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How Deficiencies of Vitamins D, E, and K Can Lead to Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue can be caused by nutrient deficiencies, which can affect multiple organ systems. Vitamins D, E, and K are important parts of keeping your adrenal system functioning properly. But be sure to get your intestinal tract on track before supplementing nutrients so that your body can absorb them properly.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency affects millions of people, both young and old. As you're likely aware, the primary sources of vitamin D are the sun and the diet.

With advances in technology, many folks spend increasing amounts of time in front of the television, the computer, and other electronic devices. They don't play outside or participate in many outside activities, so they don't get much sun. Couple that with a diet of poor nutritional value, and it's no wonder that vitamin D levels are low.

The many important functions of vitamin D in the body include the following:

  • Bone health: Vitamin D is essential in helping maintain the balance of calcium and phosphorous in your body. Low levels of vitamin D can contribute to osteoporosis.

    Vitamin D is likely very important in countering the effects of sustained cortisol secretion by the adrenal cortex. Remember that sustained cortisol production can cause weakening of the bone structure over time and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.

  • Immune system regulation: Low levels of vitamin D affect your immune system's ability to fight off infection. They're linked to ongoing inflammation and chronic illness.

  • Blood health: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to anemia.

  • Heart health: Data suggests that low levels of vitamin D are a risk factor for heart disease.

  • Hormone production: Lab studies suggest that low vitamin D levels may affect the ability of the adrenal medulla to produce its hormones, although this finding is somewhat controversial.

You can determine whether your vitamin levels are low by asking your healthcare provider to order a blood test. Given the most recent research in this area, most practitioners feel that vitamin D levels below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) represent an absolute deficiency. In fact, most practitioners aim for a vitamin D level greater than 40 ng/mL.

Most people in the United States and other industrialized countries have low levels of vitamin D but don't show any symptoms. The key is that the levels aren't low enough to cause symptoms of deficiency, even though the levels aren't optimal. The goal is optimal health. Raising vitamin D levels mostly requires getting out in the sun on a daily basis and supplementing with vitamin D.

Vitamin E

Adrenal gland function is part of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal gland (HPA) axis. Some lab-based studies suggest that vitamin E may be important in maximizing how these three organs communicate with one another.

A study from the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition published in 2009 looked at rats that were vitamin E deficient. They found that the rats’ adrenal glands didn't decrease cortisol secretion when they were supposed to, a hallmark of adrenal fatigue in humans.

The conclusion drawn was that vitamin E was important in order for all the HPA organs to understand the signals they were sending and to react appropriately.

Vitamin E deficiency is rare in the United States, but with the poor diet, people likely need to supplement with vitamin E to support adrenal gland health. Foods high in vitamin E include green vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K comes in two forms (K1 and K2) and has several important functions. A primary function is maintaining bone health. Vitamin K2 is more specific to bone health; it helps inhibit the leaching of calcium from the bones and the resulting influx of calcium into the blood vessels.

Think of vitamin K2 as being part of your arsenal for maintaining the bones’ health and integrity in adrenal fatigue because it helps protect against excess calcium loss.

Vitamin K1 is related to blood vessel health. People who are taking the medicine warfarin (Coumadin), a blood thinner, may see lower levels of vitamin K1.

The most common reasons for vitamin K deficiency are taking warfarin or having a malabsorption syndrome (such as celiac disease), which can affect the absorption of vitamin K in the small intestine. Low levels of vitamin K increase the risk of bleeding.

Foods high in vitamin K2 include meat and poultry.

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