Modern lifestyles have put us under a lot of stress and pressure, and we rush through the day feeling constantly tired and anxious.
Most of us manage to finish all their daily tasks with the help of a lot of caffeine and a lack of sleep. Yet, this has its drawbacks, and after a while, we start to experience various symptoms.
Yes, we all know the phenomenon known as ‘burnout’, but it is scientifically called adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is an extremely common issue these days, and its long term effects include low energy levels, skin issues, and weight gain.
Our adrenal glands, located on the top of the kidneys, release adrenaline, and many other essential hormones related to stress, metabolism, regulating blood pressure, and reproductive health.
We mostly control our stress hormones, including:
Adrenaline and Norepinephrine
These short-term stress hormones, are released in a state of ‘fight or flight’ or an emergency as a way to help you survive. For instance, whenever you are in a dangerous situation, your body reacts with a heavy breathing, a racing heart, and quick reactions.
These hormones release a quick supply of glucose and oxygen to the brain and limbs, and the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are accelerated in order to deliver those substances to the brain and muscles faster.
The levels of this long-term stress hormone increase with chronic stress. Cortisol regulates other functions in the body like blood pressure blood sugar, etc. in response to the stress.
Its levels spike during the day and drop before going to bed, but in the case of chronic stress, they are constantly higher than normal, and cannot easily all at bedtime.
Yet, the body suffers from numerous issues in the case of an imbalance of hormones.
The production of stress hormones is just one of the functions of the adrenal glands. Yet, in the case of low stress hormone levels, the entire body works to optimize them, and this leaves some other hormones neglected, like the sex hormones.
This is the reason why stress directly affects PMS symptoms, the libido, and fertility.
On the other hand, stress hormones release more glucose as an energy source, which boosts leads to higher circulating blood sugar levels. If the levels of the stress hormones are reduced, the person will experience cravings, irritability weight gain, and the blood sugar spikes.
Also, if the levels of cortisol are not reduced at night, the body cannot produce melatonin, the sleep hormone, properly, and this causes sleep issues and insomnia.
Cortisol has an inverse relationship with our sleep hormone, melatonin. The latter cannot be produced unless cortisol has started to dip at night. If you’re stressed, overthinking or working late, it will literally block your brain from being able to fall asleep and lead to insomnia.
Constant stress puts a lot of strain on the adrenal glands, and the body becomes too worn out to function properly. The glands cannot release cortisol in the needed amounts, and the body constantly lacks energy.
This condition is known as adrenal fatigue, and these are its most common symptoms:
- Brittle nails
- Low libido
- Fatigue and weakness
- Sensitive to bright lights
- Tightness or ‘lump’ in throat
- Blood sugar disorders
- Inability to cope with stressful events
- Mood swings, tendency to cry easily
- Difficulty relaxing
- Digestion issues
- More than usual neck, head, shoulder tension
- Recurrent infections i.e. always getting sick
- Weight gain
- Brain fog, memory problems
- Food cravings i.e. salt, sugar
- Frequent urination in the middle of the night
Causes of adrenal fatigue
The main cause of adrenal fatigue is undoubtedly stress, but there are also other factors that impede our ability to cope with the difficulties during the day:
- Lack of sleep( the need for proper rest increases the need for poor food choices and stimulants)
- Diet rich in refined carbohydrates like sugar, white flour, processed grains(our body needs nutrients in order to be able to metabolize sugar and use the energy. These nutrients also help the function of the adrenal glands)
- Coffee( they artificially energize the body by stimulating the release of stress hormones)
- Heavy metals
- Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides( These accumulate over time and cause hormonal imbalances)
- Preservatives, additives, artificial dyes
Test Your Adrenal Function
The most accurate way to evaluate the function of your adrenal glands is a blood pressure monitor. The normal readings are 120/80. While standing up, the systolic reading (120) should be approximately 10 points higher i.e. 130/80. Your adrenal glands do not function properly if it is below 120.
You should lie down and rest for 5 minutes, and then take your blood pressure and note down the reading. Then, stand up, and take the blood pressure again immediately, and note down the reading. If the results are confirmed after a few times, you should take some steps to fix the issue.
These are some tips to help you treat adrenal fatigue:
You need to find a way to relax and manage stress as a first step in the treatment. Try yoga, walking, reading, sports, etc. These are some amazing ideas to manage stress:
- Do a dance class
- Go for walk breaks at work or long morning walks
- Do some gardening
- Write in a journal for 5 minutes daily
- Read some fiction books
- Spend some time with old friends
- Take up a hobby
- Start coloring
- Go for a monthly massage
- Take a bath with essential oils, Epsom salts or a bath bomb
- Use essential oils
Smell receptors in the body are linked to the brain’s limbic system, so the scents of vanilla, lavender, ylang, rose, chamomile, lemon balm, relax the body, Add them to your bath, on the pillow, in a diffuser.
The following 2 methods are also very helpful:
Sit down in a quiet place, with the feet slightly apart, put the hand on the belly button, and the other on the chest and inhale through the nose for a count of 4. Hold for 2, and exhale through the mouth for 6. Repeat until your body is fully relaxed.
While lying on the back, contract a muscle group forcefully for a period of 1-2 seconds and then let it relax completely. Start with some other muscle group, i.e. face, neck, shoulder, and release. Repeat this from the top of your body to the muscles of your legs.
The Adrenal Fatigue Diet
You must increase the intake of nutrient-rich foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid caffeine, and junk and processed foods. The following nutrients are vital for the proper function of the adrenal glands, and stress reduces their levels:
You should eat more: broccoli, tomatoes, legumes, cauliflower, salmon, sweet potatoes
Supplement dosage: B-100 complex daily
You should eat more: avocado, pinto beans, turkey, grass-fed beef, pistachio nuts
Supplement dosage: B-100 complex daily
You should eat more: oranges, papaya, pineapple, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli
Supplement dosage: 1000mg daily (or up to 5-6g daily in divided doses)
You should eat more: sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, garlic, dark chocolate, chickpeas
Supplement dosage: 15-30mg
You should eat more: bananas, almonds, dark leafy greens, avocado, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate
Supplement dosage: magnesium bis-glycinate 200mg daily
Some herbs known as ‘adaptogens’ aid the body in the case of stress, restore the internal balance and boost stamina. They help you recover from burnout and prevent further complications.
You can purchase them in health food stores in the form of herbal teas, tinctures, powder, and capsules. For best effects, cycle on and off, take one for about 3 months, then, make a month break.
These are the top 3 you can use:
Its patented extract called sensoril, has powerful great antistress and adaptogenic effects. This herb dramatically lowers stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and cortisol levels, as well as a marker of inflammation called C-reactive protein
Dosage: 125-250mg daily
- Ginseng (Siberian and Panax)
o Both of these reduce stress and anxiety. You should take Siberian ginseng for mild to moderate stress, and Panax Ginseng for extreme stress
Daily dosage: 2-4ml, 1-3 times daily (fluid), 250-500mg, 1-3 times daily (powdered extract in capsule)
It treats anxiety and relaxes the body. Studies have found that it improves the performance and the ability to concentrate, and lowers cortisol response upon waking up
Daily dosage: 360 to 600mg with 1% rosavin standardized extract; 180 to 300mg for 2% rosavin, 100 to 200mg for 3.6% rosavin
You can also take supplements in the case of a severe adrenal fatigue, which should be rich in the listed nutrients and herbs.
All in all, if you experience the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, it is time to take a break and slow down a bit. Your health should be your priority, so find time to relax, sleep, refresh, and do things that make you happy.
This would be the first and most important step in restoring your physical and emotional harmony.