Feeling tired? Burnt Out? Exhausted?
If it feels like each day you are just dragging yourself along and you really don’t know how you’re going to make it until bedtime, you might be wondering if something could perhaps be wrong.
If you’re usually quite peppy, full of energy, and ready to tackle whatever life throws your way, there’s no question that this is a huge curveball you’ve just been thrown.
How can you deal with this? What are the best steps to overcome this problem? And more importantly, just what is going on?!?
Getting to the root of the problem is the most important thing. Sure, you could do things like drinking caffeine or energy drinks to mask your fatigue and start feeling better, but this will just send you down a rabbit hole to a place that’s even worse. The sad thing is that the more of these artificial energy enhancers you use – stimulants – the worse your underlying fatigue is going to get.
So when they wear off, you rebound and feel far worse than before. So it’s a trade-off. Better in the short term, worse in the long term. This is a very good way to get hooked on these stimulants, which will just mean now you need them.
Don’t let yourself do this. Address the problem at its root cause so that you can overcome it and start to regain your natural energy level back. If it’s been too long since you’ve actually felt energized, you’ve already let this persist far too long.
Introducing Adrenal Fatigue…
At the heart of this issue may be something that’s often referred to as adrenal fatigue. Now, there is much debate about whether adrenal fatigue is an actual ‘real thing’. Many people often claim that adrenal fatigue is just a silly term made up by people who are trying to make an excuse for being tired.
But whether you want to accept it or not, your adrenal glands are definitely very real and like any other organ in the body, they can get overworked.
This is essentially what’s happening when you are suffering from adrenal fatigue. To help you better understand how this condition works, let’s walk you through a few things you need to know.
What Are Your Adrenal Glands?
First, let’s talk about what your adrenal glands are. These are small thumb-sized organs that are positioned right above your kidneys and play a key role in your endocrine system. They are responsible for making more than 50 different hormones that are responsible for essentially ‘running the show’. Without these hormones, you wouldn’t exist.
Hormones are like chemical messengers that move through the body, telling various cells and other organs what to do. When one hormone isn’t being produced in adequate amounts, the entire system can become off-balanced and go rather haywire. This is why it’s so vital that you’re making sure that you are keeping your adrenal glands in good shape.
The adrenal glands are also directly associated with the pituitary gland, forming the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). The pituitary gland is responsible for secreting certain hormones that maintain your metabolism, growth, as well as steroid hormones that govern growth and development.
Your adrenal glands will work in tandem with this and will also secrete glucocorticoids, which help to maintain optimal blood glucose levels, mineralocorticoids, which help keep your blood pressure in check, sex hormones, which are responsible for enhancing fertility and are responsible for governing puberty as well. Along with adrenaline and epinephrine, which impact your heart rate and help provide the fight or flight response.
Perhaps the most important of the hormones that the adrenal glands produce however as it is associated with adrenal fatigue is cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone produced in the body and is catabolic in nature. When cortisol is high (which also typically happens when adrenaline is also high), the body is breaking down tissues to provide an immediate source of energy for the body. This is a mechanism that has been established since the early times in case you had to run for danger to save your life.
If that was the case, then it would serve you very well. But, if you’re just sitting at your desk and feeling rather stressed out, as is the case for most, cortisol does us little good.
In the case of adrenal fatigue, as you’re about to see, cortisol levels are typically chronically very high.
What Factors Are Most Likely To Lead To Adrenal Gland Fatigue?
So what is the cause behind adrenal fatigue? What’s leading you down this path? Let’s take a closer look.
The primary cause of adrenal fatigue is ongoing chronic stress. Everyone experiences some degree of stress in their day to day life. This is normal and unavoidable. Problems begin to come when that stress becomes uncontrollable. For instance, if you are stressed out all the time to the point where it never lets up. This is when problems will begin to occur.
If it’s a one-off stressful day, don’t stress about it (pun intended!). If it’s a stressful week, this too you can likely handle. But a stressful month? A stressful season? Now you may have cause for worry.
