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 extreme cortisol production, or Addison’s Disease which is complete 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 fatigue, even in the mornings after a good night’s sleep
- Difficulty handling every day stressors
- Weight gain, especially around the abdominal area
- Brain fog and not being able to think clearly
- Hair loss
- Hormonal imbalances to include thyroid and sex hormones
- 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:
- Seek medical supervision
- 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
Renewed Vitality Can Help!
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. DHEA and Pregnenolone are also adrenal hormones and can be supplemented to help overcome adrenal fatigue, however these should never be taken without a doctor’s supervision.
Imbalance within the adrenal glands most certainly affects other endocrine functions as well because there is an axis that exists between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenals. Both the hypothalamus and pituitary glands affect thyroid and other hormone functions as well. For example, if you have a thyroid condition that requires treatment, your adrenal health should always be tested and treated if applicable. Without addressing adrenal health, the thyroid may get better with treatment, but will never function optimally. Additionally, if the adrenals are left out of the equation of hormone balancing, but other hormones are addressed, there can be some very unpleasant side effects.
Here at Renewed Vitality, we use very comprehensive lab work to determine all hormone function, and can help with any adrenal fatigue that you may be experiencing.
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!
Give us a call at 214-389-1234 or click HERE to schedule an appointment and start your journey to better health!