Adrenal Fatigue refers to overworked adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are triangular shaped and sit just above the kidneys. They are part of the endocrine system and produce a variety of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. These glands are responsible for helping to regulate metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, sex hormones, and responses to stress.
Cortisol has several functions. One of which is that it is released during times of physical or emotional stress. When stimulated, it helps the body to cope by releasing epinephrine, or adrenaline. Heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure increase. This is also known as the fight or flight response. This worked well for our ancestors and helped to keep them alive. However, modern times are drastically different and with today’s stressors that most people face on a daily basis, our adrenals can become overworked, because when the brain registers a threat of any kind (emotional, mental, or physical), it signals the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline.
A sudden and traumatic event such as the death of a loved one, or a divorce, can cause Adrenal Fatigue. But the most common cause is going through chronic and long-term stress. The body, including the adrenal glands, experiences stress through many ways, including the following:
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Negative thinking
- Chronic pain
- Food sensitivities
- Poor sleep habits
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Taking some prescription medications such as steroids
- Emotional and mental stress
There is sometimes controversy between the mainstream medical community and the functional medicine practitioners regarding whether or not adrenal fatigue is an actual diagnosis. In mainstream medicine, it is either all or nothing – the endocrine system is normal or it’s in total failure. Adrenal problems can lead to serious diseases in and of themselves including Cushing’s Disease which is total endocrine failure, or Addison’s Disease which is insufficient Adrenal Function.
There was an extensive study done in China by scientists who examined the interaction of genetics, biomarkers, environmental exposures, and diet to understand how they lead to disease. They developed a classification referred to as “suboptimal health” which is the “in between” phase of good health and diagnosable disease.
In the United States, some physicians refer to Adrenal Fatigue as “Middle Ground Syndrome” which is basically the same thing that the Chinese have determined. While it does require effort, treatment of Adrenal Fatigue is fairly simple and consists mainly of diet and lifestyle changes. Changing what you eat, getting enough exercise, adding certain key supplements, and learning how to better cope with stress are often all it takes to overcome Adrenal Fatigue.
First, let’s identify some symptoms that will occur if you are experiencing Adrenal Fatigue:
- Chronic tiredness, even in the mornings after a good night’s sleep
- Weight gain, especially around the abdominal area
- Brain fog and not being able to think clearly
- Hair loss
- Hormonal imbalances
- Skin ailments
- Insulin resistance
- Craving sweet or salty foods
- Decreased sex drive
How to Treat Adrenal Fatigue
Diet plays an important role in how we feel, and our overall health. We truly are what we eat, and food is good, preventative medicine. Here are some foods to avoid and foods to add which will help to restore a healthy immune system and aid in recovering from Adrenal Fatigue:
Avoid: Caffeine; Sugar (use raw honey or Stevia), Carbs to include gluten and starches; Processed foods; Microwavable foods (highly processed); Processed meats; Hydrogenated oils; and Artificial sweeteners.
Add: Coconut, Avocado and healthy fats; Fatty Fish; Cruciferous vegetables; Nuts, especially walnuts and almonds; Grass fed beef and free range chicken; Coconut and olive oil, butter or ghee; and Fermented foods rich in probiotics.
Stress has been proven to contribute to illness and disease, and is one of the main causes of Adrenal Fatigue. Busy lives and hectic schedules often make it difficult to take time for ourselves, but it is vitally important to happiness, wellbeing, and a healthier you. Here are some things you can do to help your mental and emotional health:
- Avoid negative situations and negative people as much as possible
- Take time everyday for you – relax, take a hot bath, enjoy nature
- Stop self-sabotaging mental chatter
- Find and create a support system for yourself (friends, groups, etc.)
- Make time for hobbies and doing things you enjoy (having some FUN is extremely important)
- Fit exercise into your daily routine; yoga is especially relaxing
- Go for walks outside
- Get enough sleep and try to get up and arise at the same time every day, and make time to rest when you are tired. Even a 20 minute nap can be revitalizing.
- Get some counseling
Supplements also play a key role in restoring and supporting Adrenal health. Incorporate fish oil, magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and B-Complex in to your everyday arsenal. Adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwaganda and Rhodiola rosea can also help with stress levels. Licorice root extract also helps increase DHEA, an important hormone created in the Adrenal glands.
Remember, adrenal fatigue is a chronic medical condition. It is going to take a little time to restore optimal health. Know that by doing so, you are taking charge of how you feel and your future long-term health. And remember, our bodies are designed to heal. There is hope.
Here at Renewed Vitality of Dallas, we use very comprehensive lab work to determine hormone levels and can help with any Adrenal Fatigue you may be experiencing.