Adrenal fatigue is a commonly experienced syndrome in today’s world of stress and high energy. Adrenal fatigue symptoms are often confused for other health issues, and are largely ignored by mainstream medicine. Just as with thyroid conditions, those who are easily fatigued, full of anxiety, or exhausted constantly can face a battle that not many others understand. If you suspect you might have adrenal fatigue (and so many of us do), it is time to uncover adrenal fatigue treatment and solutions that could really work.
There are ways you can support this important part of your endocrine system, to heal, and feel whole again.
The adrenals are small, but are responsible for so much. They are two little glands that sit just on top of the kidneys. They keep cortisol and adrenaline in check (two major stress hormones but essential components to our metabolism) as well as regulate inflammation in the body. They also produce aldosterone, which helps to control blood pressure.
When the adrenals are constantly firing due to the perception of stress, they become over-taxed and begin excreting so many stress hormones that the body begins to shut down – this is why you may feel exhausted if you are always dealing with high amounts of stress and never really get an opportunity to unplug from the demands of life. This then creates a feedback loop in the body associated with the fight or flight response.
Specifically, the adrenals modulate a process initiated by the sympathetic nervous system when our body encounters a threatening (stressful) situation. The hormones of the adrenal medulla contribute to this response.
Hormones secreted by the adrenal medulla are:
- Epinephrine: This hormone is also known more commonly as adrenaline. Adrenaline (made by the adrenals) rapidly responds to stress by increasing your heart rate and rushing blood to the muscles and brain. It also spikes your blood sugar level by helping convert glycogen to glucose in the liver. (Glycogen is the liver’s storage form of glucose.)
- Norepinephrine: Also known as noradrenaline, this hormone works with epinephrine in responding to stress. However, it can cause vasoconstriction (the narrowing of blood vessels). This results in high blood pressure.
When the adrenals do not make the right amount of hormones and release too much cortisol and adrenalin into the body, the following things start to happen:
- First Stage ‘Fried’ Adrenals – You are wired and tired. Though the adrenals fire more in the morning as part of a healthy system, when the adrenals are fatigued, they will instead fire at night, leading to insomnia, even when you already feel very tired.
- Second Stage Adrenal Exhaustion – Your body is full of cortisol more often, and though you may get a little boost of energy at night, you feel sluggish and foggy-brained during the day and have a hard time going back to sleep if you wake up at night. Dr. Kalish explains:
“If you stay in this high-cortisol state for long enough – at stage one – you eventually go to stage two. Stage two means that the cortisol levels are now starting to fail. This is when people start to gain weight. This is when people start to not be able to sleep. This is when your sex drive starts to go away. This is when people just know that there’s some health problem.”
- Full Adrenal Burnout – As Wellness Mama puts it:
“This stage resembles how a person feels in early pregnancy or with a new baby at home- exhausted all the time no matter how much he/she has slept and completely burned out. Cortisol patterns in stage 3 are completely disrupted or even completely flat and this is especially risky because this stage is associated with higher risk of thyroid disease and autoimmune disease, as well as gut problems.”
More Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
Here are more adrenal fatigue symptoms, each indicating a varying level of adrenaline exhaustion:
- Body aches
- The need for stimulants like caffeine to get going in the morning
- Tiredness when you wake up, no matter how much sleep you got
- Difficulty falling asleep or waking up
- Inability to face stressful situations
- Decreased sex drive
- Blood sugar or digestive problems
- Reduced memory or ability to concentrate
- Dizziness when standing up too quickly
- Thyroid problems or low thyroid hormone production
- Food cravings- especially salt and sugar
- Impaired immune function- getting sick more often
- High stress levels or always feeling like there is too much to do
Unfortunately, most of us living in the modern world are exposed to several factors which can make adrenal fatigue worse. One of these factors include being exposed to artificial light at night, since it impairs the natural melatonin and serotonin release associated with our circadian rhythms. Poor sleep patterns and poor nutrition also contribute to adrenal fatigue, as well as exposure to environmental pollutants.
It is estimated that 80% of Americans have some level of adrenal fatigue, and there isn’t a quick fix to make it all better. But adrenal fatigue treatment is attainable, as there are very easy, and effective ways to restore adrenal function. You should just expect it to take at least 6 months to a full year for a full recovery from adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
Without further ado, here are the ‘cures’ for adrenal exhaustion:
- 1. Rid the diet of excess sugar and processed grains. These are very hard on the adrenal glands. Eating excess sugar/starches will cause blood sugar to spike and insulin to come to the rescue due to excess glucose in the bloodstream. Blood sugar then drops or plummets, causing the adrenals to work to bring levels back up. When you are suffering from fatigued adrenal glands, cortisol levels drop and make it difficult to maintain normal blood sugar levels. People with adrenal fatigue tend to have low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is another stressful situation that can further tax your adrenal glands.
- 2. Add Healthy fats – Coconut oil, ghee, olives, organic olive oil, and clarified butter all greatly support adrenal health. Some of these oils will also lower belly fat, which screams ‘adrenal fatigue.’
- 3. Get More Sleep – Even if you don’t feel tired, try turning off all electronics (cell phones, computers, tablets, etc.) and close your eyes in a completely dark room before 10 pm at night. Even if you don’t fall asleep and stay asleep, you are lowering your stress levels and retraining your body to sleep when it should be sleeping.
- 4. Breathe Right – Deep, controlled breathing has astoundingly positive effects on adrenal health and your overall stress. There’s one way to do it while possibly doubling your life span at the same time.
- 5. Eat Your Greens and Brightly Colored Vegetables. There is sound evidence that eating the proper nutrition consistently can help the adrenals in a profound way – a key adrenal fatigue treatment.
- 6. Sip on Green Tea. Organic green tea has high levels of nutritive phytochemicals which support the adrenal glands. Matcha green tea is the best.
- 7. Do Your Best to Eliminate Stress – I know, easier said than done, but adding just one session of yoga, meditation, or tai chi a week can help greatly with overly-stressed adrenal glands.
- 8. Practice Dr. Kalish’s Method of healing adrenals by eating at least 40 grams of protein in the morning.
- 9. Consume Natural Salt like Himalayan Sea Salt. Natural salts contain many trace minerals, which help to support the adrenals. Adrenal fatigue reduces the production of the hormone aldosterone, which helps regulate salt in the body. Many people feel better when consuming adequate levels of real salt.
- 10. Connect with the Mother – Connect with Earth. Be sure to practice grounding by placing as much of your bare body (just your feet is sufficient) on the ground as possible.
- 11. Limit the use of stimulants like coffee when you are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
- 12. Don’t Over-Train at the Gym – Excessive Cardio or endurance training is really hard on the adrenals. When you are suffering from many of the symptoms listed in this article, it might be better to practice a more relaxing form of exercise.
- 13. Optimize DHEA Levels – When your adrenal glands are out of whack, your DHEA production will suffer greatly, and your stress hormone cortisol can roam freely inside of your body, destroying all the hard work you are doing to get your endocrine system back in shape. One of the best ways to support DHEA in the body is through magnesium supplementation.
- 14. Eat Your Medicinal Mushrooms – These include Reishi, Chaga, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, etc. They all have stress-relieving properties and boost overall levels of health.
- 15. Add Adaptogenic Herbs – Ashwagandha, panax ginseng, and astragalus are great examples of herbs that support the body in stress relief and overall adrenal health. Add adaptogens as you can.
By practicing one or all of these natural adrenal-rescuing habits you should start feeling more rested, healthy, and energetic over time. Adrenal fatigue treatment is available; you just need to see what works for you.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.