Written by Hannah Dykstra
Adrenal fatigue is a general idea for a collection of signs and symptoms that results when the adrenal glands are at dysfunctional operating levels. Most commonly identified through prolonged periods of high stress, physical fatigue, or feelings of depression, this syndrome is often hard to identify as it has no obvious signs such as those of a physical illness, like the common cold or flu. The effects that stressors have on our body are dangerously powerful and a person can experience the devastating effects of adrenal fatigue simply through “overdoing it” – a common state of high-level athletes or even top level businessmen, though not limited to. The havoc that this can cause in an individuals life can be detrimental to mind, body, performance and relationships.
What are the adrenal glands?
The adrenal glands are small glands located just above the kidneys that play a vital role in hormonal balance and responses to stress. The glands act by secreting particular hormones, or ”chemical messengers,’’ that travel throughout the bloodstream enabling proper functions of the body. A few main hormones produced by the adrenal cortex are:
Mineralocorticoids/Aldosterone) – The purpose of this hormone is the maintenance of the body’s water to salt ratio which regulates blood pressure. A deficiency in the proper function of aldosterone causes the kidney to lose excessive amounts of sodium and water, leading to dehydration and the symptoms that accompany it.
Glucocoticoids/Cortisol – Cortisol is the hormone involved in stress response and regulation of metabolism. Cortisol mobilizes amino acids into the blood and liver which stimulates the liver to convert the acids to glucose (energy production fuel), then stimulating the proper use of this glycogen in the liver. Fatty acids are mobilized and used as fuel for energy and counteracts the inflammatory response. This proper cycle maintains the body’s resistance to physiological stressors which stabilizes mood and emotions.
Most active adults participate in a broad range of psychological and physiological demands including family responsibilities, stressful jobs, relationship dynamics, lack of sleep, financial struggles, dieting and emotional stress. All of theses stressors trigger our adrenal glands to produce bouts of hormones in order to balance the stress to health ratio. These secretions of hormone release give us energy upon waking and keep us alert throughout the day, but when out of nature’s balance, can wreak incredible damage on an individual’s wellbeing.
What is adrenal fatigue?
When we face these stressors on an everyday basis, our adrenal glands are forced to constantly sustain high levels of cortisol and will eventually reach a point where their ability to support stress becomes impaired. Not only does this dysfunction among our adrenals affect our short-term response to stress, but it also inhibits our adrenals ability to balance and produce other hormones such as DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
There are a few symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue that are commonly ignored, but can be vital signals from your body alerting you of detrimental fatigue.
These symptoms may include:
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Inability to handle stress
- Craving for salty foods
- Lack of energy
- Mild depression
- Overuse of stimulants
- A weak immune system
Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue hasn’t been used an official diagnoses in conventional western medicine, but it is greatly spoken of through alternative practices. If you’re reading this list of symptoms and you feel you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue, there are a few steps you can take to heal yourself naturally.
Remove foods that are hard to digest, highly processed and contain toxins or chemicals. Foods that fall under these categories have potential to be extremely harsh on your adrenals.
Foods to avoid:
- Sugar and Sweeteners
- Processed and microwaved foods
- Hydrogenated oils
Foods to add:
- Cruciferous vegetables ( Cauliflower, broccoli etc..)
- Chicken and turkey
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Holy Basil
- Fish oil
- Vitamin B complex
- Vitamins C & D3
- Naps (rest when tired)
- Sleep 8-10 hours a night
- Avoid staying up late and regulate a sleep schedule
- Do something that makes you happy everyday
- Eat a balanced diet
Despite western stigma with mental health, strong evidence supports the conditions associated with adrenal fatigue and the recovery methods listed above. Aggressive and ambitious personality types and also the simple nature of our culture are more prone to these symptoms which are only made worse by barreling through. If the symptoms of adrenal fatigue sound familiar, practice some healthful adjustments to your lifestyle and gain a more joyful and fulfilling life!