In 1998 Dr. James Wilson coined the term, adrenal fatigue. Since that time he has worked with patients and physicians to educate them on the topic. He is not only considered an expert in the field of alternative medicine but stress and adrenal health as well. When discussing fatigue, stress and adrenal glands Dr. Wilson is the go-to physician.
What is adrenal fatigue?
The answer to this question is not so easy. The endocrine society does not officially recognize this condition as scientifically proven. Although science has not confirmed adrenal fatigue many patients have been successfully treated for it.
If you were to consult an expert in natural medicine, you will hear that adrenal fatigue is a real condition. Not only is it real but the majority of us suffer with it at some point in our lives. Dr. Wilson has assisted many with this condition through natural remedies.
There are two glands on top of the kidneys called adrenal. Among other hormones, the adrenal glands produce cortisol - better known as the stress hormone.
Cortisol is responsible for the fight or flight instinct. This is vital when deciding if you’re in a dangerous situation. It also plays a vital role in mood and motivation. (1)
Adrenal fatigue, also known as hypoadrenia, occurs when your body is subjected to ongoing high levels of stress. The glands are not able to produce the cortisol needed in this situation. When cortisol is reduced so is your ability to deal with stress.
What are the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
There are many symptoms of adrenal fatigue. It is not necessary to have all of them to consider looking into this condition. Keep in mind that symptoms rarely point to only one possible medical condition. Consulting with your doctor is important when experiencing bodily changes.
- Cravings for fatty, salty or sweet foods
- Dark under eye circles
- Foggy brain
- Insulin resistance
- Low libido (sex drive)
- Memory issues
- Menstrual cycle irregularities
- Mood swings
- Ongoing fatigue
- Sleep disruptions
- Unexplained weight changes
Cravings for fatty, salty or sweet foods can actually be brought on by adrenal fatigue. When your body experiences the fight or flight response your adrenal glands release sugar into your bloodstream. This is done to provide energy for the situation at hand.
When your situation calms, your appetite will increase. That is your bodies way of replenishing the sugars it just released. This likely results in a surplus of sugars. (2)
Dark under eye circles can be more than a sign that you lack sleep. These unsightly dark areas are possibly caused by excessive stress, lack of sleep and poor hydration. The same issues that create adrenal fatigue. These circles are often one of the more obvious signs.
Depression, foggy brain and mood swings may result from the irregular hormone production in your adrenal glands. Requesting a saliva adrenal test may tell you and your doctor if the emotional disruptions you are feeling are actually due to your adrenal glands.
High blood pressure is a rare symptom of adrenal gland issues. When the glands produce elevated amounts of adrenaline or noradrenaline your blood pressure will rise. If your stress is ongoing, this may become a regular side effect.
Immune system regulation is another function of the adrenal hormones. If your cortisol levels are irregular, various infections may invade. Some of these are allergies, autoimmune diseases, ongoing inflammation or regular infections. (3)
Insulin resistance is a condition that often leads to type 2 diabetes. The pancreas is no longer able to keep up with all the work created by the constant spikes and lows of sugar. This chain reaction also makes it harder for your cells to receive insulin. (4)
Low libido is often created by the lack of energy. When your hormone producing glands are overworked, they are likely to limit the hormones associated with your sex drive.
Mental Health may be impacted. Memory issues and ongoing fatigue can be a direct reaction to the irregular adrenal gland functions. When the hormones are not released regularly, the brain is also impacted. Over time the signals can become weak and the brain functions decrease.
Menstrual cycle irregularities may have a direct link to the adrenal glands. The hormones produced in the glands may impact your cycle’s timing, flow and physical symptoms.
Sleep disturbances are often caused by irregular hormone production from adrenal glands. If life stressors are overworking the glands, they may be working irregularly when you need to sleep. If you continually feel tired, life is going to be more challenging.
Normally midnight to 4 AM is the time of lowest production. This limits the surge of energy hormones into the bloodstream. Less energy brings more and better sleep.
Unexplained weight loss or gain may occur when the adrenal glands are overworked. The hormones that regulate cravings and appetite are not produced normally. The body may increase or decrease cravings and appetite.
What is the process for adrenal fatigue diagnosis?
There are many symptoms that may be the result of adrenal fatigue. These same symptoms may indicate many other medical issues as well. If the first trip to the doctor does not help, try again. Your symptoms are real.
