Do you find yourself feeling tired even when you’ve gotten enough sleep? Are you overwhelmed by situations that aren’t that complex? Do you crave salty or sweet foods on a regular basis? If you answered yes to these questions, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
The adrenals are two walnut-sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce certain hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, that help the body deal with stressful incidents—a response called “fight or flight.” The production of these hormones increases the heart rate, slows digestion, and contracts the muscles. But these hormones are only meant to stay at these high levels temporarily, so when the stress in your life is unrelenting, your adrenal glands become overtaxed and adrenal fatigue sets in.
When it comes to the adrenals, all kinds of stress can affect them: emotional, physical, and mental. A death in the family or a divorce is an example of emotional trauma, an accident or chronic insomnia is physical, and constant worry over finances can be mental stress. If these kinds of situations are ongoing in your life without relief, not only will you likely suffer from adrenal fatigue, but thyroid problems, insulin resistance, and possibly heart disease and type 2 diabetes down the road as well.
Signs To Look For
- Tired all the time despite enough sleep
- Feeling chronically overwhelmed, anxious or stressed
- Inability to focus
- Severe PMS and/or low libido
- Craving sweet or salty foods
- Weight gain, especially in the abdomen
- Dependence on caffeine
- Lightheadedness when standing up
- Unexplained hair loss
- Light sensitivity of the eyes
- Hollow cheeks
- Pale lips
Use this handy stress evaluation questionnaire from AdrenalFatigue.org as a starting point to ascertain whether you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
It’s always best to see a doctor, especially a holistic or integrative one such as Dayton Dandes Medical Center (who accepts Medicare and most insurance), for a complete examination, but in the meantime, there are many things you can do on your own to start the healing process. (http://daytondandesmedical.com/)
Steps for Rebuilding the Adrenals
The good news is, with vigilance and patience you can recover from adrenal fatigue. Keep in mind that this is not a quick fix, but rather an overall, and ongoing, lifestyle change. While you should start to see a change within a few weeks, the full process may take up to three to six months or even two years, depending on how depleted your adrenals have become
Stress – In our modern world where the “to-do” list has become as sacred as a psalm, you might forget that this constant state of action and achievement is not natural. The first thing to do is take an honest look at your life and see where the areas of stress lie.
You may have to share some of your responsibilities or give up some activities, such as taking care of the kids, saying yes to every single request that comes your way, or staying late at work. Seeking psychotherapy can be a good place to learn to express yourself rather than keeping it all bottled up. Take some alone time for yourself to soak in a bubble bath, go for walks, indulge in a funny movie, practice yoga or meditation, or otherwise relax.
Sleep – Getting enough hours of sleep each night is important, but even more vital is when. Go to bed at ten or ten-thirty because the adrenal glands—and the entire hormonal system—repair themselves during the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.. And if at all possible, you should sleep in until 8-8:30 a.m. because that’s when cortisol peaks, allowing us to awake naturally in a refreshed state.
For tips on getting a good night’s sleep, check out 10 Reasons Why You Are Not Sleeping Like a Baby.
What To Eat – Stay away from caffeine, sugar, and simple carbohydrates such as white flour, rice, and pasta to avoid the caffeine or sugar crash. It’s imperative to maintain an even sugar level in the blood to repair your adrenal glands.
Eat whole, organic foods that do not contain any artificial ingredients or preservatives. Each meal should include quality protein, a variety of raw vegetables, and healthy fat like coconut oil, olive oil, or butter. Raw nuts and seeds (except peanuts) are great sources of fatty acids, which the adrenals require.
Vitamins and minerals are important for decreasing your cortisol levels, so take a multivitamin every day. Other supplements to support adrenal balance are Astragalus Root (boosts the immune system), Cordyceps (decreases inflammation), Eleuthero (helps with fatigue), Rhodiola Rosea (for mental clarity), and Licorice Root (for overall adrenal support).
People with adrenal fatigue tend to have too little sodium in their body, which causes low blood pressure, so having a glass of water with half a teaspoon of sea salt (not table salt) first thing in the morning can lightly increase blood pressure (those with high blood pressure should carefully monitor their blood pressure and consult with their physician).
When To Eat – As with your sleep, you will have to pay attention not only to what you eat but when you eat it. Many people skip breakfast because they don’t feel hungry, but when you miss this meal you may be overtaxing your adrenals glands by forcing them to produce more cortisol in order to increase your blood sugar.
Even if you don’t eat much, have breakfast upon awakening and no later than 10 a.m. Three hours later eat a light lunch, three hours after lunch have a nutritious snack, and three hours after that eat a small dinner. The importance of small but frequent meals is to keep your blood sugar regular so as not to burden the adrenal glands.
If you follow these tips, be gentle with yourself, and listen to your body—something you likely weren’t doing as your adrenals became more and more strained—you will recover from adrenal fatigue. And as you’re going through this process, don’t forget two of the the best adages in the world: laughter is the best medicine, and stop and smell the roses!
The articles on this website are not to be construed as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.