- Feel tired despite getting adequate sleep
- Crave sugary and/or salty snacks
- Rely on stimulants such as coffee or caffeinated beverages to keep you alert
- Have difficulty sleeping
- Experience morning fatigue
- Have difficulty bouncing back from a period of stress or illness
If you’re shaking your head yes, you may be experiencing a condition known as Adrenal Fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when your adrenal glands are functioning below their optimum level. Your adrenal glands are responsible for producing steroid hormones including cortisol, adrenaline, and aldosterone – hormones that are essential for a healthy and vital life. The adrenal glands help the body maintain a balanced state, particularly during times of stress. This can take the form of the “fight or flight”stress we encounter when we’re faced with an acutely stressful situation – say a car accident, or military combat – as well as the chronic stress we face on a daily basis in this 24/7 world we live in. The role of the adrenal glands has changed little since the primitive days of our ancestors, when the “fight or flight” response could literally mean the difference between life and death. While our world has evolved, this primitive stress response has remained basically unchanged.
While the acute stressors that our ancestors faced daily has subsided, chronic stress has become much more prevalent. Chronic overwork and lack of relaxation has become the new normal. Adrenal fatigue is generally associated with prolonged stress or short periods of very intense stress. There are many things that can cause the adrenal glands to become overworked. Lack of sleep, work pressures, financial burdens, chronic infections, marital and family issues, all can place a burden on the adrenals. If you’re constantly experiencing one or more stressors in your daily life, the burden on your adrenal glands is tremendous and often they can’t keep up with the demands of this chronic stress. They still function, but not at an optimal level. When this happens you can begin to experience adrenal fatigue.
Most people with adrenal fatigue describe feeling tired throughout the day. They often need artificial stimulants such as coffee or caffeinated beverages to keep themselves alert. They can also experience weight gain especially around the abdomen, have trouble sleeping, and experience changes in their blood sugar levels.
If you’re feeling unreasonably tired, have chronic stress, crave sugary and/or salty foods, have sleep disturbances, have trouble losing weight particularly around the abdomen, or get sick often, then it’s certainly possible that you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue. It’s always a good idea to get a checkup from your doctor to check if there are other possible causes, such as thyroid issues, iron or B12 deficiency. We also recommend doing saliva testing to measure your cortisol levels. Often this test can confirm that your adrenal glands are pooped out and need help.
The good news is that once it’s determined that you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue, there are some steps you can take to begin to give your adrenals a break and help them return to optimal performance.
The most important step is to make sure your diet is providing you with the appropriate nutrients, especially protein, throughout the day. Eating smaller meals five to six times a day will provide a constant source of energy. Try to avoid sugars and simple carbohydrates that can cause fluctuations in blood sugar. You’ve heard it said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is true, especially if you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue. Getting a healthy serving of protein into your body in the morning will help to keep your blood sugar stable and help avoid that mid-morning crash when you want to reach for a soda or cup of coffee.
Reducing the stress in your life, while often easier said than done, is important as well. Try to find at least 15 minutes to relax and shut out the pressures of the day. Even a short walk can do wonders in burning off stress. Incorporating some form of exercise into your daily routine and making it a lifestyle change may take some getting used to in the beginning, but as you see the improvements in your physical and mental well being, you’ll be encouraged to make it a part of your life.
Additionally there are many nutritional supplements that can help support the adrenal glands and finding the right ones for you can make a big difference. While there are vitamins like Vitamin C and the B vitamins, as well as various herbs and supplements that can be used to help heal tired adrenals, finding the right protocol for you requires some discussion with your health care provider. In our practice, conducting a Wellness Consultation is an important step in determining which nutritional supplements are appropriate for each individual.
Dealing with the stress of modern life can definitely take its toll. If you think you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue, remember that each person is unique and we can help create a treatment protocol specific to you. Give us a call and we’ll help you get on a course to optimal health.