chlorine and fluoride in your drinking water in food,  can make you more susceptible to coming down with an illness. This is partly because this causes the body to become more and more acidic. Most pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses love an acidic environment to thrive in.

Toxicity from processed foods and unfiltered water causes the body to become more acidic during digestion. When you have low stomach acid and don’t digest your foods properly, this leads to the body becoming acidic. The body, when acidic cannot effectively absorb nutrients and therefore has a weakened immune system, ages rapidly and cannot detoxify efficiently.

Low stomach acid leads to bacterial overgrowth in the intestines and SIBO, which is ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’. This can include the overgrowth of candida alblicans, a yeast that lives in our intestines and over populate in an acidic body and weaken the immune system.

” The relationship between an acidic body and illness has long been established, and the medical term for this condition is “acidosis”.”

-The Health Wyze Report

Three supplements you can take to improve your gut health…..

To boost your immune system by improving your gut health you can take probiotics, colostrum and betaine hydrochloride (with or without digestive enzymes). Colostrum supplements are commonly bovine in nature (cow), and contain immunoglobulins and lactoferrin and therefore give the immune system a real boost. Sometimes they are found in a probiotic formula.

Food additives are your foe…..

To make your immune system strong, avoid processed foods or at least the ones containing food additives. Some food additives look like an infection to our immune system, which stimulates inflammation in the body. Inflammation is an indicator of immune activation. Ongoing, unresolved inflammation can drive diseases such as auto immunity, cardio vascular disease and cancer.

“The Standard western diet promotes inflammation

Diet patterns high in refined starches, sugar and saturated and trans-fatty acids, poor in natural anti-oxidants bad fibre from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and poor in omega 3 fatty acids are pro- inflammatory. “

Guigliano G et al. The effects of diet on inflammation; emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Aug 15; 48(4);677-85

C’mon get moving!!

The human is designed to move! The hunter-gatherer people would walk up to 40 km a day to search for food. We are now becoming more and more immobile due to labour saving devices. As they say, ‘sitting is the new smoking’! This lack of movement increases inflammation throughout the body. Regular exercise reduces inflammation and strengthens our immune system.

Post viral fatigue

Chronic viruses such as Epstein Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalo virus (CMV) and Ross river virus (RRV) can cause long term fatigue or chronic fatigue. In people who have suffered these viruses, 80% of them have been found to have a rare mitochondrial degeneration by researchers.  The mitochondria is the ‘energy centre’ of each of the cells in our body and is affected by the ongoing inflammation these viruses produce. This leads to fatigue and lethargy and an inability to detoxify efficiently.

Stress can make us sick….

When we are stressed, we produce larger amounts of cortisol and adrenaline. Stress increases inflammation in the body and decreases our T1 helper cells, and therefore the ability fight to viruses, bacteria, fungus and cancers. T1 helper cells are white blood cells that have the ability to suppress or regulate immune responses. Long term or chronic stress suppresses your immune system, making it harder to fight off any foreign invaders the body is exposed to. Stress can be many things to your body-  a lack of sleep, meeting a deadline at work, a demanding husband and children, over exercising, injuries, ongoing exposure to chemicals (for example in jobs such as hairdressing, mining and mechanics.)

Vitamin D…. not just for bones….

Get out in the sun for your dose of vitamin D!  In winter months as the sun is further from the earth, the sun’s rays are weaker and we absorb less of the beneficial UV-B light on our skin. A cholesterol (fat) precursor on the skin then helps us to absorb and convert these rays in the kidneys and liver  into the active form of vitamin D (1,25-dihydrixy D). Vitamin D is important in regulating the immune system, and there is an association between Vitamin D deficiency and auto immune diseases.

Zinc and Vitamin C

The average orange only contains about 60 mg of vitamin C.  Our body will use about 100mg of vitamin C every 4 hours. Many people are deficient.  Stress depletes vitamin C, so does smoking and exposure to toxins (car fumes, fly sprays, pesticides etc.). Vitamin C is also destroyed by heat and light, therefore cooked food contains a lot less than raw food.

Do you get little white cloudy spots on your fingernails? This is a zinc deficiency. Zinc is involved in around 100 processes in the human body. It is vital to the maintenance of the immune system.

 ‘Anti’ the Antibiotics

Time and time again in my clinic I see patients who have had multiple doses of antibiotics over the years and have ended up with recurring illnesses, usually the very one they are trying to treat with the antibiotics.

