Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, characterized by the adrenal glands functioning below the necessary level. This condition is most commonly related to prolonged or intense stress, but can also come about during or after acute or chronic infections.
How do you know if you have it?
The most prominent symptom is fatigue that isn’t relieved by sleep, but also can encompass a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or ‘gray’ feelings. If you find yourself using coffee, soda and other stimulants to get going in the morning and prop yourself up throughout the day, then this may be you!
What happens if it is not appropriately addressed?
In more serious cases (from an extremely excessive amount of stress, prolonged exposure or potentially prolonged chronic infections) the activity of the adrenal gland is so diminished that individuals have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours each day. Every time your adrenal function is diminished, your other organs and system in your body is more profoundly affected. This can include your protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive.
What causes adrenal fatigue?
As I said before, adrenal fatigue becomes a problem because of stress. So what is stress? Stress is a specific response by the body to a stimulus- physical, emotional, or psychological- that disturbs or interferes with normal physiological equilibrium.
Humans evolved to be able to protect themselves against ‘threats’ through our fight or flight response. Because of this response, humans have the ability to perform feats that they otherwise would not through the release of adrenaline (epinephrine) in order to fight back or regain safety. The problem is, now we have many more stressors coming out way- some people practically all day every day. The body responds to this stress, and eventually it becomes exhausted!
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t experience prolonged imbalances such as these. We might have short bouts of an imbalance, but then we would come back to homeostasis and balanced cortisol levels and thythm throughout the day, resulting in adequate amount of serotonin in a healthy gut to promote the production of melatonin at night. (Cortisol regulates our wake cycle and melatonin manages our sleep cycle.)
So how does this relate to nutrition and lifestyle?
This response also happens from chronic internal stress such as malnutrition or gut irritation/leaky gut. Nutrition, proper doses of exercise, gut health, thoughts, emotions, perceptions and reactions to life stressors are sending emergency signals to our adrenals. This is why both diet and lifestyle changes are often necessary to adequately deal with adrenal fatigue.
How do you heal from adrenal fatigue?
- Sleep- lots of it- as much as you need and are able to give yourself!
- Not over-exercising- Yes! Over-exercising is a stressor, too!
- Instead take up restorative exercise- meditation, Qigong, restorative yoga, walking, etc.
- Practice extreme self-love- play, have fun, enjoy family, friends, and pets
- Say no to situations that are not enjoyable
- Keep a gratitude journal
- A well-balanced diet with plenty of quality proteins and fats
- Essential fatty Acids (EFA’s) particularly Omega 3 Fatty acids to reduce inflammation
- Celtic Sea Salt/Himalayan Sea Salt to restore lost minerals
- A variety of organic fruits and vegetables
- Listen to your body to understand what it needs, when it needs it and feed yourself accordingly