Moderate stress is a perfectly natural and useful response to life’s constant events and challenges, but if it gets out of hand it can take you out.
Up until the 1980's, there were limited reported cases of the condition known as "Adrenal Fatigue".
More than anything, the rapid rise of this dis-ease, is really a sign of today's increasingly fast-paced world.
With constant pressures and prolonged stress factors tending to overwhelm many people, it has lead to burn out and what is medically referred to as Adrenal Fatigue.
If you suffer from this condition, the good news is, it can be managed and turned around with some simple lifestyle adjustments which we will discuss here. But first, let's take a look at what Adrenal Fatigue actually is and what causes it to begin with.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
When you get stressed, a hormone known as Cortisol is activated within the body.
A certain amount of this hormone is energising and healthy and helps you to go about your day, but when too much Cortisol is produced, it takes its toll on the adrenal glands, leading to three distinct stages of Adrenal Fatigue.
The adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys and assist with the regulation of just about every hormone in your body, not just cortisol.
The adrenals work in conjunction with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release cortisol in accordance with your natural daily rhythm.
For example, a cortisol boost in the morning serves to wake you up, before levelling out and steadily declining as the day goes on, until they’re low enough to prompt you to sleep at night.
But here's the thing.
This natural diurnal rhythm can be disrupted by outside "stimulants" or "stressors" that lead to an overproduction of cortisol.
Adrenal Fatigue is the medical name given to this constant disruption caused by prolonged stress to the normal, steady intended function of your adrenal glands. This affects their ability to produce the correct amounts of cortisol at the right times in a healthy and productive way.
Many people who experience adrenal fatigue also experience a deficiency of “DHEA”. DHEA is Dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone that your body naturally produces in the adrenal gland which helps to produce other important hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.
DHEA levels tend to deplete with age and over exposure to stress. Simple, natural ways to boost DHEA include:
- Regularly getting a good night's sleep - to allow your body and adrenals to restore and rejuvenate
- Eating plenty of good fats - that contain Omega 3 fatty acids, including flax seed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, walnuts and grass fed butter
- Reduce stress - it produces excess insulin and cortisol, which depletes the adrenals and the natural production of the youth preserving hormone known as DHEA
- Cut out processed sugar - it leads to an acidic environment in the body, which is the major cause of fungal, viral, and bacterial infections and also chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes
- Feed your thyroid - eat mushrooms, which contain one of the highest incidences of plant iodine, as well as plenty of nature-made sea salt, and mineral-rich cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, brussell sprouts and kale. Also, sea kelp, raw nuts and organic eggs (if you're not averse to animal products) provide helpful nutrients to the thyroid.
Your thyroid is an active partner with the adrenals that produce DHEA, so make sure it too is hearty. These two organs are tiny, but they are real workhorses in your body. Take special care to feed them right.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue symptoms can be many and varied depending on the person and the length of time the condition has manifested.
These are some of the most common signs that you might be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue:
- Constant lethargy and tiredness
- Brain fog
- Body aches & pains
- Food cravings, especially for sweet or fatty foods
- Insomnia, trouble getting to sleep or disturbed sleep (especially waking up during the night)
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight, especially around the abdomen
- Constant thirst
- Hair loss
- Reduced immunity
- Skin complaints
- Lack of sex drive
- Autoimmune Diseases
Stages of Adrenal Fatigue
There are three broad stages of adrenal fatigue:
1) High Cortisol (“Wired & tired”)
This first stage can last for months, constantly feeling alert, stimulated, energised and alarmed even when there are no stressors present.
Many people describe it as feeling like being in a permanent anticipation of a big event except unlike an event once it’s over the symptoms don’t subside:
- Loss of appetite
- Racing mind
2) High/Low Cortisol (“Stressed & tired”)
If stress has accumulated as a result of a lack of rest and relaxation over a period it can lead to the second stage, characterised by a feeling of depletion.
Typically people will experience periods of anxiousness followed by fatigue. This can manifest during the day as “fits and spurts of energy” followed by a “crash”, often in the afternoon.
