Adrenalin – Addiction and Consequence

An estimated one in three people in modern Britain are over-producing adrenal hormones as a consequence of 21st century living, with five times the risk for heart disease and a doubling of risk for dementia and diabetes as a result. Nearly half feel stressed most days, says the Mental Health Foundation, with 59% feeling more stressed than five years ago.

Adrenal hormones are the body’s way of giving instant energy- part of the ‘fight or flight’ system to enable our hunter ancestors to switch into top gear to catch dinner or avoid being caught.

However, modern living constantly triggers a stress reaction. Adrenal hormones – adrenalin and cortisol – are produced either by a stressful thought, consumption of caffeine or a blood sugar dip. One in five take time off work because of stress.

Unlike our ancestors who usually had a wife or husband and a job for life, 42% of modern marriages end in divorce, another source of stress, and the average person changes, or loses their job every four years. Sugar consumption has gone up from nearly zero to over 50kg a year in many industrialised nations, while caffeine consumption among adults has increased to an average of about 300mg a day, which is an average of six cups of tea or three cups of coffee, a double expresso counting as two. Many consume double this. Simply being stuck in a traffic jam produces enough adrenalin to run for a mile.

Blood sugar dips after eating sweet foods or skipping meals also produces an adrenalin surge. Also, in the menopause progesterone levels fall which also trigger adrenal hormone release, adding to the stress effect.

As a consequence an increasing number of adults are suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD, insomnia, but also often with physical symptoms such as muscle aches, cramps, restless legs, hot flushes, high blood pressure, having cold hands – all of which are classic symptoms of adrenalin dominance. In the long-term all this stress is having disastrous health consequences. In fact, chronic stress is as bad for you as smoking.

It’s a vicious cycle because over-production of adrenal hormones leads to adrenalin resistance whereby a person craves more stress to get the same lift. That’s why so many people become addicted to constant stimulation, be it from sweet foods, caffeine or constant mental activity. As a consequence we end up adrenalin dominant, literally addicted to stress and feeling wired and tired most of the time, almost hardwired to react stressfully. Test your stress on these questions. If you answer yes to five or more questions, that’s a fair indication you’re highly stressed, and the higher your score, the greater the negative impact of stress on your life.

Test Your Stress

  • Do you check your phone or laptop for messages every few minutes?
  • Do you ‘need’ a coffee, tea or cigarette to get going in the morning?
  • Do you feel guilty when relaxing or find it hard to relax or switch off?
  • Do you get impatient or angry if people or things hold you up?
  • Are you competitive with a constant need for achievement?
  • Do challenging situations trigger anxiety or panic?
  • Do you often do two or three tasks simultaneously?
  • Do you avoid exercise because you feel too tired?
  • Do you have difficulty getting to sleep, or staying asleep?
  • Do you have afternoon energy dips or wake up feeling tired?

The good news is that there is a way out. I have been studying stress over the past year with stress expert and co-author of our new book, The Stress Cure Susannah Lawson. You have to address both the mind and body with the right cocktail of diet, supplements and exercises to reset your mindset. But unravelling the mind’s fast track to stress requires some training. By reducing energy drains, increasing energy, resetting your mindset, reducing negativity and promoting positivity it is possible to become stress resilient.

Lessening biological stress triggers is a good place to start. It is vital to avoid blood sugar dips because they trigger adrenalin. That means never skipping breakfast, snacking when tired, but on a combination of protein and slow-releasing carbs such as nuts and fruit or an oatcake and nut butter, not sugary foods or drinks. Cutting sugar and caffeine really helps. But most people have poor energy and need more energy nutrients. I recommend supplementing vitamin C, B vitamins and a combination of the amino acid tyrosine and adaptogenic herbs including ginseng, to support adrenal function. In studies those supplementing vitamin C and B vitamins have twice the energy and greater physical and mental stamina, concentration and alertness than those the taking placebo.1 Also, those with a vitamin C intake above 400mg have half the level of ‘fatigability’, according to a study at Alabama University2. In military studies supplementing tyrosine improves performance under stressful conditions.


However, for long-term stress release you have to understand what your stress triggers are and reset your mindset. In our book we go through how to do this, step by step, but it is often easier to do this face to face which is why we are running practical seminars throughout the UK and Ireland in March showing exactly how to do this.

It involves five steps, which we call the A to E of stress, namely:

  1. Activating Event: something happens in the environment around you.
  2. Beliefs: you hold a belief about that event or situation.
  3. Consequence: you have an emotional and/or psychological response to your belief.
  4. Disputation: dissecting those beliefs to see if they are rational
  5. Effective new approach: identifying a more supportive way to proceed.

Many great people have learnt how to face life positively, without letting stress take control. Famously, Winston Churchill said “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Pessimism isn’t in your genes, nor is optimism. They are a mindset you can train yourself into. We are going to be taking you through this process in our seminars and in the book. You can get a sense of this from this example ‘Stress log’ which helps you really examine how you let things get under your skin.

Activating event or situation Stress-inducing thoughts/beliefs Consequences (how you feel) Compensation (what you do) Reality check (stress-alleviating thoughts) Effective new approach
Row with partner He will leave me
I am an idiot
Scream cry and feel desperate Have an asthma attack All couples disagree
We get along most of the time
Aim to stay calm and listen in future disagreements
Let down by supplier at work I must not look stupid
I should be in control
Angry, critical, threatening Tear a strip off supplier’s receptionist, make her cry Some things are beyond my control Stay calm and ask for help to remedy the situation
Not invited to neighbour’s party What have I done wrong?
Nobody likes me
Feel hurt and humiliated Stay at home and eat two tubs of ice cream We don’t know each other very well. They don’t have much room Don’t take things so personally

We will also show you a remarkably effective yet simple five-minute-a-day exercise from the HeartMath® system, which trains you to have a new calm and level-headed ‘default’ setting, rather than getting stressed and freaking out whenever something goes wrong. The purpose of the book, and the seminars is to show you how to build stress and energy resilience and identify precisely the mental and emotional reactions that trigger a stress response and reframe them so that you become in control, rather than a victim, in the 21st century.


  1. D. Kennedy et al., ‘Vitamins and psychological functioning: a mobile phone assessment of the effects of a B vitamin complex, vitamin C and minerals on cognitive performance and subjective mood and energy’, Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental (2011), vol 26(4–5), pp. 338–347.
  2. E. Cheraskin et al., ‘Daily vitamin consumption and fatigability’, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (1976), vol 24(3), pp. 136–137.
  3. J. B. Deijen et al., ‘Tyrosine improves cognitive performance and reduces blood pressure in cadets after one week of a combat training course’, Brain Research Bulletin (1999), vol 48(2), pp. 203–9.; also see C.R. Mahoney et al., ‘Tyrosine supplementation mitigates working memorydecrements during cold exposure’, Physiology and Behaviour (2007), vol 92(4), pp. 575–82.

Image by Bhernandez from miami (stressed and worried) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons