It’s time to do something about adrenal fatigue because chances are you’re dealing with it. Many proponents of this condition estimate that almost every person can experience adrenal fatigue, also known as hypoadrenia, to some degree at a particularly stressful point in his or her life.
According to James Wilson (author of “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”), chronic stresss and lifestyle affect the body’s ability to recuperate from physical, mental or emotional stress.
Because of the vast influence of the adrenals on the body, symptoms of adrenal fatigue can mimic a number of disorders and isn’t always easily recognizable.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms include
These symptoms and more can be indicative of a few different disorders and are often overlooked by doctors, but more and more people are starting to realize that a combination of these could indicate the onset of adrenal fatigue.
If you have adrenal fatigue, it can also be a major cause of excess fat storage and low energy levels. Luckily, you can heal adrenal fatigue with some effort over time. BIE can help balance out the hormones stemming from the adrenals to balance out symptoms. An adrenal supporting diet is also key, as is reducing stress.
So, let’s talk about exactly what your adrenal glands do and how you can overcome adrenal fatigue in these three simple steps.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
“Adrenal fatigue” was proposed as a new condition in 1998 by ND Dr. James L. Wilson. His assumption was that an overstimulation of the adrenal glands by chronic stress over time could lead to an inconsistent level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the bloodstream, sometimes far more than normal and at other times, far too low. In addition to this overload or improper cortisol level, people with adrenal fatigue often don’t have enough DHEAA, the “parent hormone” responsible for the creation of many necessary hormones in the body.
Unlike other endocrine disorders that are caused by physical damage to parts of the adrenal glands, adrenal fatigue is seen as a “middle ground” syndrome with simple and easy-to-implement solutions. Currently, no official diagnosis exists for adrenal fatigue and people are either considered to have normal endocrine function or total endocrine failure, like that seen in Cushing’s syndrome or Addison’s disease. Adrenal fatigue treatment is relatively non-invasive and is beneficial to your health, no matter the diagnosis.
What Are Your Adrenal Glands?
What are your adrenals? Your adrenal glands (adrenals) are two thumb-sized organs that sit above your kidneys and are part of the endocrine system. Also known as the suprarenal glands, they’re involved in producing over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function, many of which are essential for life.
Hormones affect every function, organ and tissue in the body directly or indirectly. They react to each other as well as respond to conditions in the body in an intricate and highly sensitive balancing act. The adrenal glands work closely with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in a system known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis).
Normally, the adrenal glands release cortisol on a diurnal rhythm, referring to the process of boosts of cortisol throughout the day that help wake us up, with a decline in this hormone level in the evening to aid the body in sleeping. This rhythm, however, doesn’t always apply when external stress occurs.
Adrenal glands play a huge role in stress response. Your brain registers a threat, whether emotional, mental or physical. The adrenal medulla releases cortisol and adrenaline hormones to help you react to the threat (fight or flight response), rushing blood to your brain, heart and muscles. The adrenal cortex then releases corticosteroids to dampen processes like digestion, immune system response and other functions not necessary for immediate survival.
Your adrenal glands are also responsible for balancing hormones such as:
Glucocorticoids – hormones that balance your body’s blood sugar, help with energy and food metabolism, help your body relieve stresss and manage your immune response (e.g., cortisol).M
Sex hormones – estrogen and testosterone.
Adrenaline/epinephrine – hormones that affect your heart health, make sure that all parts of the body are getting blood and convert glycogen into glucose in your liver.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your body and adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience.
Wellness doctors and practitioners believe that an episode of acute stress or prolonged, chronic stress can cause adrenal glands to become overloaded and ineffective, then improperly release cortisol. They believe that hypoadrenia can be caused by:
- Stressful experiences like death of loved one, divorce or surgery
- Exposure to environmental toxins and pollution
- Prolonged stress due to financial hardship, bad relationships or work environment, and other conditions that entail feelings of helplessness
- Negative thinking and emotional trauma
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet and lack of exercise
- Food sensitivities
- Reliance on stimulants like caffeine
But can stress cause extreme fatigue? Yes, it absolutely can. One study found that students undergoing chronic, long-term stress when prepping for medical exams at the end of their educational careers impaired the students’ cortisol awakening response. By limiting this surge in cortisol that naturally occurs every morning when you wake up to help you feel alert, stress inhibits your ability to wake up fully, no matter how much sleep you get.
Depression may also play a role in the development or effects of adrenal fatigue. After a major depressive episode, cortisol responses do not easily readjust to normal levels and might be somewhat responsible for a recurrence of depression.
Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
What happens when the adrenal glands stop producing hormones efficiently? Every bodily function is affected, and as adrenal hormone levels ebb and flow abnormally, even the normal “get-up-and-go” you get from them disappears. Adrenal fatigue symptoms include: (17)
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- Hormone imbalance
- Weakened stress response
- Insulin resistance
- Decreased sex drive
- Moodiness and irritability
- Muscle or bone loss
- Skin ailments
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight gain
- Sweet and salty food cravings
As you can see, there are a number of symptoms that might be related to other underlying disorders. Fortunately, the ways to combat these issues are very similar and will benefit your overall health. If you’ve experienced any of these adrenal fatigue side effects, take heart, for there are now many natural ways to treat and support your adrenal system.
