© Health Realizations, Inc
Do you feel constantly tired, moody and depressed? Do you wake up feeling tired even after a full night’s rest? Do you crave sugary and salty foods, and depend on your morning coffee just to keep your eyes open?
Are you constantly exhausted and reaching for coffee or sweets to wake you up? Your adrenals may be fatigued.
These are all common symptoms of adrenal fatigue — a condition caused, in short, by too much stress and work. It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of adults suffer from adrenal fatigue, yet it continues to be a largely ignored and overlooked health problem, according to Dr. James Wilson, author of “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress”.
“Adrenal fatigue can affect anyone who experiences frequent, persistent or severe mental, emotional or physical stress. It can also be an important contributing factor in health conditions ranging from allergies to obesity. Despite its prevalence in our modern world, adrenal fatigue has generally been ignored and misunderstood by the medical community,” Dr. Wilson writes on his Web site.
What is Adrenal Fatigue? What are the Signs and Symptoms?
Your adrenal glands (located on top of each kidney) act as control centers for many hormones. One of their most important tasks is to get your body ready for the “fight or flight” stress response, which means increasing adrenaline and other hormones.
This response increases your heart rate and blood pressure, slows your digestion and basically gets your body ready to face a potential threat or challenge.
While this response is good when it’s needed, many of us are constantly faced with stressors (work, environmental toxins, not enough sleep, worry, anxiety etc.) and are in this “fight or flight” mode for far too long — much longer than was ever intended from an evolutionary standpoint.
The result? The adrenals become overworked and fatigued, and adrenal fatigue develops. If you feel one or more of the following on a regular basis, you may have adrenal fatigue, according to Dr. Wilson:
- Cravings for salty or sugary foods is a symptom of adrenal fatigue.
- You feel tired for no reason.
- You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
- You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
- You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
- You crave salty and sweet snacks.
- You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.
Further, when your body is overly stressed your adrenal glands increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can alter your:
- Appetite, leading to food cravings
- Energy levels, leading to fatigue and exhaustion
- Mood, leaving you feeling emotionally drained
- Memory and learning
- Muscle mass and bone density
- Immune response
You may notice symptoms began after a single, high-stress event, or alternatively after a prolonged period of daily stress. Either can over-stimulate your adrenals to the point of fatigue, and anyone may be affected. However, the following factors increase your risk of adrenal fatigue:
- Chronic illness
- Poor diet
- Too little sleep
- Too much pressure/overwork
- Substance abuse
- Repeated infections (bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.)
- Maternal adrenal fatigue during gestation
Likewise, adrenal fatigue is often associated with chronic illnesses because they also place demands on your adrenal glands. According to Dr. Wilson, the following conditions may either be related to, or exacerbated by, adrenal fatigue:
- Alcoholism and Addictions
- Autoimmune Disease
- Syndrome X and Burnout
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Chronic Infections
- Dental Problems
- Blood Sugar Imbalances
- HIV and Hepatitis C
- Mild Depression
- PMS and Menopause
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Sleep Disruptions
How to Diagnose Adrenal Fatigue
Conventional medicine typically does not acknowledge adrenal fatigue until potentially life-threatening conditions like Cushing’s syndrome (an overproduction of cortisol) and Addison’s disease (an underproduction of cortisol) develop. However, you can have adrenal fatigue or an adrenal imbalance — along with a range of debilitating symptoms — long before you progress into one of these extremes.
A health care provider who is knowledgeable in the area of adrenal fatigue can perform a saliva test to check your levels of cortisol over a 24-hour period. In healthy adrenal function, cortisol should be elevated in the morning, lower and steady throughout the day, and then should drop in the evening when you go to sleep. In people with adrenal fatigue, however, cortisol levels remain lower throughout the day and rise in the evening when you should be relaxing.
If you find that your adrenals are fatigued, there is help available and by following the steps below you can restore your adrenals and regain your vim and vigor.
Five Steps for Restoring Healthy Adrenal Function
It likely took some time for your adrenals to become fatigued, and it will take some time to nurse them back to health. And, you must commit to changing your lifestyle to be less stressed and more restful if you want to get better. At this time, the most important thing should be your health and you should make time for the following in that regard:
Taking time to de-stress, unwind and relax is crucial to help your adrenal glands recover.
- Get more sleep. Your body does most of its regeneration during sleep, so whenever you feel tired, it’s time to sleep. This includes taking naps during the day if you can, sleeping in an extra hour or two if you’re tired in the morning, and turning off the TV early so you can nod off sooner.
- Revamp your diet with healthy foods. A healthy diet focused on fresh, whole preferably organic foods will provide your body with the strong nutrient base it needs to function. Focus on including a protein source in all your meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar stable, and eat nutritious snacks between meals so you never get overly hungry (going long periods without eating makes your adrenal glands work harder).
- Cut out sugar, caffeine and artificial stimulants. When you’re tired, you may be tempted to reach for coffee, candy, doughnuts, and other refined carbs for a quick pick-me-up. But while these stimulants will give you a quick boost, they’ll be followed by an even bigger crash. Coffee can also over-stimulate your adrenals, which you want to avoid. Instead, if you’re craving sugar or caffeine, it could be because your body is actually tired, and you’d be better off resting than trying to get artificially “energized.” You can also substitute healthier alternatives for sweets and coffee, such as fresh fruit or a cup of herbal tea.
- Reduce stress: You simply must have adequate outlets for stress if you want your adrenals to be healthy. First, identify the source of your stress, and if possible make changes to eliminate it (for instance, cutting back your work hours or personal obligations). Also be certain to take into account emotional stress from guilt, arguments, relationship problems, unhealthy habits, etc., and work out ways to resolve these issues.
- Consider supplements for adrenal health: You may benefit from certain high-quality supplements to help your adrenals stay healthy and return to optimal function if they’re distressed. When choosing a supplement for your adrenal health, look for one that supports both your immediate energy needs and long-term immune system function, as well as comes from a reputable source like Designs for Health. Since 1989, Designs for Health has been the health care professional’s trusted source for research-backed nutritional products of superior quality. Driven by a “Science First” philosophy, their team of nutritionists and clinical experts utilize both clinical feedback from leading industry pioneers, and sound, scientifically research led literature as the basis for designing their products.
If you feel like you may be a victim of adrenal fatigue, we recommend booking a consultation with one of our Naturopathic Doctors:
Dr. Paris Stevens
Dr. Tiffany Binder
At the same time, be generous with stress relieving activities such as long walks, hot baths, or sitting down with a good book. Your body and mind know how to relax — you just need to give them “permission” to do so.
After making positive lifestyle changes, most people can expect to feel improvement in four to six months. For best results, make an appointment with a knowledgeable health care provider who can work with you on an individualized course of lifestyle modification and other treatment.
For more tips on how to promote healthy adrenal function and restore your energy and health, “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome” is a valuable published resource.