With energy levels and mood fluctuating, many people start to crave caffeine and sugar in an attempt to help them get through the day. They will also often have difficulty concentrating on tasks and may find it hard to “wind down” at the end of the day.
3) Low Cortisol (“Burnout”)
The final stage happens once the adrenals are “out of fuel” and normally experienced as a state of complete exhaustion or being “down and out”.
A persistent feeling of fatigue ensues and simple everyday tasks become taxing and difficult. It’s at this point that many people will seek help due to the severe impact it can have on one’s life and responsibilities and many also often experience these symptoms as well:
- Pain & inflammation
- Impaired immunity
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
As outlined above this condition is not something that just happens as a result of a few stressful days at work or not getting enough sleep for a night or two.
It can take a significant amount of time for you to reach the point of depletion and this is only brought on as a result of prolonged chronic stress without adequate rest, relaxation and recuperation.
Chemicals, toxins and heavy metals from environmental pollutants, food additives, municipal water supplies and pharmaceuticals can also lead to many of the symptoms as well as play their part on disrupting your body’s normal biological and hormonal processes.
A body in optimal health is able to expel and eliminate most toxicity, however, one that is overloaded and exhausted will struggle which both contributes to and compounds the effects of Adrenal Fatigue.
Lifestyle factors that contribute to Adrenal Fatigue include:
- A poor diet loaded with processed foods and refined sugars
- Overconsumption of stimulants e.g. caffeine, energy drinks or drugs
- Dietary deficiencies e.g. Iron or Magnesium
- Not enough movement and exercise
- A lack of clean, fresh air
- Toxic relationships
- Emotional trauma
- Financial stress
Natural Remedies for Adrenal Fatigue
First and foremost is to take stock of your lifestyle habits, work life and relationships and find ways to reduce their negative impact, as well as allow for more quality rest, relaxation and activities that bring you joy.
To kick start the healing process, it's a good idea to do some type of detox or cleanse to help your body release accumulated waste or toxicity stored within your digestive tract that could be playing havoc with your body's natural function.
5 ways to help heal adrenal fatigue naturally:
1) Add More Plant-Based Whole Foods
As is the case with most ailments and dis-eases, food and diet play a critical role in both prevention and healing.
You’ll first want to eliminate anything that could be exacerbating the issue, taxing your body, thus adding to the stress it's already experiencing. Avoid:
- Refined sugar & artificial sweeteners - Learn more in: Overcoming Sugar Addictions & The Best Natural Substitutes
- Stimulants like energy drinks, chemical caffeine and drugs (Only drink organic coffee and limit your intake to 1 cup as early in the day as possible)
- Processed meat & pasteurised dairy products
- Processed packaged cereals and refined grains
- Food colourings, preservatives and additives
- Hydrogenated oils - Soybean, canola & corn oils are highly inflammatory.
Eat more nutrient-dense organic whole foods which contain “good” healthy fats, natural fibre as well as essential vitamins and minerals to support your body and adrenals:
- Plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Learn more in our recent blog: Top 7 Reasons to Embrace a Plant-Based Diet & How to Do It
- Cold-Pressed Oils e.g. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Macadamia Oil & Avocado Oil
- Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cauliflower, etc.
- Fermented Foods: 6 Fermented Foods For A Healthy Gut
- Nuts & seeds: Macadamias, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Chia, Flaxseeds, Pumpkin Seeds and Walnuts.
Staying hydrated and increasing you intake of clean water will not only assist with keeping all your bodily systems and organs running at their optimum but also facilitate with detoxification and cleansing your body.
Drink at least 2 litres of water each day and if you are particularly active, use 1 litre per 22 kilos of body weight as a guide.
“Aldosterone” is a hormone that helps to regulate salt, many people with adrenal fatigue in addition to issues with cortisol production also have their aldosterone levels affected as well.
To remedy this, it’s a good idea to start your day by adding a teaspoon or so of nature-made salts, like Himalayan Crystal Salt to 500ml - 1 litre of water before you do anything, as its numerous trace minerals will serve to help balance your hormones and support all of your body’s systems.