Your health is yours to advocate for. If you suspect adrenal fatigue, talk to your doctor. It is wise to also reach out to a professional working in natural medicine.
At this time a blood test specifically designed to detect adrenal fatigue does not exist. However, there are tests to indicate if the adrenal glands are producing hormones normally.
The most common test used is a saliva cortisol test. You collect your saliva at various times within a 24-hour period. A lab will test for cortisol levels at each time of the day. If the levels are not within normal range, adrenal fatigue may be the cause.
Is there a natural treatment?
Lifestyle changes are the first steps to take. For some, it is easier said than done but learning to limit life stressors is the first crucial step. The less your body goes in the fight or flight mode the less your adrenal glands need to work.
Sleep: Create a new sleep cycle that allows enough each night to allow your body to heal. During sleep your body can replenish hormones, recuperate from the day before and prepare for the one ahead.
Limit your caffeine consumption. Turn off the electronics and lights. Climb under the covers a bit earlier and allow your brain to settle in for the night.
Hydrate: Water can be considered one of the most important things you will ever consume. Every organ in the body needs water to function properly. Adrenal glands not only need it but are responsible for producing aldosterone - the hormone that regulates hydration.
Positivity: Take a step back. Now take a long cleansing breath. Look at the situation bringing on the heightened stress in your life. Find the positive in it whenever possible.
It may be something as trivial as a sunny day. When you do this you are stopping the fight or flight response. In turn, you help your adrenal glands function normally.
The adrenal fatigue diet.
Regularly scheduled meal times are key to successful adrenal function. Your body will react to your meal schedule or lack of. Hormone production is just one component that relies on a regular routine. If your adrenal glands are deprived, they will react accordingly.
This diet includes foods to eat and avoid. As with all healthy diets, there are certain foods that can sabotage your efforts to improve your situation.
Foods to avoid:
- Caffeine - Limiting your consumption is important. Cutting caffeine out completely can be even more beneficial.
- Hydrogenated oil - These oils may create inflammation throughout your body. When your adrenal glands are inflamed, they do not work properly.
- Processed meats - Meats that are processed and subjected to hormones will change the hormone levels and functions in your body. It is best to eat free-range and grass fed meats.
- Sugars - This sneaky ingredient can be found in far more foods than you likely suspect. There are many forms of it. High fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup are just a few of the more than sixty names of sugars. High sugar fruits are also good to avoid.
Foods to eat: (Basically a well-balanced diet)
- Fish high in fat
- Examples - Herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines.
- Foods rich in probiotics (fermented foods)
- Examples - Pickles, sauerkraut, some cheeses and yogurt.
- Healthy fats
- Examples: Avocado, dark chocolate, oily fish and olive oil.
- Himalayan sea salt
- Lean meats that are not processed
- Examples - Beef, lamb, pork and veal.
- Examples - Chickpeas, green beans and lentils.
- Low sugar fruits
- Examples - Blackberries, lemons, peaches and strawberries.
- Examples: Chai, pumpkin and flax
- Whole grains
First step is to research. Learn which supplements are of the highest quality. Any helpful adrenal support supplement will contain adaptogenic herbs.
Adaptogens are natural substances that work with your body to help it adapt. Mostly in regards to stress and adrenal support. Adaptogens are a natural ally in dealing with persistent stress and fatigue because they work with regulating important hormones.
Below is a list of both that have been researched within the natural medicine industry.
- Adaptogenic Herbs
- Ashwagandha, holy basil, schizandra, Siberian ginseng and rhodiola rosea
- B Complex Vitamins
- Eleuthero Root
- Fish Oil
- Lavender Oil
- Licorice Root
- Passionflower Leaf
- Rosemary Oil
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
Most importantly is to use a supplement that only has ingredients you need - no fillers. Go Nutrients Adrenal Edge contains nine ingredients - each one is formulated to improve adrenal health. All nine ingredients are non-GMO adaptogenic herbs selected from only the highest quality plants.
Although science has not confirmed the condition adrenal fatigue is real to many. Experts in the natural medicine field are strong proponents for its existence. Many patients have been treated successfully for adrenal fatigue. In the end, the treatments for this condition are beneficial to anyone and have limited side effects.
A healthier lifestyle leads to a positive outcome for everyone. Take that long deep breath and reflect on how you are feeling. Do you have issues that need to be addressed to improve your overall life? It is never too late to do just that.