3 Steps to Overcome Adrenal Fatigue
Treatment for adrenal fatigue involves reducing stress on your body and your mind, eliminating toxins, avoiding negative thinking and replenishing your body with healthy foods, supplements and ways of thinking.
1. Follow the Adrenal Fatigue Diet
In every case of adrenal recovery, diet is a huge factor. There are a number of foods that offer adrenal support, helping to replenish your adrenal energy so your system can come back to full health. But first, you must start by removing any hard-to-digest foods and any toxins or chemicals in your environment.
The idea is to remove anything that taxes your adrenals. Foods to avoid include:
Caffeine: This can interfere with your sleep cycle and make it hard for your adrenals to recover. If you must drink coffee or a caffeinated beverage, then have a limited amount in the morning before noon.
Sugar and sweeteners: Includes avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners as well. Avoid sugary foods, cereals, candy, sweets, etc. Be aware that sugar is an additive in many breads, condiments and dressings. Try to avoid as much extra sugar as possible.
Carbohydrates: While carbohydrates aren’t all bad for you, the inflammation they can cause is particularly problematic when experiencing adrenal fatigue. Many people crave carb-heavy foods when they’re stressed, which offer a momentary satisfaction but end up taxing the adrenal glands more. If you’re overwhelmed and stressed out, try kicking the glutenn and starchy carbs for a period of time to see if that may regulate your tiredness and energy levels.
Processed and microwaved foods: First of all, the microwave has its own dangers, but additionally, most microwaveable, ultra-processed foodss have many preservatives and fillers that are hard to digest and wear out your body’s energy and digestion cycle. Try to buy food on the outer walls of your grocery store and prepare your own food whenever possibleP
Next, you want to add nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest and have healing qualities. Some of the top foods for adrenal health include:
- Avocado oil and other healthy fats
- Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Fatty fish (e.g., wild-caught salmon)
- Bone broth
- Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
- Seeds, such as pumpkin, chia and flax
- Kelp and seaweed
- Fermented foods rich in probiotics
These foods help overcome adrenal fatigue because they’re nutrient-dense, low in sugar and have healthy fat and fiber.
2. Take Adrenal Fatigue Supplements and Herbs
Another big key to overcoming adrenal fatigue is taking the right supplements using supporting herbs. I always recommend eating the right foods to heal your body. However, it can still be a challenge to get enough of every nutrient you need every day. Therefore, it can be useful to wisely use dietary supplements for vitamins and minerals particularly vital for adrenal support.
In addition, there are certain herbs, spices and essential oils that can help to fight adrenal fatigue and support an energetic, vibrant life.
Adaptogenic herbs ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, schisandra and holy basil:Research indicates that these herbs may help to lower cortisol levels and mediate stress responses within the body.
Fish oil (EPA/DHA): There are a large number of benefits of supplementing with fish oil. Several of these include counteracting a number of adrenal fatigue-related symptoms and complications, such as diabetes, mental dysfunction, arthritis, immune system function, skin issues, weight gain and anxiety/depression.
Magnesium: For some time, magnesium has been understood as one of the necessary nutrients for fighting adrenal insufficiency, a medical condition I’ll dive into below. While the mechanisms of this aren’t fully understood, you may benefit from supplementing with magnesium if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
B-Complex vitamins: Research has found that Vit B12 deficiency may be associated with stress on the adrenal cortex in some animals. Vitamin B5 is another commonly deficient vitamin in people with adrenal stress. Especially if you’re reducing or eliminating meat from your diet in order to fight adrenal fatigue, it may serve you well to take a high-quality B-complex vitamin supplement.
Vitamin C: Known as a “stress-busting” nutrient, it has been found to minimize the effects of stress on people as well as reduce the time necessary to bounce back from stressful events.
I always recommend using whole-food-based supplements from reputable companies and using only 100 percent, therapeutic grade, USDA Certified Organic essential oils. Make sure you trust what you’re purchasing.
3. Reduce Adrenal Fatigue Stress
The last and most important key to restoring your adrenal function is to heed your mind and stress needs. Pay attention to your body!
- Rest when you feel tired as much as possible.
- Sleep 8–10 hours a night.
- Avoid staying up late and stay on a regular sleep cycle — ideally, in bed before 10 p.m.
- Laugh and do something fun every day.
- Minimize work and relational stress however possible.
- Eat on a regular food cycle, and reduce your caffeine and sugar intake
- Exercise (even moderate exercise and walking can help). Yoga in particular, can help to improve quality of life and reduce stress responses.
- Avoid negative people and self-talk.
- Take time for yourself (do something relaxing).
- Seek counsel or support for any traumatic experiences.
Let’s talk about “self-talk” for a minute. Our bodies are made to heal. However, the words we say have a great impact on our body and our ability to heal. Regardless of what diet and supplements you take, your environment is one of the most important components.
So, be kind to yourself. Try to avoid saying negative things about yourself and others. It’s important to choose to be around positive people and stay positive about yourself as well.