Learn more in our bog: Water: Nature’s Best & Why It’s Critical to Life
3) Rest & Sleep Schedule
It’s important to allow time for adequate rest and sleep so that your body can start to heal and rejuvenate itself.
Getting yourself into the habit of going to bed at the same time every night will help your body to establish a natural sleep/wake cycle. You want to aim for 8-10 hours every night and start to condition yourself to go to bed before 10pm as often as you can.
Also, try not to eat within 2 hours of going to bed as this can also disrupt your ability to get a good night's sleep. Whenever possible, don't eat solid food after the sun goes down. This is an ancient wisdom which will have a big impact on your overall health and wellbeing as you practice it over time. If you're going to eat late at night, stick with broths or soups.
4) Pure Essential Oils
Pure Plant Essential Oils should not be underestimated as a remedy to help heal burn out and Adrenal Fatigue.
These are highly concentrated plant-extracts that have powerful properties when used both topically and aromatically, to help promote rest, recuperation and soothe symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue.
For Aromatherapy, diffuse particular oils at night next to your bed while you sleep and in your home during the day and/or office.
Pure Essential Oils can also be applied topically to the skin, diluted with a 'carrier oil' like Fractionated Coconut Oil, which then assists distribution and absorption into your body to start working almost immediately. There are a host of essential oils that can assist relief from Adrenal Fatigue, including:
- Lavender Oil has inherently calming and stress-reducing qualities;
- Rosemary Oil has properties that can help to reduce levels of cortisol as well as oxidative stress on your body's cells. Additionally, it can calm and soothe you, giving your adrenals a break so that they can start to heal;
- Cinnamon Bark Oil supports the endocrine system of which the adrenal glands are a part. As well as promoting physical energy it can also be an aid for boosting and strengthening the immune system.
5) Reduce Stress Levels
There are several activities you can do to help lower stress levels not just in your body, but also your mind and emotions:
- Meditation and Deep Breathing
Start each day with 10-15 minutes of Meditation or Deep Breathing, which will help to calm your mind and nervous system and also better equip you with handling any stressors that present during the day. Meditating before you go to sleep at the end of the day can also make getting to sleep easier as well as promote a deeper longer sleep.
Use the Carillon Vibrational Healing Bowl, or simply go outside and practice stillness through meditation, focus on gratitude, and/or do some deep diaphragmatic breathing for a short time.
It's also a perfect way to take a little time for yourself and to practice some positive self-talk which can be simple healing remedies.
Light exercise such as walking, yoga, cycling, tai chi is essential each day to help support your body's physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as centre and calm down your mind.
Dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to some type of light movement, outside in the fresh air is best if you can because it creates a healthy biochemical shift within the body which can help alleviate symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue.
- Earthing (or Grounding)
Earthing involves walking barefoot on the earth's surface. The earth is like a giant battery which releases free electrons into the body when you connect directly to it with your bare skin. These negative ions mop up free radicals which are a source of ongoing inflammation and chronic pain, as well helping to reduce excess cortisol in the body.
Once or twice a week go for walk bare foot on the beach or grass and you will soon notice the impact this has on your overall wellbeing.
- Practice Your Passion
It's important to take time to do activities that light you up. Too many times, due to the time constraints and pressures of modern day life, people avoid doing the things that they enjoy.
Whether it be hiking, gardening, painting, reading, music, cooking, or going to the movies, it's critical to make time for your passions. By continuing to practice these as you move through life, it's amazing how it helps to balance out any excess stress that you might be feeling.
The Key Takeaway
Adrenal Fatigue is a sign of burn out and depletion, usually as a result of physical, mental and emotional stress that compounds over time.
The key is to notice the signs when you're suffering from Adrenal Fatigue and to make adjustments before it becomes a chronic and debilitating problem.
By making some simple dietary and lifestyle changes and by being more self care aware, you can go a long way to healing your adrenal function, restoring your energy and returning to the happy, healthy version of you.
Tolman Self Care.