Adrenal Fatigue, Yes It's a Thing
Adrenal fatigue seems to be a pretty popular topic lately, as it should be. It’s a real occurrence and can cause real issues if not addressed. If the adrenal glands are not working at full force, you may suffer greatly in everyday life. It’s a top priority for most people to be in good health, and to do everything possible to keep it that way. Let’s find out more about adrenal fatigue and what you can do to fight it.
Let’s find out more about adrenal fatigue and what you can do to fight it.
Adrenal Gland Function & Purpose
The adrenal glands are two small structures located at the top of each of your kidneys. They are vital to your well-being and play a big role in manufacturing hormones that your body needs for various processes.
The Adrenal Glands Have Two Parts
- The Adrenal Cortex – This is the outer section of the adrenal gland. It produces hormones that are vital to your health. Which ones? Cortisol, which regulates your metabolism, and aldosterone, which helps control the blood pressure.
- The Adrenal Medulla – This is the inner section of the gland that produces the not so vital hormones such as adrenaline. Of course, this is the famous hormone that triggers a reaction to a stressful situation.
Most people associate the adrenal glands with adrenaline, especially when thinking of very exciting or stressful situations. You’ve likely heard them refer to it as an adrenaline rush.
However, the adrenal glands do much more than give you that rush.Certain hormones released by the adrenal glands are responsible for functions such as to balance the salt to water ratio in the body, the release of certain male and female sex hormones, regulating response by the immune system and inhibiting inflammatory reactions. All things considered, it should be quite easy to see why it is so important for your adrenal glands to be functioning at top levels.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
When the adrenal glands are functioning at optimum levels, your health and overall well-being will reflect that. But, if your adrenal glands are functioning at below 100%, the odds are that you may notice a big difference.
Anything over a 90% loss of function in the adrenal glands will give you the diagnosis of Addison’s disease. Anything between Addison’s disease and 100% function is known as adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue
There are many symptoms that go along with adrenal fatigue. Some may go unnoticed. With that said, some are hard to ignore. The most common symptom is right there in the name, fatigue. Almost everyone that has adrenal fatigue will experience this. Another common symptom is food cravings.
Two of the least common symptoms are frequent urination and low blood pressure. Check the list that follows and see if you can relate to any of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
You find it very hard to get up each morning even after a long night’s sleep – Many people who suffer from adrenal fatigue typically have high levels of stress. This increases your cortisol and adrenaline levels in the body and interrupts the natural 24-hour cortisol level cycle. It also prevents you from getting more restful sleep.You are extremely tired throughout the day – This is not only caused by a lack of restful sleep, but by the depletion of the adrenals, which results in lowered levels of much-needed hormones and neurotransmitters.
You find it harder to handle stress – If you find that you get extremely overwhelmed in even the slightest stressful situations, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s very common among those who suffer from adrenal fatigue. This happens for the same reasons as the prior point, lowered hormone levels.
You constantly crave salty foods or snacks – Going back to the cortex part of the adrenal gland, you may recall that it produces a hormone called aldosterone. This hormone is responsible for the salt to water ratio in your body. When the adrenals are fatigued and not functioning properly, less of this hormone is secreted, throwing off your balance and making you crave salty foods.
You have more energy in the evenings – Lower levels of cortisol can wreak havoc on your energy levels during the day. Normally the cortisol levels are at their highest in the morning and then level off throughout the day. But, a person with adrenal fatigue will experience rises in their levels towards the evening, thus spiking their energy levels.
You find yourself drinking more coffee or other caffeinated drinks – Due to the constant fatigue, you may find yourself drinking more coffee or even taking stimulants to keep alert throughout the day. Caffeine and other stimulants will start to lose their effect over time. But in a person with adrenal fatigue, they may not have much of an effect at all and may disrupt your sleep patterns even further, creating a more vicious cycle.
You’re getting sick more often than normal – Adrenal fatigue can affect the strength of your immune system. It could make you more susceptible to colds, flu, and other viruses.
The reason is due to the constantly unstable cortisol levels in your body.
Some other symptoms to look for include:
- Lowered libido
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble focusing
- Bone loss
- New allergies
- Sugar cravings
- Hair loss
- Muscle tension
- Weight gain
- Morning fatigue
- Constantly overwhelmed
As you can see, adrenal fatigue can come with many issues and affect you in many ways. It can even lead to depression due to the lack of energy to exercise and the increased cravings for unhealthy foods.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
There are many factors that can cause you to have adrenal fatigue, especially in today’s busy and very stressful world. Let’s face it: We tend to go, go, go. We get things done as quickly as possible and do it all over again the next day without missing a beat. But, our health suffers a great deal when we aren’t mindful of what stress is really doing to us.