Antibiotics are destroying the beneficial bacteria in your bowel and letting yeasts such as candida and other unbeneficial bacteria to overgrow. This causes a weakened immune system and in some cases, ‘leaky gut’ or intestinal permeability, where you absorb toxins or unwanted molecules into the blood stream through the intestinal lining. Leaky gut is also strongly associated with auto immune diseases. This bacterial imbalance in the bowels, called ‘dysbiosis’,  can lead to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms, food intolerances, recurring sinus and urinary tract infections, just to name a few. Avoid them where you can and use antimicrobial herbs such as Echinacea, andrographis, olive leaf and golden seal.

Pro’  the Probiotics and Prebiotics!

If you must take antibiotics you should always take a probiotic with a prebiotic, for at least a month afterwards. This will help restore the beneficial bowel bacteria. A prebiotic is a form of fibre (such as slippery elm, inulin, arrabinogalactans and pectin) that encourages the growth of the good bacteria in your bowel. If you still have any after effects from taking antibiotics, it’s a good idea to see a naturopath who can get you and your immune system back on track!

For good health our immune system is one of the most important parts to look after. It helps us fight viruses, bacterial, yeast and even cancer every day.

You don’t need to feel sick all the time!

Book a Skype or phone consultation with me and I will help you get your immune system strong again. I also consult face to face in my office at Glenelg South, South Australia.


Eagle; practitioner technical information

Metagenics; Immunity, Key clinical concepts


The gut brain connection

The gut brain connection


Gut feelings……..

“I’ve got a gut feeling about this”. We have all used this expression at some stage of our lives. There is a real relevance to this as our gut really does influence our feelings!

One way this happens is through the vagus nerve. This nerve joins your brain to your intestines, and along the way connects other organs also, such as the heart. It is one of the largest nerve systems in our body, second to the spinal cord. The vagus nerve influences our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the  ‘rest and digest’ part of our nervous system.

This ‘enteric nervous system’ of the intestines is known as the second brain


gut brain diagragm

Stress, fatigue and anxiety reduces vagal nerve activity. When there is poor vagal nerve activity this manifests as low digestive enzymes secretion and therefore poor digestion of foods and poor gallbladder function. This poor gut function then leads to overall inflammation in the body and this inflammation inhibits vagal activity. It’s a vicious cycle! It can lead to IBS symptoms (irritable bowel syndrome) with symptoms such as erratic bowel movements, bloating, flatulence and intestinal cramps.

Poor vagal activity               →                          Decreased gut, pancreatic and  gallbladder function

↑                                                                                                                                                                  ↓

Mental health disorder              →           POOR BRAIN   FUNCTION                      decreased gut immune system & intestinal blood flow

↑                                                                                                                                                       ↓

Leaky blood brain barrier                                     ←                                    pathogenic gut bacteria

and activation of microglial cells                                                                 leaky gut, low grade inflammation

*Microglial cells are immune cells which can cause inflammation of the brain.


Leaky gut …. Leaky brain

Leaky gut or intestinal permeability is when your small intestine becomes more permeable and unwanted molecules are absorbed back into the blood stream instead of being excreted.his is a leaky gut barrier.

This is more prevalent today and I see it regularly in my clinic.

Leaky gut  can be caused by;

  • food allergies or intolerances
  • intestinal dysbiosis (imbalance of bacteria in bowels)
  • pathogens such parasites, bacteria or candida
  • from frequent antibiotic use
  • ongoing severe stress
  • poor dietary choices.
  • Poor digestion and/or low stomach acid
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Frequent NSAIDS, antacids or aspirin use

Leaky gut leads to inflammation which can increase production of  cortisol (from the adrenal glands) and reduces the function of the inhibitory neurotransmitters such as GABA, which makes us feel calmer. Therefore leaky gut can lead to anxiety. It can also result in  poor sleep, reduced production of serotonin and melatonin (our sleep hormone) and chronic pain.

The inflamed brain, anxiety, fatigue and poor memory

Leaky gut can cause symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety and even depression.

These symptoms occur when the leaky gut causes inflammation in the body, and this inflammation can access the brain (the blood brain barrier)  and lead to negative brain and mood health. If this is ongoing it reduces brain cell function. If it happens in the hippocampus of the brain, this contributes to low mood and cognitive function, therefore memory is affected.

“Inflammatory, toxic and oxidative stressors that arise from leaky gut can deteriorate blood brain barrier integrity. This allows the passage of unwanted compounds into the central nervous system, setting off a cascade of damaging reactions”. (1)

An example of this is the high levels of ‘MMP -9’s’ in people with schizophrenia and depression. MMP-9  is ‘matrix metalloproteinase -9’ which is a specific proteolytic enzyme which breaks down the ‘extracellular matrix’ (the complex meshwork which fills the space between the cells of your body’s tissues).

