Now that I’ve made you completely depressed with how pervasive adrenal fatigue can be in Part 1 of this post, it is time for the good news: repairing your adrenal function is totally possible! Better yet – you can be in complete control. Below are some of the best tips I have for restoring your energy and vitality, naturally.
Bring on the Happy. Ditch the Downers.
I love the first advice given by Dr. James L, Wilson, N.D., D.C., PhD, in his book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. He recommends making a comprehensive list of all things that both enhance your life as well as drain your energy. I did it myself and found it eye opening and quite liberating. I suggest really getting down in the weeds for optimal effectiveness. Good things in your life could be exercise, time with friends and family, meditation or getting outdoors. Negative things could be anything from devouring that weekly chili cheese dog, tolerating a Debbie Downer colleague, spending time in depressing physical environments or just general negative thinking. Be honest with yourself and don’t idealize what you think should be good or bad for you. Once you have your list, be creative in finding ways to add more happy and ditch the downers in your everyday routine.
Get some strategic shut eye.
Quite possibly the most important factor in the road to recovery is not only getting enough sleep, but getting it during the most restorative hours to sync with your circadian rhythm (a 24 hour cycle of varying hormone secretion):
- Be asleep by 11pm (before you get that second wind that keeps you up all night).
- Whenever possible, sleep until 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. The most restorative hours of sleep are between 7-9am providing much needed rest for your adrenals and a corresponding rise in cortisol levels. This may seem self-indulgent, but don’t feel guilty. Your well-being is at stake here.
- Ensure a good nights sleep:
- Have a balanced snack of protein, carbs and healthy fats before bed to counteract any hypoglycemic episodes in the wee hours of the morning. Almond butter spread on some apple slices or layered on a Just Crust Mini are good options.
- Lying down (without sleeping) for 15-30 minutes during the day is also very beneficial. Sprawl out in your office if you have to.
Get your sweat on.
Exercise normalizes cortisol, insulin, blood glucose, growth hormones and floods your fuzzy brain with much needed oxygen. Just make sure it’s not too strenuous – we’re not talking training for an olympic triathlon. A brisk walk, yoga, or getting your groove on will do the trick, just aim for at least 30 minutes/day. And don’t discount a little time under the sheets. It counts as exercise and can even improve your moods and immune system. Wink Wink.
Clean. Up. Your. Diet.
According to Wilson, “By the time your body is in adrenal fatigue, your cells have used up much of your body’s stored nutrients and are in desperate need of new supplies just to continue to function, let alone heal…..they are lacking the essential nutrients they need to meet the increased demands their cells experience under stress. In many cases of adrenal fatigue, poor diet is one of its main causes.” So in addition to following my Clean Eating guidelines –consuming lots of veggies, whole grains, essential fatty acids and avoiding refined sugar and foods you have sensitivities to – integrate the tips below to bring your adrenals back to life.
Balance Blood Sugar:
Eat every 2 hours being sure to get adequate protein, essential fatty acids and good quality (e.g. whole grain) carbohydrates. And avoid alcohol, which is more refined than white sugar.
Avoid caffeine and other stimulants:
When you consume coffee, sodas, chocolate, energy drinks or sugary and fatty processed foods, you temporarily drive your already taxed adrenal glands, further depleting their reserves. This also results in spikes and lows in your blood sugar, causing you to be drained at the end of the day. This, in turn, stimulates you to crave and consume more of this poison. It’s a vicious cycle the can not only affect every system in your body, but also causes weight gain (especially around the middle). And in the case of chocolate, in addition to caffeine, it contains theobrine – a caffeine like substance that over stimulates the adrenals leading to further fatigue.
Eat at strategic meal times:
Eat SOMETHING by 10am, eat lunch before noon, and get a good snack between 2-3pm (to combat that cortisol level dip between 3 and 4pm). Eat dinner around 5 or 6pm and have a high quality snack at bedtime (this will help you sleep soundly, avoiding low blood sugar, anxiety attacks, and make it easier to wake in the morning).
Stop Dissin’ Salt.
Contrary to popular belief, salt isn’t always bad for you. There is a widespread myth that salt causes high blood pressure; however, only about 15% of the population is salt-sensitive. The majority of people with normal blood pressure do not have a rise in blood pressure with moderate salt intake. And besides, most people with adrenal deficiency have low blood pressure, so stop hating! Salt can actually regulate blood pressure to within normal range. But be sure you’re choosing sea salt over regular table salt, which retains the much needed trace minerals and are void of the nasty chemical additives used in the processing. An even better choice is to mix your sea salt with kelp to also get some iodine. Conversely, watch your potassium intake, avoiding high potassium foods such as bananas and dried figs.
Other helpful diet tips:
- Get enough cholesterol in the form of nuts seeds and oils.
- Be calm when eating. Deep breathe. Chew thoroughly (30+ times per mouthful) to release digestive enzymes from your saliva. 60-100 times if you have diabetes or digestive issues.
- Eat higher protein, lower carbohydrate meals if dealing with severe adrenal fatigue.
- Enjoy Green, Bancha, Twig or Kukicha Tea for antioxidants
- Make sure your consuming clean eater. Best to have a water purification system installed on our tap.
I won’t get into specific recommendations (lawsuits are not conducive to sustaining small businesses), but below are a variety of supplements that could be beneficial depending on your specific situation.
- Vitamin C with pantothentic Acid
- Vitamin E- mixed tocopherols
- Magnesium Citrate (especially for PMS symptoms)
- Calcium Citrate
- Licorice root
- Siberian ginseng
A Closing Note on Testing
For all of you who love to self-diagnose, there are multiple tests you can perform at home if you suspect you have some level of adrenal deficiency, including: the Iris Contraction Test, checking for postural hypotension, and the Sergent’s White Line. However, your best bet is to see a progressive endocrinologist, holistic physician or naturopathic doctor to set you straight on a diagnosis and get you started on the best treatment plan. They will likely perform a saliva test to measure the hormone levels for signs of non-Addison’s adrenal deficiency, which is considered alternative. Most likely, a Medical Doctor will not be familiar with the saliva test (and could even dismiss it since it is considered “Alternative”). However, the Saliva test is the best single lab test available for detecting adrenal fatigue because it is looking at hormones in the cells (where the hormone reactions take place).