Adrenaline Resistance


Written By: Kevin Cann

                Most reading this have heard of the term insulin resistance.  This occurs when our cells desensitize to the hormone.  Stress and overeating high sugar foods tend to be the major culprits in inducing insulin resistance.  This leads to a greater increase in insulin secretion and a greater increase in stored fat.  Many of you have probably heard about leptin resistance as well.  Leptin is a major hormone involved in our energy homeostasis.  It is released from the white cells in our adipose tissue and communicates with the brain, telling it how much body fat we need to store.  Too much accumulated fat leads to increased amounts of circulating leptin and a decreased sensitivity in the leptin receptors.  This scenario can lead to increased feeding and increased fat accumulation.  Some of you may have been eating low carb paleo and not overeating calories, but still struggle to reach your weight loss goal.  There is another culprit that may be the issue; adrenaline resistance.

                Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is a major component of our flight or fight response.  It regulates heart rate as well as blood vessels and airways.  It is also a neurotransmitter.  As a neurotransmitter it allows us to deal with physical and emotional pain.  Adrenaline also releases the fat we have stored and frees it up to be used as energy.  Just like with insulin and leptin, too much exposure to adrenaline will cause the receptors of the cells to desensitize.  This leads to a need for more adrenaline to get the job done and over time our system will get burned out and we will lose the ability to produce adequate amounts of adrenaline.

                Adrenaline is part of the sympathetic nervous system.   Under stressful conditions the sympathetic nervous system takes over.   Leptin controls body fat over the long haul however; under stressed conditions the sympathetic nervous system decreases leptin and increases adrenaline ( ).  The decrease in leptin can lead to overeating.  This is also known as: stress eating.”  The sympathetic nervous system under stressful conditions controls the hormones that allow fat to exit and enter our cells.    This is why stress management is so important to weight loss.  If we do not manage our stress well, leptin levels will stay low to increase eating, and adrenaline levels will stay chronically high, increasing our chances for becoming adrenaline resistant.  Once that resistance sets in we become poor at releasing stored fat into the blood stream, but we are still overeating.  This is a good way to put on even more fat!

                It has long been known that obesity is a byproduct of Protein Gs deficiency.  Basically, this protein is part of a group of proteins that communicate reactions to extracellular stimuli.  Patients with decreased Gs had a 67% lower response to adrenaline.  The researchers concluded that Gs protein should be looked at as a cause of common obesity ( ).  Parathyroid hormone (PTH) resistance was also shown to be a common denominator in that study.  Another study found PTH resistance and adrenaline resistance to be an issue for an obese woman ( ).

                Insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and adrenaline resistance is the three headed monster.  One leads to the next, and if it does not get corrected, will lead to obesity and disease.  One study showed that adrenaline resistance caused from leptin and insulin resistance needed to exist before the onset of type 2 diabetes ( ).  The three of them together have also been linked to obesity-derived hypertension ( ).

                So then how do we correct it?  The answer to that is the billion dollar question.  For now we need to take what information we know works and apply it.  Complete health is a spectrum of lifestyle choices.  We need to eat well, manage our stress, get outside, and have adequate sleep.  Also, we need adequate amounts of exercise.  This is another reason why too much exercise can be hindering your ability to lose fat.  Exercise releases adrenaline.  If we have adrenaline resistance already, or are chronically in a stressed out state, we can make matters even worse by running too much, or overdoing it in the gym.  The best solution is to listen to your body and do your best to do everything to promote positive gene expression. 

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  1. Sheila says

    Thanks Kevin for another great post. It is so easy to forget the stress/adrenaline side of things and to take it a bit easier sometimes. I am 69 and was pretty poorly, with a big tummy as well when I started pale. I did not take 18 months to get that way and so it will take longer than 18 months to be where I want to be, especially with slips and slides with sweeties and Christmas etc

  2. John W says

    Great post! It’s got me thinking about the affect of caffeine on adrenaline resistance. Does anybody have any thoughts about what daily coffee drinkers are doing to themselves regarding performance and general health? Can a chronic caffeine habit cause adrenaline resistance?

  3. Wren says

    ‘Some of you may have been eating low carb paleo and not overeating calories, but still struggle to reach your weight loss goal.  There is another culprit that may be the issue; adrenaline resistance.’

    I really needed this today. Thank you! When I follow Paleo, I feel better, but lose no more than 5 lbs. If the stress is too much (not often, but it happens, stress eating kicks in.

    I sincerely believe Paleo is the right way for me to eat. But it has been hard seeing virtually no long term improvement over the past 18 or so months. That said, I’ve not managed to do a good job on reducing stress.

    • Kevin Cann says

      Both health and disease are a spectrum. There are multiple aspects that lead to both. Diet is just a piece of it. Having a piece of toast for breakfast daily may not be a big deal in the presence of good gut health, quality sleep, managed stress, etc. However, that same daily toast can be turn the epigenetic tides unfavorablly if we have poor sleep and stress. Diet is a key piece to health, but just that a piece. Take a step back and look at the big picture of your life and figure out ways to improve those areas. It is never a bad idea to ask for help as well!

  4. LyndaF says

    Thanks for this post. I think this might be my problem. I’ve been eating very low carb and mostly paleo for over 2 years now. The first year I lost 30 lbs, but have since put back on 20 lb (but not as much fat). My biggest problem that I can see has been not enough sleep & too much work related stress, both of which have contributed to overeating. My temporary job ends this week, so I’m planning to start getting into a better bedtime routine. I’m hoping that will do the job!

  5. Magic says

    I’m curious how you’d recommend quantifying stress. How much is too much? (I’m a professional writer/editor and under pretty much constant deadline pressure. My body seems to have grown accustomed to stress. I work out regularly but have trouble getting my body fat percentage down.)

    • Kevin Cann says

      That question is impossible to answer. There is a huge individual spectrum. I think a better question is how do you feel? How are the energy levels, mood, sleep, and overall health?

  6. Sara says

    What can a person with Fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue do?- is it possible to have been BORN this way? (Like a Genetic condition)….. if so, is there any medical protical to follow? – I am now almost housebound…., but remember
    Even as a kid, sleeping a lot; being overweight, anxious etc. Symptoms have gotten worse over time. (& since I was naturally high strung, it actually helped me in high stress jobs….. til I had less & less energy & could no longer “rebound”).., I went to Hundreds of Drs,specialists, Alternative medicine
    & holistivc practitioners etc….& none have beenable to offer a recipe to recouperation. I have not been able to work; or even plan Social functions, for years now. I sleep much of the time, & (~80% of the time), can do little more than sit on the couch, doing sedintary things; OR I end up in extreme pain,
    and exhausted(& in bed) for days afterward. Can anyone HELP???

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