Leaky gut breaks down tryptophan, which is an amino acid needed for the production of serotonin (our happy hormone) and melatonin (our sleep hormone). You produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine in your gut. It also activates our HPA axis, which is the communication of the hypothalamus, pituitary  (glands of the brain) and the adrenals.   Which can over activate the production of cortisol and adrenalin, leading to anxiety.

Over exercising is a form of inflammation which can contribute to leaky gut. So if you have a leaky gut then reduce your exercise to light to moderate.

When homocysteine levels are high, as mentioned in my previous blog on MTHFR, this results in inflammation and MMP-9 and increases intestinal permeability (yes, the leaky gut again!). This high homocysteine can be linked to having the MTHFR gene mutation.

What to do

Treat leaky gut with change of diet and lifestyle, antimicrobials, pre and probiotics and gut healing supplements. As treating leaky gut is quite complex and individualised to each person, consulting a naturopath is the best course of action here. Anti inflammatory herbs such as curcumin (in turmeric) and fish oils can be taken.

Reduce stress, anxiety and reduce exercise if there is too much.

Stimulate the vagus nerve. You can do this by singing loudly, gagging (even though not fun), gargling several times a day, with coffee enemas (not for everyone) and yoga. You could try the following exercise;

 Yoga poses for digestion and vagus nerve stimulation

Kneel on a yoga mat with your buttocks on your heels. Put a rolled blanket on your lap and let it rest against your lower abdomen. Inhale to lengthen your spine and then exhale and lean forward over the blanket. Try to reach forward far enough so that you ribs are over the top of the blanket. Slowly walk your fingers forwards reaching your head down towards the mat. Breathe fully and stay in the pose as long as you like. To exit the pose just walk your hands back into a seated position.

Also deep breathing, in for three and out for five, shuts off the sympathetic nervous system ( the ‘flight and fright’) and allows for vagal activation (which activates the parasympathetic nervous system to do with – resting and digesting!)


If you have a leaky gut then adhering to an anti inflammatory gluten and dairy free diet for at least 6 weeks is recommended. I also suggest the avoidance of all sugars and processed foods. Anti inflammatory diet would contain oily fish, nuts and seeds, organic eggs, lots of organic vegetables, some fruit and limited gluten free grains such as organic brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa (they are really seeds).

Gluten has been shown to harm the gastrointestinal tract, brain and nervous system. A third of people with gluten sensitivity show no symptoms. Wheat is especially highly processed now days and it is harder to digest.

Eliminate known allergens and food sensitivities or test for these. You can also try an elimination diet and slowly introduce one food at a time to observe reactions.

Mood and gut health, to sum up…

Having and maintaining a good bacterial balance in the gut will improve;

  • Digestion and nutrient uptake
  • The immune system
  • neurotransmitter production (ie serotonin)
  • protection against toxic agents and heavy metal toxicity that can reduce mental and cognitive health
  • prevention leaky gut
  • prevention of local infections which can cause mood imbalances 

As it is a two way street, anxiety and stress can cause leaky gut and leaky gut can cause anxiety and low mood. Re-establishing the microflora (the good bacteria) in the intestines plays an the important role of maintaining healthy moods in the long term.

If you suspect you have a leaky gut or are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, please contact me for a consultation.


Biological mood management and mental health. Stacey Jarvis.

Dr. Sircus “The function of the vagus nerve”

(1) FX Medicine spring 2014. ‘The state of mind – How gut health affects the brain’. Bioceuticals trade manual

The digestive and renal systems ; Henry Oseiki and Fiona Meeke



Did you know around 80-90% of the population are deficient in Magnesium?  One reason is because of it being deficient in your food. Another contributor is food processing. We burn up a lot of magnesium when our stress levels are high. This can include physical and mental stressors and allergies, which stimulate the adrenal glands to work harder, using up more magnesium than normal.

Magnesium is found to be lower in people with; ADHD, with excessive usage of caffeine and soft drinks, the elderly as they have poorer digestion. Also people with digestive issues which will affect the uptake of magnesium. People who take medications such as certain antibiotics and hypertension drugs (thiazide diuretics), the oral contraceptive pill, antacids, insulin and corticosteroids all deplete magnesium. (1)

Magnesium is the second most abundant element inside human cells. (2)

What does this super mineral do?

This essential mineral is important for bone health, cardiovascular health and energy production.

