Adrenal Fatigue: Why Everyone Has It and Nobody Knows
It is extremely likely that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Most of us tend to attribute fatigue to our busy lifestyles and push through, never dealing with the causes.
Adrenal fatigue is so common and has so many symptoms that it’s often the root of our problems and we don’t even know it.
It’s estimated that 80% of the population is struggling with mild, moderate or severe adrenal fatigue.
Do you have adrenal fatigue?
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
- feeling constantly tired, but unable to sleep
- an inability to handle stress
- high energy in the evenings when you should be winding down
- craving salty foods
- frequent night wakings, lying awake
- a diagnosis of hypothyroidism
- difficulty losing weight or unexplained weight gain
- compromised immune system (i.e. frequent bugs)
- low blood pressure
- allergic reactions
- difficulty waking up and getting started no matter how much sleep you got
- depression or anxiety
- suppressed libido
- feeling full or bloated
- craving sweets, caffeine or cigarettes
- blurred vision
- mood swings
- becoming shaky or light-headed if you miss meals
- difficulty falling asleep or getting into R.E.M cycle
- dizziness when moving from sitting to standing or lying to standing
- unexplained dizzy spells
- hemorrhoids or varicose veins
That’s an intense list of ailments. Sadly, most of us can identify with at least a few of them.
What is adrenal fatigue?
In a nutshell, adrenal fatigue occurs when your body is overstressed and is not responding as it should to your stress hormones.
Marcelle Pick OG/GYN NP and writer for WomentoWomen.com goes into more detail: “When our adrenal glands are constantly required to sustain high cortisol levels, they eventually become impaired in their ability to respond appropriately. The resulting dysfunction not only affects our short-term response to stress, but it also impairs our adrenals’ ability to produce and balance other hormones which are important to our long-term health and well-being: DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.”
This hormonal imbalance is what leads to weight gain or difficulty losing weight, fatigue and poor sleep, mood swings, etc. Long term, adrenal fatigue can lead to more serious issues, like depression, heart concerns and disease.
What are the adrenal glands?
Empowered Sustenance provides a great explanation: “The adrenal glands, two little pea-sized glands, sit on top of the kidneys. The outer part of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex, secretes the corticosteroid hormones including cortisol that monitor the body’s metabolism, inflammation, and blood pressure. The adrenal medulla, the inner part, secretes adrenaline and noradrenaline, hormones that respond to stressors. When the adrenal medulla fires, it increases the heart rate, boosts blood flow to the muscles, and creates a surge of glucose (blood sugar) in the bloodstream. This mechanism evolved so we could draw from a quick burst of energy in a fight-or-flight situation.”
Modern-day stress is typically pretty different from the stress we experienced millennia ago when this response evolved. Deadlines at work, financial pressures, traffic frustrations and personal drama rarely require the same kind of response as, say, a sabre-toothed tiger attack. Not only do we not need to fight or flee (in fact, usually, we’re stuck sitting in a car or at a desk), we also experience stress that persists over much longer periods of time.
Cortisol — aka the stress hormone —levels naturally fluctuate throughout a regular day, which is part of your sleep-wake cycle. Cortisol spikes in response to stress too, though.
When you experience simple stress, such as an argument, your cortisol levels rise temporarily, which is fine as long as it isn’t happening constantly. Long-term stress, though, caused by ongoing work or family tension, for example, can cause your cortisol levels to remain high for too long. Eventually, your body starts to struggle to maintain these high cortisol levels, which leads to other hormonal imbalances.
Pointing the Finger: Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
What causes adrenal fatigue? As you’ve probably guessed by now, the short answer is stress. That may not be very helpful, though, since ‘stress’ can refer to a wide range of things, many of which you probably don’t think of when you hear the word.
“Contributors to the stress that leads to adrenal fatigue can be lifestyle stressors including but not limited to: lack of sleep, poor food choices, use of stimulants, pulling “all-nighters” or “pushing through” a day despite being tired, perfectionism, staying in no-win situations for too long, over training, lack of fun or stress-relieving practices. Those who are: students, medical professionals, single parents, unhappily married, unhappy or unsatisfied at work, are self-employed or starting a new business, abuse drugs or alcohol, have alternating shift schedules or who are the “all work and no play” types have lifestyles that lead to adrenal fatigue.” says Diane Sanfilippo at RobbWolff.com.
