Ask yourself, how tired and stressed are you right now? How long have you felt like this? Just today? Months? Since 2010? If you have adrenal fatigue, you are more than just exhausted. Your adrenals aren’t functioning optimally and it’s the result of long-term mental, emotional and/or physical stress. Relatable? Could this be why you wake up each day feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus? Why you need 4 coffees to get moving, wine to wind down and why you can’t fall asleep? Read on to find out.
How Do Your Adrenals Become ‘Fatigued’?
Your adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, are the production site for hormones that regulate metabolism, immune function, blood pressure. During times of stress it is the adrenals responsibility to produce cortisol and release it into the bloodstream to help with your flight, fight or freeze response. Unfortunately, unlike your not so distant ancestors, modern life means that you might be exposed to a more persistent dose of mental, physical and emotional stressors. Chronic stress like this puts pressure on the adrenals to keep producing more stress hormones leading to your adrenals becoming ‘burnt out’ and fatigued. The adrenals are no longer capable of producing optimal levels of cortisol that the body needs, and symptoms begin to emerge.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Stress has a profound effect on the body and any of the below symptoms in isolation should still be an indicator that your health may be needing some extra support. But, could you just be run down? Nowadays, very likely. If you are indeed experiencing adrenal fatigue, these symptoms will have probably been hanging around for a while now. You’re feeling exhausted both mentally and physically. Here are some common symptoms:
- Fatigue, even after a full night’s sleep
- Sleep disturbances
- Weak immune system
- Craving salt and sugar
- Lack of motivation
- Aches and pains
- Digestive issues
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?
Like nature-deficit disorder and leaky gut syndrome, adrenal fatigue isn’t an accepted medical term. This is because scientists have not been able to identify any reliable biological markers to diagnose the condition. What this means is if you went to your doctor tomorrow presenting with adrenal fatigue symptoms, they would likely tell you that there is nothing wrong. The symptoms above are very real and are being suffered by more people each day. You don’t need a medical diagnosis to know something isn’t right.
When it comes to fatigue there are many possible causes that can show up in pathology such as iron deficiencies, thyroid dysfunction and metabolic issues. Therefore, a visit to the doctor should be part of your healing journey to rule out other possibilities.
Adrenal Fatigue Versus Adrenal Insufficiency
Unlike adrenal fatigue, ‘adrenal insufficiency’ is an accepted medical diagnosis and refers to an inadequate production of adrenal hormones. Fortunately, the condition can be diagnosed via blood test and can promote symptoms such as chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle weakness and unexplained weightloss.
Natural Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue
The beauty of taking a natural approach to supporting your adrenals is whether you have adrenal fatigue or not, these methods will still be promoting optimal health. With 80% of chronic illnesses are caused by poor lifestyle and diet, it makes sense that this should be the area of focus for recovery.
Food as medicine
Eating to optimise energy production should be your focus. Eating regularly and within a healthy eating window helps the body to regulate your circadian rhythm and therefore metabolism. Eliminate processed foods and optimise plant diversity including adequate protein, carbohydrates and fats for sustained energy throughout the day.
Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to function optimally and if you’re getting at least that and still feeling frazzled each day, it might be time to look at your sleep hygiene. Sleep regulates cortisol levels so is even more important if you are experiencing extra stress. Your vitality starts and ends with your sleep.
Cut the caffeine
It can be hard to reduce your reliance on caffeine if you are feeling constantly tired. However, studies show that caffeine can increase cortisol production which contributes to depletion of adrenal stores. Caffeine can also be contributing to nervousness and feelings of anxiety. Try switching to herbal teas and boosting water intake instead.
More trees, less screens
Getting more ‘green time’ or spending time in nature is proven to significantly reduce stress and cortisol levels. It also improves mood and sleep, decreases anxiety and boosts immune function. In other words, it reverses almost all of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue! Click here to learn more about the benefits of more nature time.
Vitamins & minerals
The adrenals are home to the highest concentrations of vitamin C in the body due to their reliance on the humble vitamin to produce stress hormones. Upping your vitamin C intake can assist your stress response however rather than a single large dose, it needs to be small doses 2-3 times a day to aid absorption. B vitamins and magnesium also have important roles to play in energy production and stress management so supplement or focus on nutrient rich foods.
I’d be betraying my naturopathy studies if I didn’t mention the herbs that are superstars in adrenal fatigue treatment.
- Withania. Commonly known as ashwagandha and found in powder, tablet or liquid form. It is amazing for improving adrenal function and improving the body’s response to stress.
- Rhodiola. An adaptogen herb that improves energy, decreases stress while restoring adrenal function.
- Passionflower. My all-time favourite herb which performs wonderfully as a calming sleepy tea. While it does not directly affect the adrenal glands, it provides stress relief, helps sleep-onset and can assist in re-establishing your disrupted circadian rhythm.
My Adrenal Fatigue Experience
Several years ago I went to my doctor experiencing insomnia, nervousness, extreme fatigue and dysmenorrhea (painful periods). Blood and urine tests showed that there was “absolutely nothing wrong” with me and I was sent on my way with a script for some strong sleeping tablets. I never fulfilled the prescription. Instead, I went to my naturopath and began my healing journey back to health by incorporating all of the above natural treatments.
Here is your invitation to give your body the nourishment it needs to lift your brain fog, improve your sleep and recover your energy and vitality.