One reason that stress can be overwhelming is that many of us don’t have proper coping techniques. We just let the stress continue to build and build and that it does. If you don’t do something to stop it, it will get stronger and stronger. Soon, it’ll overcome you.
When many people think of stress, they tend to think of day-to-day types of stress. You have a big work project coming up or you’re worried about how you’re going to pay off your Mastercard bill. While this is definitely a source of stress, it’s not the only source of stress.
Other sources may include:
· You’ve gone through a stressful divorce that has been rather drawn out
· You’ve dealt with ongoing problems in a close relationship
· You’ve just been through a major surgery
· You’ve experienced a huge life change such as having a child (while this may be seen as a very positive experience, it is still a stressor on your life nevertheless)
· You have been having sleep issues (sometimes this can bring on the adrenal fatigue in the first place)
· You’ve been eating a very poor diet for a prolonged period of time
· You have chronic pain that you’ve been battling¹
· You’ve been abusing stimulants (coffee, energy drinks, etc.)
· You are not maintaining a favorable gut environment, which means the body is more at risk to everyday stress due to a weakened immune system
All of these can act as stressors on the body and make it that much more likely that you are going to deal with adrenal fatigue.
As stress continues to build and build, cortisol release is higher and higher and this will overstimulate the adrenal glands, causing them to essentially burn out. You’re simply asking more of this organ that it was meant to do and over time, it’s going to break down.
Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue
There are many ways that adrenal fatigue can present itself and you should keep in mind that not everyone will show every single symptom. You might only show one or two symptoms and then feel fine everywhere else. If this is the case, thank your lucky stars – you may be getting off easier.
This said, don’t think that this means you don’t need to take action. Just because you may not have very serious adrenal fatigue doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means that you may not be as bad off as some people and could be catching it in its early state (nice work!). This could then mean you recover from it faster.
So what should you watch out for?
Some of the most commonly seen symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
· Any sort of autoimmune condition. Sometimes these come on when your adrenal glands are fatigued and you wouldn’t otherwise see them.
· Feeling chronic fatigue. This is the most common symptom. You’ll feel as though you are always tired.
· Brain fog. Don’t feel quite right in the mind? Adrenal fatigue could be to blame.
· Suffering from long-term hair loss. We’re not just talking about typical hair loss that comes with age but your hair is falling out much faster than it normally would (in some cases, in clumps)
· Hormonal imbalances, which could be linked with infertility
· Suffering from a weakened immune system response. How can you know if you’re dealing with this? Check how long it takes you to recover from illness. If you’re down longer than normal, you may be dealing with a compromised immune system.
· Suffering from insulin resistance, which can then lead to unwanted weight gain
· Showing lightheadedness or not really feeling like your normal self
· Having a decreased sex drive or libido. In the mood? Never.
· Being overly moody or irritable and not just because it’s been a bad day. You might feel like you’re always on edge².
· Suffering from feelings of depression. Those with adrenal fatigue often wind up feeling depressed because they are just so darn tired all the time.
· Experiencing muscle or bone tissue loss. This could lead to feelings of weakness and make it harder for you to do day to day activities as your time passes on.
· Dealing with various skin ailments. Whether this is acne, rosacea, or blotchiness, it all can be linked to adrenal fatigue
· Having difficulty sleeping at night. If you can’t fall asleep despite being utterly exhausted, you know there’s an issue at hand.
· Having unexplained cravings for salty or sweet foods. Perhaps you’re normally well behaved on your diet and can keep your cravings in check. But lately, that has all gone out the window. You don’t know what’s come over you.
If you notice yourself in a few (or more!) of these, you may be dealing with adrenal fatigue.
How To Get Past Adrenal Fatigue
So if you believe you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, what can you do right now to help get past it? How can you make sure that it isn’t something that is going to stick with you for a very long time?
Here are some of the key steps you’ll want to take to help yourself combat adrenal fatigue naturally.
