Chances are you have heard of adrenal fatigue, but you may not be quite sure what it is. Understanding this condition is important however, because some experts suggest that 80% of the Western world will be affected by adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives.
What Are Adrenal Glands and Where Are They Located?
Your adrenal glands play a very important role in maintaining your health. They are incredibly small, about the size and weight of a coin. They are located above your kidneys, just below the muscle tissue of your lower back.
What Do Adrenal Glands Do?
Your adrenal glands are responsible for secreting more than 50 different hormones that are essential for life. Among these are adrenaline, cortisol, progesterone and testosterone. They are also responsible for the amount of inflammation in our body, our immune system, our blood sugar levels and the electrolytes in our blood. They influence all the physiological functions processes of the body and help stave off physical fatigue.
Because they regulate so many important hormones, their proper function is critical for many functions essential to life such as producing energy, balancing electrolytes and storing fat. These glands also help you deal with stress. When you are under stress, the adrenal glands engage many different responses in your body to make it easier for you to handle that stress.
But during periods of intense, prolonged stress or chronic illness, the adrenal glands begin functioning below the level needed to maintain health and well-being in the body. They still function, but at less than optimal levels. The result is adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
When there is something wrong with our body, it will start to signal us that something needs to be addressed. Here is how your adrenal glands will signal you that something is wrong.
- Your blood sugar level will either drop or spike suddenly.
- You experience weight gain, especially around the waist.
- Your hormones will be all over the place. One moment you are happy and the other moment you will find yourself crying over something that does not even bother you that much.
- You get sick more often because your immune system will not function properly without healthy adrenal glands.
- You will be stressed and it will be hard for you to manage your stress levels.
- Your sex drive will decrease.
- It will be hard for you to complete your daily tasks because those tasks will require a lot more effort than usual.
- You will find it hard to keep yourself awake even if you know that you need to sacrifice sleep for a very important task.
- You will constantly crave food, mostly salty and savory foods, and it will be hard you satisfy your cravings. You will find yourself craving them more even if you have just eaten something.
- Your body will take longer to heal properly.
- You will fail to find happiness or excitement in tasks and hobbies that you enjoyed before.
- You may find yourself skipping meals.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Treatment for adrenal fatigue focuses on making changes to your lifestyle and diet. If you have minor adrenal fatigue, you can expect to be better within 6-9 months. Moderate to severe adrenal fatigue can take between 12-24 months to heal, and severe cases can take even longer.
Stress: One of the first things you should do is reduce the stress in your life. This may mean clearing your schedule, reworking some relationships or learning time management skills. In order for your adrenal glands to heal, the demands placed on them should be lightened.
Healthy Diet: Also try to avoid ‘junk’ food as much as possible (white sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine, soda, fried foods, processed foods, fast food, artificial sweeteners). Rather, add plenty of healthy foods like coconuts, avocados, olives, chia seeds, bone broth, nuts, vegetables and fish. (lean meats, fish, legumes, nuts leafy greens, whole grains, low sugar fruit).
However, note that undiagnosed food allergies can raise cortisol and histamine levels in the body, thereby taxing the adrenals. Be a detective and make sure you are aware of your allergies and intolerances.
Sleep: Sufficient sleep is also important. Every organ in your body has a repair/maintenance schedule to keep on a daily basis. Most of us in the West have never been aware of this, but Chinese and Ayurvedic holistic health practitioners have known this for hundreds of years.
It is important to know these cycles if you want to understand your health problems and learn to treat yourself. If you feel sluggish, foggy, achy, etc. at these particular times of day, you will know which organ is trying to repair the damage done to it, and these ‘feelings’ you are having are the result of the energy being expended to do these repairs. The main repair work on your adrenal glands takes place between 10 pm and 1 am.
If you are prone to late nights, consider training your body to go to bed earlier. Make sure that you get quality sleep for 9 to 10 hours. Sleep and wake up at the same time to get your body in a rhythm. It needs to follow a routine to start to heal. It is also a good idea to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet in order to help you sleep more soundly.