Damage Control: How to Treat Adrenal Fatigue?
First and foremost, it is very important that you get enough sleep. When you’re sleep-deprived your body responds by releasing cortisol.
Try to remove distractions, don’t take your phone to bed with you and keep your room dark. Maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is the essential for the health of your adrenal glands.
Create a schedule so that you’re committed to unwinding and then getting into bed at a reasonable hour. Ideally, you should be hitting the sack before 10 p.m. Around 11 p.m. most people experience a spike in cortisol levels, which will make you feel awake and alert. If you miss your window, it could be hours before you are able to fall into a deep, restorative sleep.
If you have trouble winding down or sticking to a strict bedtime, check out this article for some tips and a sample routine.
Strategies for Better Sleep?
Once you’ve established a sleep schedule and routine, there are some additional steps you can take. First, try cutting back on caffeine. Caffeine can upset your sleep cycle, and it is often used as a crutch to push through a busy day instead of acknowledging that your body needs rest, and taking a break.
If there isn’t room in your schedule for a nap, you can try a natural energy booster, such as a marine phytoplankton supplement or an herbal tea that boosts energy without caffeine.
If you’re living in a constant state of stress, it’s time to let some of that go. De-stressing can help to relieve the pressure on your adrenal glands by balancing out your cortisol and other hormone levels. Try meditation or yoga.
Also, ensure that you’re getting enough magnesium. This essential mineral is really important for sleep.
Magnesium is also vital for helping you to manage stress. Not only does it lower cortisol levels, which has a calming effect, it also regulates your hormones and metabolic function. These effects can be soothing for your adrenals, as well as helping to prevent extreme stress responses.
In an excellent article about the importance of magnesium for reducing stress, writers for TasteforLife.com made the following observations: “Magnesium supports our adrenals, which can be overworked by stress. A magnesium deficiency is significant because of the many vital enzyme systems that require magnesium, some being responsible for energy production and storage. A strain on the adrenal glands puts a strain on the magnesium-dependent energy system of the body. A low magnesium level during stress can cause energy depletion that leads to listlessness and fatigue, weakening your ability to manage stress.”
Eating for Adrenal Fatigue: Tips and Tricks
*Avoid hydrogenated oils (e.g. margarine) like the plague.
*Cut out unhealthy oils like canola and vegetable oil, and opt for healthier options like avocado oil, coconut oil and sunflower oil. Stick with high-quality, organic brands.
*Eliminate artificial sweeteners. The chemicals in these “food” products are toxic and difficult to digest.
*Don’t eat processed foods. Aim for whole foods, including lots of fruits and veggies and go organic where you can. The “cleaner” your diet, the better. A clean nutritional routine will help your adrenal glands to recover and get back on track.
*Eat breakfast. Your body fasts through the night and you need fuel to start your day. Spacing out your meals ensures that you have the energy you need to function.
*Timing meals out also maintains healthy blood sugar levels. Cortisol has a direct effect on blood sugar. Controlling the one helps to balance the other.
*Make an effort to stay hydrated; it’s always an important rule to follow, but even more so for those struggling with adrenal fatigue.
Supplementing for Adrenal Fatigue:
*Vitamin C can help with proper cortisol production and is a powerful antioxidant that supports your immune system, which is key for those suffering from adrenal fatigue.
*Vitamins B5 and B12 can help you manage stress and boost your energy levels.
*Vitamin D3 can help to balance hormones.
*Zinc helps with adrenal function.
*Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation, reducing the risk of cortisol spikes.
Finally, as we mentioned before, make sure you’re getting enough magnesium!
Magnesium deficiency and adrenal fatigue share many of the same symptoms. There is a strong chance that you have one or both of these conditions if you suffer from any of the signs listed above. With as many as 80% of Americans deficient magnesium AND 80% suffering from adrenal fatigue, there is obviously a lot of cross-over.
Getting a bioavailable form of magnesium into your system will help you to sleep better, manage stress, aid your digestion and restore balance. These are all good things for your adrenal glands.
Magnesium can be found in certain foods, but it is very difficult to get enough of this mineral from your diet alone. Oral magnesium supplements are difficult to absorb, so you don’t benefit as much from them (read why here). Sourcing a quality topical magnesium is the best solution.
For a natural, bioavailable, topical magnesium supplement, look no further than Ease Magnesium. For a limited time, you can try it totally FREE by clicking here.