The truth is that some situations can’t be controlled. With that said, some are in our power to control. What follows are the main reasons adrenal fatigue may rear its ugly head:
- Stressful situations. This could such things as a death of a loved one, divorce, loss of employment, etc.
- Environmental toxins, pollution, and smoking.
- Long bouts of stress caused by financial issues, abusive relationships or a stressful working environment.
- Always thinking negatively or having emotional trauma in your life.
- Not getting enough sleep every night.
- Eating processed and unhealthy foods. Simply having an overall poor diet could prompt the problem.
- Lack of exercise and movement throughout the day.
The truth is that stress is a killer. Sometimes we can control it. Sometimes it’s completely out of our hands. The important thing to remember is that not every situation is permanent. We can make changes to better our lives to take us out of certain situations that cause enormous amounts of stress.
Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
It’s estimated that adrenal fatigue affects around 80% of the world’s population. So you can be sure that it’s been studied plenty and that there are ways to fight it naturally. What follows are some of the very best ways to fight it.
Change Your Diet
What goes in your mouth is very important in fighting adrenal fatigue and other health issues. Changing a few things in your diet can help to make a big difference. Some things to avoid include:
- Caffeine: This can definitely interfere with your sleeping patterns and make it hard for your adrenal glands to fully recover. Sadly, caffeine is hard for a lot of people to kick. If you absolutely have to have it, drink it only in the mornings and in moderation.
- Refined sugar: This includes artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup too. Always be aware that sugar hides under many names and in many processed foods. Try subbing those unhealthy sweetening agents with Stevia or raw honey.
- Processed foods: These foods are normally packed full of unnatural ingredients and preservatives. That makes the digestion process tougher and it will wear you out.
- Hydrogenated oils: Vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, and canola are inflammatory and will lead to inflammation in the adrenal glands.
Eat These Foods To Boost Healing
Try to eat as many nutrient-dense foods as you can.
These foods are easier on the system and have healing qualities, especially when it comes to adrenal fatigue. They include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Chicken and turkey
- Nuts and seeds
- Kelp and seaweed
- Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
Take A Few Supplements
Sometimes it’s hard to get everything you need through diet alone, especially if you don’t eat a broad variety of foods. The following supplements can be very beneficial in aiding in the recovery of the adrenal glands.
- Fish oil
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Listen to your body. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed in a situation, take a breath and step outside if you can. Gaining control over your stress levels is vital to healing the adrenal glands and bringing them back to an optimum level of function.
Try the following:
- Rest or sleep whenever you feel tired.
- Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
- Keep your sleep schedule as regular as you can. That even includes the weekends.
- Watch a funny movie. Why? Laughter really is the best medicine.
- Try to minimize stress at work as much as you can.
- Eat regularly. Don’t skip meals and try to have healthy snacks in between.
- Exercise daily. Even if you just go for a walk, it will be very beneficial.
- Avoid all negative people if you can. You should also avoid speaking and thinking negatively.
- Take a few beginner yoga classes.
- Find the support of positive people.
- Take a hot bath and then stretch each night before bed.
- Face issues as they arise.
- Change any stressful situation that you can.
- Get a massage.
Adrenal fatigue can be healed and reversed as long as it’s not too far along. Take the time to de-stress, relax and have a positive outlook on life. Our bodies react to harmful and stressful environments by sending us symptoms. These are not to be ignored. If you feel something more is wrong, you should check with your healthcare provider.
Eat only the healthiest foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where you’ll find the produce, dairy, and meat, and try to stay away from processed foods altogether. Check food labels for added sugar and even caffeine. Drink more water throughout the day to ensure you are getting plenty of it. Why? Dehydration can cause more stress on the body and will inhibit healing.
Exercise is very important for many reasons. When you sit for a long time without activity, it can affect your body in a very negative way. A lack of exercise can lead to heart disease, obesity, blood clots and even cause the degeneration of muscle. That’s why it’s important to move every day.
When you change all of the adrenal fatigue causing factors in your life, you will notice big changes in your energy levels, sleep quality and even your mood. Just a few small changes can make a big difference.
By Heather Neff, CPT, CNC