Exercise: Adrenal fatigue can also be helped by exercise. Exercise regulates cortisol, relieves depression and increases blood flow. Each of these benefits will contribute to your recovery. Try to exercise for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day.
However, don’t overdo it as this will worsen adrenal fatigue. Your body can’t tell the difference between good and bad stress. High-intensity exercise is a stressor on your body.
Supplements: Finally, adding supplements to your diet can speed healing of adrenal fatigue. Calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, D, E, and B complex are recommended.
Also, try adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens are natural substances that work with a person’s body and help them adapt; most notably, to stress. Adaptogens are a natural ally in dealing with persistent stress and fatigue because they work with regulating important hormones.
Adaptogens offer several other health benefits, including…
- Optimizing the immune system
- Support for managing a healthy weight
- Increased physical endurance and mental focus
- Reduction in discomfort caused by poor health
- Encouraging a balanced mood
All these benefits can come from something as simple as adding adaptogens to your regular diet. While there are a number of ways to increase your adaptogen intake, consuming adaptogenic herbs is arguably one of the best.
Below are a few to learn more about and discuss with your healthcare provider:
- Asian Ginseng. This herb, also called Panax Ginseng, supports physical endurance, mental clarity, and has antioxidant properties that support heart health and your immune system. Studies show it’s safe to consume.
- Holy Basil. A member of the mint family, this herb has soothing properties and has been used for centuries for good health. Its antioxidant properties support heart health and normal lipid profiles. It’s also a powerful weapon against stress.
- Milk Thistle. The active compound in milk thistle, silymarin, supports liver health and metabolism that helps manage the hormones associated with stress.
- Ashwagandha. Also called Indian Ginseng, studies from India shows that those who take this herb enjoy dramatic improvements in how they handle – and feel – stress. It’s also taken to keep the mind sharp, and for energy.
- Rhodiola Rosea. This herb is popular among the Sherpas who work on Mt. Everest because of the way it supports regular energy levels and fights altitude sickness. Studies also show it helps encourage normal cortisol levels as well as energy levels.
- Ginseng Eleuthero. Commonly called Siberian Ginseng, the eleutherococcus senticosus is known for not only its adaptogenic properties but also as a natural energy booster.
- Rosemary. You’ve probably used rosemary in your cooking, but this herb does a lot more than add flavor and fragrance to your meals. Research shows two of its compounds, caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, support heart, digestive, and liver health. Traditional medicine from around the world has used it for centuries to relieve stress.
- Aloe Vera. Researchers have taken renewed interest in aloe vera as a powerful herb and superfood. Two of its compounds, acemannan and aloctin A, support immune and adrenal health.
- Gotu Kola. Long used in both traditional Indian and Chinese medicines, this herb stimulates blood flow, helps reduce swelling, and is a powerful antioxidant.
- Astragalus. The Chinese have used astragalus traditionally to encourage good health and fight stress. Its active compound, called TAT2, protects against aging, supports detoxification, and is nutrition for the kidneys.
- Moringa Oleifera. The seeds, leaves, roots, and oils of the Moringa Oleifera plant are used throughout Southeast Asia an ingredient in many common dishes. As part of traditional medicine, it supports the immune response, eases swelling, and promotes energy and adrenal health.
- Schisandra. This herb has been used in traditional Chinese Medicine to promote good health and overall wellness. Research shows it has powerful antioxidant properties that help your body stay balanced.
- Bacopa. This popular Ayurvedic herb has been used for centuries to support brain health like memory, focus, and thinking.
- Licorice Root. This herb has traditionally been used to promote many aspects of wellness, including normal metabolic function. If you suspect you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, don’t be discouraged. You can start the recovery process by making the above changes to your diet and lifestyle.
If you suspect you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, don’t be discouraged. You can start the recovery process by making the above changes to your diet and lifestyle. If you would like to learn more about how you can work with me to develop your personal wellness plan, schedule your discovery session at www.bookmydiscoverysession.com.
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