Get Your Diet In Check
Perhaps one of the most critical things you must do is get your diet in check³. If you’re feasting on the wrong foods or adding unwanted additives to your diet, you better know it’s going to impact how you feel.
The best diet for those suffering from adrenal fatigue will be one that’s rich in lean proteins, moderate in complex carbohydrates, high in fibrous carbohydrates (as these provide a wealth of antioxidants), rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
You want to really watch those three offenders: sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. They can make your situation much worse if you aren’t careful and lead you down a path to feeling very ill.
You’ll also want to limit the amount of processed meats you consume (as they contain harmful additives and nitrates) along with keeping your intake of hydrogenated vegetable oils down as well.
It’s also vital that you take in some probiotic-rich foods, or better yet, supplement with a high quality probiotic such as P3-OM. This will help to build up the good bacteria in your digestive tract, which plays a key role in keeping your immune system strong. Since stress has a very negative impact on your immune system, you need to take all the steps you can to help get it back on track again.
Some of the other ‘superfoods’ that are great for those dealing with adrenal fatigue include:
· Coconut oil and/or milk
· Cruciferous vegetables
· Fatty varieties of fish such as salmon
· Free range chicken and turkey
· Bone broth
· Miso soup
· Fresh berries
Eat these often and in abundance.
Learn Better Stress Management Techniques
The next thing you’ll want to start doing is learning how to cope with your stress better. This will be a highly individualized process as everyone copes differently, so you’ll need to try and see what works best for you.
Some of the ways you can deal with your stress might include:
· Aiming to get at least 8-10 hours of time in bed each night, even if you aren’t sleeping during that time
· Writing your thoughts in a journal
· Going for long walks outside
· Socializing more (which seems to have a protective effect on stress)
· Don’t bring work home with you whenever possible
· Engage in a regular exercise program
· Try meditation
· Go for massages or treat yourself to something else that you really enjoy
By finding what works for you and engaging in that on a regular basis, it will have a good positive effect on your ability to deal with stress.
Finally, in addition to using a quality probiotic, which should be first on your list, there are some other supplements that may help you better cope as well. These include:
· Fish oil, which will supply you with important omega-3 fatty acids needed to deal with day to day stress
· Magnesium, which may help to fight adrenal fatigue
· A B-complex vitamin, which provides you with the B vitamins that are needed for natural energy production
· Vitamin C, which can help give your immune system a boost and help out during stressful times
· Vitamin D, which can help keep your bones strong and healthy despite what’s happening with your adrenal glands
· Selenium, as research has shown that deficiencies in this nutrient can put you at a higher risk for adrenal fatigue
· Rosemary oil, which can help to lower oxidative stress on the body
So there you have some of the key facts to know about adrenal fatigue. It is a condition that will impact just about every element of your well-being, so it is worth it to stop and do something about it. The better you can position yourself to overcome adrenal fatigue if you are suffering, the sooner you’ll get back to feeling like your normal self.
Just be sure that you are monitoring yourself on a regular basis so you spot it early and don’t ever let it get too out of control in the first place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is adrenal fatigue permanent?
No, with the right treatment and steps, you can overcome this issue and start feeling better.
What are the signs of adrenal fatigue?
The key signs are fatigue, body aches, low blood pressure, depression, and changes in body weight.
How do you cure adrenal fatigue?
The best cure is eating a proper diet and giving yourself more rest. It’s also essential that you learn how to better manage your stress levels.
1. Hannibal, Kara E., and Mark D. Bishop. “Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation.” Physical therapy 94.12 (2014): 1816-1825.
2. Hunt, Penelope J., et al. “Improvement in mood and fatigue after dehydroepiandrosterone replacement in Addison’s disease in a randomized, double-blind trial.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 85.12 (2000): 4650-4656.
3. Imbalance, Anxiety. “Nutrients and botanicals for treatment of stress: adrenal fatigue, neurotransmitter imbalance, anxiety, and restless sleep.” Alternative Medicine Review 14.2 (2009): 114-140.