You may have heard the word adrenal fatigue thrown around but are not sure what it is or if you might have adrenal fatigue. Many people don’t recognize the symptoms of poor adrenal function and end up feeling lousy for far too long.
Before I talk about adrenal fatigue, it is important to understand what the adrenal glands are and what they do:
What are the adrenals?
The health of your adrenal glands is paramount to overall health and well being. These essential glands sit right above the kidney, and there is one gland per kidney and are integrally related to kidney function. In fact,the word adrenal comes from the Latin word ‘ad renes.’ which means near the kidney.
There are three layers to the adrenals, the capsule, the cortex and the medulla. The capsule is a protective layer of fat that is around the gland. The cortex has three parts in itself – one part produces DHEA and other sex hormones, one part produces corticosteroids which help to regulate our sleep/waking cycle, keep inflammation at bay, help us generate energy from non-carbohydrate foods and also regulate blood pressure. The cortex also produces mineral corticoids including aldosterone, which helps regulate fluid and mineral excretion. The medulla is at the center of the gland and secretes epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and dopamine. These stress hormones are also known as neurotransmitters that generate our primitive response to stress – the one that keeps us alive in times of trauma or danger.
What do the adrenals do when we are stressed?
When the body comes under stress, the brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands which respond by releasing stress hormones. These hormones do things like slow down our digestion, make us more alert and drive blood to critical areas including the brain and muscles.
What is adrenal fatigue?
When we have been under stress for some time, the body begins to run out of what is needed to make certain hormones. When this happens, it becomes difficult for your body to keep up with the production of stress hormones, sex hormones, and neurotransmitters. Adrenal fatigue can also develop from lack of sleep, poor diet or lack of exercise, negative thinking, exposure to toxins an and pollution and trauma.
How do I know if I have adrenal fatigue?
It gets a little tricky to diagnose adrenal fatigue based solely on symptoms because you can easily attribute most, if not all symptoms of something else. However here is a list of the common symptoms associated with the condition:
- Hard time getting up in the morning
- High energy in the evening
- Constant fatigue
- Inability to handle stress
- Strong cravings for salty foods
- Too much dependence on stimulants like caffeine
- Weak immune system
You may also notice:
- Asthma, allergies or respiratory complaints
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Dry skin
- Extreme tiredness an hour after exercise
- Frequent urination
- Joint pain
- Lines in your fingertips
- Loss of muscle tone
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar
- Low sex drive
- Lower back pain
- Numbness in your fingers / Poor circulation
- Weight gain
It may be possible that if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, you have had a long history of stressful events that have sent you into a whirlwind.
Even though you may feel like you are just lazy, it may be that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue. By making the proper nutrition and lifestyle choices, your health can turn around rapidly.
How to test for adrenal fatigue
One of the best ways to check for sure for adrenal fatigue is through your saliva. Saliva is a very non-invasive way to look at the adrenal hormones, mainly cortisol and how it fluctuates during the day. If you are concerned that you might have adrenal fatigue, be sure that you see a practitioner that can diagnose you appropriately.
What you can do
Diet: Improving your diet can make a tremendous difference in the health of your adrenals. Eating a diet comprised of whole foods and eliminating fast and junk food is necessary for healing. Some very good foods to eat include coconut, olives, avocados, cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, nuts including walnuts and almonds, fatty fish, seeds such as pumpkin, chia and flax and free range (organic) chicken and turkey.
Supplements: In addition to eating well, there are a number of supplements that you can take that will help support adrenal health. Remember to always take a whole food form of these supplements when you can:
- Holy basil
- Fish oil (EPA/DHA)
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
Stress Management: It is imperative to rest your mind and body when you are suffering from adrenal fatigue. Try to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night, avoid staying up late – try to be in bed by 10 p.m, do something fun each day, minimize work and relationship stress as much as possible and exercise moderately daily. Also, avoid negative people and negative self-talk, make time to do things you love and things that relax you and seek good counsel to help with recovery from trauma.
It is possible to recover from adrenal fatigue but it does not happen overnight. Be persistent and patient and you will feel better.