Adrenal fatigue is one of the most under-diagnosed illnesses in the U.S. Why? Because the symptoms can mimic so many other types of maladies. Additionally, the healthcare profession often thinks that when an individual is run down and fatigued it is “just in your head.” This month, we will explore the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, why our adrenal glands are so important and some tips and tricks to avoid adrenal fatigue.
What exactly are the adrenal glands and what do they do?
The adrenal glands are known as the “glands of stress.” They sit above your kidneys and weigh less than a grape. Despite their size, they are a very powerful gland in your body. They are chiefly responsible for releasing over 50 different hormones including epinephrine, cortisol, progesterone, DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone.
When the body is under extreme stress for a long period of time, the adrenal glands tend to produce less cortisol, the body’s master stress hormone. Cortisols’ main role in the body is to enable us to handle stress and maintain our immune systems. The adrenal glands then struggle to meet the high demands of cortisol production which eventually leads to adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a condition in which the adrenal glands function at a sub-optimal level Because of this; the adrenals are not able to carry out their normal functions.
Adrenal fatigue can affect anyone who has prolonged or reoccurring stress. Those suffering from a repeated injury, illness, infectious disease, allergies, poor eating habits, intense social emotional or physical pressure are most likely to suffer.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
The most prevalent symptom of adrenal fatigue is fatigue. (However, fatigue can also be a symptom of many other diseases.) Individuals with adrenal fatigue also show a tendency towards:
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Arthritic pain
- Decreased immune response
- Increased fears and anxiety
- Episodes of confusion
- Increased difficulties in concentrating
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Cravings for salt or salty foods
- Light-headedness when standing quickly.
- Decreased sex drive
- Low blood pressure
Change your lifestyle!
Individuals must either change their lifestyle or develop a new lifestyle to give the adrenals a chance to rest and recover. How?
Here a few tips:
Identify your “energy robbers.”
Energy robbers can be any external influence such as people, work life, home life, etc. Make a list of your energy robbers and how you can either eliminate or change the situation.
Practice self relaxation such as belly breathing, meditation and visualization techniques.
Sleep is very important in the restoration of your adrenals. However, sometimes sleeplessness is one of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
- Go to bed before 10:00 a.m.
- Try and continue to sleep between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
- Avoid caffeine!!
If you are waking in the middle of the night, eat a small snack which consists of a protein, unrefined carbohydrate and a high quality fat (such as a half slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter) to keep your blood sugar levels stable at night.
Exercise normalizes cortisol levels, insulin, blood glucose and several other hormones. Plus, it increases more oxygen in the brain!! Exercise also decreases depression.
Learn to say “no.” Individuals with adrenal fatigue run themselves ragged trying to do too much for everyone. Saying “no” starts to cut down on your to do list and focuses more on yourself.
Of course, nutrition plays an important role in prevention and treatment of adrenal fatigue. More often than not, individuals who suffer from adrenal fatigue lack the essential nutrients they need in order to meet the increased demands their cells experience under stress.
When to eat is also equally important. Individuals with adrenal fatigue often experience hypoglycemia so it is important to keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Combine healthy fats, protein and starchy carbohydrates into your daily diet.
- Always eat breakfast and eat before 10:00 a.m. whether you are hungry or not.
- Avoid foods high in potassium such as bananas and dried figs.
- Avoid having fruit in the morning. High sugar foods such as fruit can boost blood sugar levels.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white flour, white sugar and pasta.
- This can’t be said enough – avoid caffeine
- A certified nutritionist can perform a salivary cortisol test to evaluate your adrenal function.