Adrenal Fatigue: The Underdiagnosed Epidemic and How to Treat It
Adrenal fatigue is a major epidemic that has swept the nation, and no one is talking about. In fact, most conventional physicians completely deny it even exists. You, like many other Americans, may be suffering with it right now and not even realize it, even though it is markedly compromising your productivity and quality of life. Fortunately, recovery is possible, and if you have adrenal fatigue the following information can help you achieve a higher level of functioning than you ever thought possible.
Adrenal Gland Basics
The adrenal glands are two small glands (about the size of a walnut) that sit on top of the kidneys. They secrete over 50 hormones that are essential for life, including adrenaline and the steroids aldosterone and cortisol. The hormones they secrete play an integral role in the metabolism and immune system; and in the regulation of energy, blood sugar, blood pressure and inflammation levels. The adrenal glands are most well-known however, for activating the fight-or-flight response and helping the body respond to and deal with stress.
Adrenal Fatigue Basics
The adrenal glands react to stress by releasing the stress hormones cortisol, adrenalin, DHEA, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are released in order to increase arousal and alertness and prepare the body to respond to the perceived threat. Too much stress on an ongoing basis exhausts the adrenal glands and makes them unable to produce an adequate quantity of sex and stress hormones. It’s worth noting that adrenal fatigue is not just limited to adults, it can strike at any age.
Signs and Symptoms
Early Warning Signs:
Mild adrenal fatigue will typically make a person feel tired and groggy in the morning, and foggy headed intermittently throughout the day. Many people reach for progressively more caffeine and/or sugar in attempt to self-medicate at this point, but doing so only exhausts the adrenal glands further.
Symptoms of Moderate Adrenal Fatigue:
As the adrenal fatigue progresses, more pronounced symptoms will appear, and they may include: insomnia, memory problems, exercise intolerance, sugar intolerance, dry skin, diminished sex drive, reduced immunity, slow metabolism, cravings for sugary and salty foods, weight gain, apathy, anxiety, irritability, moodiness, emotional sensitivity, and an inability to cope with everyday stressors. Most people with adrenal fatigue experience little spurts of energy throughout the day, followed by waves of fatigue. At bedtime, a second wind will often kick-in, leading to a racing mind and insomnia, which further exhausts the adrenal glands.
Consequences of Advanced Adrenal Fatigue:
If left unaddressed, adrenal fatigue can turn into adrenal burn-out, compromising not only the production of stress and sex hormones, but also of neurotransmitters (which are important chemicals that affect your mood, personality and motivation levels). For some, it can become so bad that they can no longer function, they are unable to work, they become severely depressed, and they can barely get out of bed.
Why Adrenal Fatigue Has Become so Common
In our ancestral past threats, such as an oncoming attack from an animal, were relatively rare, and the adrenal glands could easily keep-up. However, our modern lifestyles are highly stressful, and most of us encounter a wide range of unavoidable stressors daily without even realizing it. Deadlines, mortgages and other financial concerns; alarm clocks, and being stuck in perpetual work mode (thanks to our smartphones) are just a few examples. Traffic, highway driving, chemical and pollutant exposure, malfunctioning electronics, listening to the news, and worrying about our loved ones are additional examples of insidious stressors. Even the food we put in our bodies can cause stress, because our bodies aren’t designed to deal with the highly processed foods that so many of us consume today.
Adrenals Fatigue and Addiction Risk
Advanced adrenal fatigue can make it feel nearly impossible to maintain a high work function and to keep up with day-to-day demands. When caffeine is no longer enough to get through the day, many type-A personalities will turn to drugs in order to cope. Alcohol abuse may also occur as an escape mechanism and as an attempt to deal with stress, since the adrenal glands are no longer equipped to do so. An addiction to sleeping pills may also develop out of a desperate attempt to get some sleep. For these sufferers, the importance of healing the adrenal glands and replenishing essential hormones cannot be overstated.
The Adrenal Healing Diet
It is important that you eat something every 3 hours, and consume complex carbohydrates combined with either healthy protein or fat at each meal. Eating this way will help to balance your blood sugar and reduce the stress load on your adrenal glands. Also, avoid adrenal gland strainers such as sugar, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, oils, factory farmed animal products, refined carbohydrates, processed and fried foods; caffeine, and alcohol.
Consume a wholefoods, plant-based diet and emphasize deeply colored fruits and vegetables because they tend to be the highest in anti-inflammatory, adrenal-nourishing nutrients. Bone broth, fermented foods, green tea, seaweed, cruciferous veggies, avocadoes, pumpkin seeds and sea salt are all especially beneficial for the adrenal glands and should also be emphasized.
Supplements for Adrenal Fatigue
Supplements are an indispensable tool when it comes to reversing adrenal fatigue. There are many herbs with rejuvenating properties, and to maximize their effectiveness you should find a supplement that contains a blend of different ones. Some of the most beneficial herbs for adrenal support include ashwagandha, licorice root, astragalus, ginseng, echinacea, garlic and wild cherry bark.
If your adrenal fatigue is moderate or advanced, you should also supplement with bovine sourced glandular extract supplements. They provide the building blocks for damaged cells and help repair the same glands in your body that they are derived from. Adrenal cortex and thyroid extracts are two glandular supplements that help your body make essential hormones and they can make the difference between simply managing adrenal fatigue symptoms, and actually reversing it.
Adrenal DMG is a superior adrenal supplement because it contains both rejuvenating herbs and adrenal extracts, plus dimethylglycine which oxygenates the cells. It takes the hormonal load off of your adrenal glands, boosts immunity, provides instant energy, and simultaneously nourishes the adrenals back to health: https://unitynaturals.com/product/adrenal-dmg-2/
Start with proper sleep hygiene, which means going to bed and waking-up at the same time; and sleeping in a cool, dark, silent and electronic-free room. Also, be sure to exercise regularly, aiming for at least 5 hours per week and including a blend of cardio, strength training and stretching. If you’re currently so fatigued that the very thought of exercise seems overwhelming, then start off small. Try just 10 or 15 minutes of gentle exercise daily for the first week, and then gradually increase your time and intensity every week. It’s important to not overdo it while you are recovering and it’s best to avoid high intensity exercise until you are feeling better. Finally, incorporate stress management practices into your daily life such as: meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, connecting with/or immersing yourself in nature, taking an Epsom salt bath, practicing yoga, laughing, and engaging in artistic/creative activities.
*The above article is based on an interview between Dr. Nick Delgado and Dr. James Wilson. If you would like to find out more about adrenal fatigue and/or take a self-questionnaire, visit: adrenalfatigue.org