Tag Archives: Adrenal Fatigue

5 Steps to Getting Your Mojo Back. Adrenal Fatigue – Part 2

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.

Supplementation

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.

  • B-Vitamins
  • Vitamin C with pantothentic Acid
  • Vitamin E- mixed tocopherols
  • Magnesium Citrate (especially for PMS symptoms)
  • Calcium Citrate
  • Licorice root
  • Ashwagandha
  • Siberian ginseng
  • Ginger
  • Ginkgo

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).

Type A and Tired? Adrenal Fatigue – Part 1.

Does this image look familiar? If so, I’m not surprised. It is estimated that up to 80% of adult Americans suffer from some level of adrenal deficiency at some point in their lives, which is most commonly characterized by feeling tired for no reason, having trouble getting up in the morning, irritability and requiring coffee, energy drinks, sweets or salty snacks to keep going.  However, it is one of the most overlooked and under-diagnosed illnesses in the U.S. and can be the underlying issue behind conditions such as of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism and food intolerance.

I can already hear many of you warily saying, “so let’s run this back – being tired all the time, depending on your triple venti latte to be remotely effective during the day, being a little irritable and maybe having an inappropriate fondness for that bottle glass of Pinot every night — who DOESN’T live like that?” Unfortunately, being run ragged seems to be the acceptable norm in this country. As a Mom, entrepreneur and former corporate rat – trust me, I get it. But I’ve also been down in the trenches of adrenal fatigue and am currently successfully climbing out, so I can promise you – it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on to figure out how to stop the madness.

All About Adrenals.

These two glands that sit on top of the kidneys may be small, but they are packing some of the most powerful hormones and neurotransmitters related to energy and stress response. They are chiefly responsible for releasing adrenal steroids, such as cortisol, and the catecholamines (a.k.a. the “fight or flight” hormones) epinephrine/adrenalin and norephinephrine.

Cortisol belongs to a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, which affect almost every organ and tissue in the body. Cortisol’s most important job is to help the body respond to stress. Among its many vital tasks, cortisol helps:

  • maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
  • slow the immune system’s inflammatory response
  • maintain glucose levels
  • regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

Can you see why you want to do everything you can to keep these two little powerhouses firing on all cylinders?

The Road to Exhaustion.

The progression of adrenal fatigue is slow and insidious. Most commonly, adrenal fatigue is caused by some form of stress – could be physical (e.g. surgery or other serious injury or lack of sleep, excessive consumption of caffeine), psychological (e.g. traumas or chronic stress related to your career, finances, or family troubles), environmental (e.g. toxins from over processed food and other sources) and/or infectious (e.g. a severe case of or recurring bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, sinusitis). Prescription drugs and even pregnancy can also cause stress on the adrenals.

You’re even more at risk if you have multiple stressors simultaneously or one becomes chronic. Your adrenals will never get a chance to come up for air!  Whether you are aware you are under stress or not, your body (and your cortisol levels) is keeping tabs. All stressors are additive and cumulative. At first, stress causes more and more cortisol to be circulating in your system, which can cause weight gain and lower your immune response. But eventually, your adrenal glands throw in the towel and slow or stop producing the need cortisol to combat the stressful situation.

While adrenal fatigue can affect anyone of any age or stage of life, those of us with Type A tendencies can be more susceptible to adrenal fatigue. With attributes such as constantly driving yourself, being a perfectionist and putting yourself under constant pressure, you are putting your poor little adrenal glands into constant overdrive. And so begins the recipe for a lethargic disaster.

Symptoms | Related Conditions

While some people can present without any obvious signs of being sick, they likely experience a sense that things just aren’t quite right and are likely masking their fatigue with caffeinated drinks, sugary foods or other stimulates to drag themselves out of bed and be somewhat effective in their daily lives. While you can’t draw any conclusions by experiencing just one of these symptoms or conditions, if many of these ring true you could be experiencing some level of adrenal deficiency.

Symptoms

Difficulty getting up in the morning Increased time to recovery from illness or injury | bruising easily
Continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep Light-headed when standing up quickly
Craving for salt or salty foods Mild depression/less enjoyment with life
Lethargy – not really awake until 10am; fading at 3 or 4pm, feeling best after dinner Increased PMS – bloating, irritable, chocolate cravings
Increased effort to do every day tasks Worsening symptoms with skipped meals
Decreased sex drive Increased fears/anxiety
Weight gain around the middle Confusion/Difficulty Concentrating/Memory Issues
Decreased ability to handle stress Irritability
Feeling cold all of the time Low blood pressure

 

Related Conditions

Rheumatoid Arthritis Respiratory Infections
Fibromyalgia Allergies
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Asthma
Hypoglycemia Frequent Colds
Type 2 Diabetes Cancer
Ischemic Heart Disease Other auto-immune and chronic disease
Alcoholism Food Intolerance

No Love From Western Medicine.

I’ll try not to get too “conspiracy theory” on you here, but the biggest rub with resolving adrenal deficiency is that because it doesn’t fit within the stricture of Western medicine, it can be difficult to find appropriate treatment, or even acknowledgement of the syndrome. First off, medical doctors, during their Big Pharma sponsored programs, are not educated on the etiology or treatment in adrenal deficiency. Even worse, there is no ICD-9 Code for adrenal deficiency or adrenal fatigue until it has become full-blown Addison’s disease. No code for billing = no reimbursement by insurance.

In Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands can have actual structural and physiological damage that could require life long treatment with corticosteroids — powerful, synthetic cortisol which provide a lovely laundry list of side effects including: high blood pressure, bone disease, poor immune system, high blood sugar, vision problems, white patches or sores, acne, swelling of the face, weight gain, and cognitive issues. The failure of Western medicine to recognize non-Addison’s adrenal fatigue is an enormous disservice to Americans, especially in this high stress Petri dish we live in. Dr. James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., PhD explains in his book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, that “with each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected.” When caught early, adrenal fatigue can be easily treated with natural supplements and dietary changes – or even prevented altogether.

Adrenals Role in Food Intolerance & Food Cravings.

Interestingly, there is a lot of crossover between adrenal fatigue and food intolerance.  When you consume foods your body doesn’t tolerate, your body releases histamine causing inflammation. In response, your adrenal glands release cortisol (a strong anti-inflammatory) to mediate the histamine. The more histamine released, the more cortisol required and the harder your adrenals have to work to pump it out. Chronic inflammation from eating foods you don’t tolerate obviously further taxes your adrenal glands and leads to their fatigue. This in turn reduces the amount of cortisol they’re able to produce, which reduces the anti-inflammatory response and allows the histamine to inflame the tissues more. A vicious cycle.

It’s easy to see why Dr. Wilson claims that eliminating foods that you don’t tolerate is “one of the best and easiest ways to decrease the demands of your struggling adrenals.” For a refresher on common food intolerances and guides on clean eating, please refer to my Clean Eating Guide post from January.

There are many more adrenal specific nutrition guidelines as well as lifestyle changes and testing available that can be immensely helpful in restoring proper adrenal function, which I’ll cover in a follow-up post. For my Type A peeps, try to resist Googling your fingers off looking for answers and just GET SOME REST….