It is involved in more than 300 enzyme-driven biochemical reactions occurring in the body on a near constant basis.

All nutrients used by the human body function as either:

  • Sources of energy
  • Building blocks for body structures
  • Elements needed to regulate and control the body’s many functions

Its presence is crucial to:

  • Glucose and fat breakdown
  • Production of proteins, enzymes and antioxidants such as glutathione
  • Creation of DNA and RNA
  • Regulation of cholesterol production


Dr. Dean is an American Dr who studied magnesium for 15 years. She wrote a book in 2014 called the Magnesium Miracle which cites the following medical conditions that magnesium deficiency triggers or causes:

Anxiety and panic attacks, asthma, blood clots bowel diseases, cystitis, depression, detoxification, diabetes, fatigue, heart disease, hypertension, hypoglycaemia, insomnia, kidney disease, liver disease, migraines, musculoskeletal problems (ie; fibromyalgia), nerve problems, obstetrics and gynaecology, osteoporosis and tooth decay.

She also says that short term magnesium deficiency can lead to loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, headaches and weakness.

Long term deficiency can lead to numbness and tingling, coronary spasms, muscle cramps, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.

How do I know if I am deficient?

Apart from the already mentioned symptoms, you may have other symptoms such as fatigue, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat, eye twitches, sore achy muscles or muscle cramps, high blood pressure as signs you are lower in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is also common in tics, tremors, in difficulty swallowing and in children that fail to thrive. (3)

Serum blood is not a very useful tool to test magnesium levels. Only about 1% of magnesium circulates in the blood. It is found in tissues such as muscles, heart and red blood cells. In my clinic I perform live and dried blood analysis which can show if you are deficient. This is totally different to the pathology blood tests.

So which wonderful foods have magnesium?

Natural sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, avocadoes and some beans. Also raw cacao! Yum. Food that are not organic will have lowers sources of phyto -nutrients and magnesium and as our soil in Australia is generally mineral deficient we are not getting the levels we use to years ago.

Supplemental magnesium

Absorption varies between types of magnesium. The easiest to absorb is the glycinate form and the hardest / poorest absorption is oxide form. The oxide form can cause loose or looser stools as it isn’t absorbed into the cells of your body. You can now buy magnesium oils and creams which can ensure better levels of magnesium, along with magnesium supplements and magnesium salt baths.

Clinically magnesium can be used for menstrual problems, menopause, insomnia, migraines, muscular complaints, cardiovascular disease and energy production.

During a naturopathic consultation in my clinic, I use live and dried blood analysis. With this I can see nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium in your blood, in the red and white blood cells. Some 80% of my patients show signs of magnesium deficiency.

Book your consultation today!

phone 0419 106 019 or email

1 . Lininger SW, Gaby     AR,        Austin   S,           et           al.          A-Z        guide              to           drug-herb-vitamin          interactions.      USA:      Prima              Publishing,         1999

  2. Fox C, Ramsoomair D, Carter C. Magnesium: its proven and potential clinical significance. Southern Medical Journal. 2003;94(12):1195-201. Available at: Accessed March 8, 2010. [] []

DiSilvestro R. Handbook of Minerals as Nutritional Supplements. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 2004. []

Kimura M. Overview of Magnesium Nutrition. In: International Magnesium Symposium. New Perspectives in Magnesium Research. London: Springer-Verlag; 2007:239-260

Adrenal health – are you exhausted?

Adrenal health – are you exhausted?

The Adrenal glands are a walnut sized gland that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce several hormones such as the androgens; testosterone and oestrogen, the mineralocorticoids; aldosterone, the glucocorticoid; cortisol, and the ‘flight and fright’ hormones; adrenaline and noradrenaline.

Adrenal exhaustion is on the increase, or ‘Burnout’ as it’s commonly called. This is usually chronic (long term) and suffered by many including busy mums, high achievers, and busy executives. General weakness which follows any acute illness is an example of acute (short lived) adrenal exhaustion.
Common symptoms can include fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, low blood pressure, loss of memory and ability to concentrate, and over sensitiveness. Also people can feel ‘detached’ with despondency during the day and anxiety at night.
Other symptoms may include allergies, digestive disturbances and shakiness. The immune system is suppressed and these people tend to get sick more often or tend to get secondary infections (ie; bronchitis, sinusitis) after having a cold.  The treatment includes nutritional and herbal supplementation, dietary changes and relaxation techniques.
Come and see me if you think this is affecting you!

Grab Your Cheatsheet Here!

GDPR Consent Checkbox Checked

You have Successfully Subscribed!