03 Sep Adrenal Fatigue; Support and Recovery
Does this sound like you:
- Wake up tired, regardless of how much you sleep or of the quality of your sleep
- Carry excess weight in the middle of your body – waistline
- Intense symptoms of PMS, peri-menopause or menopause
- Gain energy as the day goes on, get second wind at night
- Can’t seem to lose weight no matter what you do
- Have trouble staying awake when you’re relaxed
- Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Poor or diminishing memory, foggy feeling
- Get sick often with flu, colds or infections
- Crave high-protein, salty or sugary foods
- Have difficulty making decisions
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Have digestive issues
- Exercising drains you
- Losing muscle mass
- Feel wired, yet tired
- Feel weak all over
- Frequently cold
- Retain water
- Easily irritated, quick to lose your temper or prone to road rage
- Down, depressed, listless or numb to emotions
- Frequently feel as though on the edge of crying
- Mentally foggy or have trouble concentrating
- Feel stressed or anxious frequently
- Often feel overwhelmed
- Low sex drive
- Startle easily
If this sounds familiar, you might be struggling with adrenal fatigue.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue, sadly is a very common condition, particularly among women that often does not get an official medical diagnosis. It’s estimated that approximately 80 % of North Americans suffer from adrenal fatigue in their lifetime, yet it remains undiagnosed medically.
The relatively small walnut sized adrenal glands are responsible for one of the body’s most important functions; managing stress. When the adrenal glands become taxed or fatigued (which is commonly the accumulated effects from the stressors of modern living), the entire body feels the effects and the result is exhaustion.
Because the adrenals produce various biochemicals that are responsible for so many body functions, adrenal problems can represent a number of imbalances in blood sugar, digestion, hormone production, thyroid function, mood regulation (anxiety, depression), cognitive ability, cardiovascular health, and immunity. In short, reduced adrenal function affects every organ and system in your body.
To address adrenal fatigue, there is no one magic bullet to repair your taxed adrenals. You must approach impaired adrenal function holistically, by assessing and modifying your stressors, lifestyle, diet and replenishing nutrient deficiencies. With some patience and persistence, adrenal function can be stored.
Here are some basic steps to help you support optimal adrenal function:
What to eat
The quality of food that you eat at any time in life is important, but even more important when you’re attempting to recover from adrenal fatigue. Getting an abundance of varied nutrients will serve your adrenals best and can be accomplished by eating whole real foods that come straight from the earth in their natural state.
- Quality proteins, free of antibiotics, hormones or chemicals
- Plenty of colourful plants like fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, pulses, lentils
- Mineral rich salt (like Celtic sea salt)
- Eat a combination of protein, good quality fat and complex carbohydrates at every meal
- Avoid eating processed, packaged or fast foods
Protein is of primary importance when recovering from any imbalance or illness, hence it’s name… derived from the Greek word “primo’s” which fittingly means primary. Chose good quality protein sources that are free of antibiotics and chemicals like meats, poultry, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes, quinoa and other plant sources. Avoid eating soy products during your recovery as it can have a negative affect on the hormonal cascade.
Eat vegetables at EVERY meal, including breakfast. Vegetables provide the much needed nutrients to help support your adrenals, like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. With compromised adrenals, digestion may be impaired so you may find benefit in lightly cooking, steaming or poaching your veggies instead of eating raw vegetables, which can be harder to digest. It’s best to get a wide variety of vegetables with various colours to increase the nutrient content of your diet. Different colour vegetables provide various phytonutrients, which have varied health benefits.
Blood sugar regulation is uber important when repairing adrenal function. For that reason, limit fruit consumption to 2 servings per day. It will be best to chose organic fruits or ones free of chemicals like pesticides, herbicides or insecticides. When you eat fruit, ensure that you pair it with good quality fat or protein (like nuts, seeds, eggs, etc). And avoid eating fruit on it’s own to keep your blood sugar balanced.
Fatigued adrenals can benefit greatly from sodium. When adrenal glands are fatigued, the production of several hormones, including adrenaline, cortisol and aldosterone are reduced. The sodium balance, on a cellular level can be disrupted when there is a lack of aldosterone. It is important to use high quality, mineral rich salt like Celtic Sea Salt, not typical iodized table salt. The contra-indication for increased sodium intake is for those individuals that have high blood pressure. If you don’t care for the taste of salt on your food, sprinkle a little on your hand and lick it off or add it to your water instead. Try adding at least 1/8 to 1/4 of tsp of mineral rich salt to your diet in the morning and again in the evening to start, then increase consumption throughout the day as needed.
When to eat
Regulating blood sugar and energy levels are extremely important on the road to adrenal recovery. Your taxed adrenals will be best served if you eat within 30 – 45 minutes of rising and you continue to eat frequently throughout the day at 2 – 3 hour intervals after your first meal. Remember to have balanced meals and snacks that contain quality protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.
What to do
Sleep is the phase in which your brain and body repair themselves from the day’s activities. Neurons regain energy, cells repair themselves, muscle and tissues regenerate and memory gets consolidated. If you are not restoring your energy with quality sleep, you will place additional stress on the entire body, including your adrenals. Aim to get 8 – 9 hours of quality sleep per night. If possible get to bed by 10 p.m. and sleep as often as you can until 9 a.m. Ensure your room is dark, free of electronics, slightly cool and comfortable.
When you are fatigued, exercise is probably the last thing you want to do, but even a little bit of movement will help in your adrenal recovery. It is important to move your body gently and incorporate breathing practices daily. In the case of adrenal fatigue, it is imparative that you don’t add undue stress of strenuous exercise to your already taxed system. Good options for moving your body are doing things you enjoy and that are restorative, like walking, nature walks, yoga and breathing practices.
- B-complex (including B5, B6, B12 + Folate)
- Omega 3’s
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Botanicals and adaptogens like ashwaganda, maca, rhodiola, licorice root and astragalus
* See your natural health care practitioner for specific dosages and recommendations.
What to Avoid
- Refined grains
- Pushing yourself
- Staying up past 11:00 pm
- Eating only carbs at a meal
- Foods you are allergic or sensitive to
- Negative self talk, negative thoughts
While it may impossible to completely remove all stressors from your life, you will benefit greatly from reducing as much stress as possible. Here are few suggestions to help reduce your stress load:
- Do at least one thing each day that you enjoy.
- To calm the mind and body, practice breathing exercises and meditation daily.
- Journal about your emotions, thoughts and feelings to help you process your internal dialogue.
- Avoid situations, people, foods, beverages that stress you or overstimulate you. That means eliminate alcohol, sugar, caffeine as well as stressful environments and situations.
- Laugh daily and laugh often. Watch, listen to or ready funny things. Share jokes and laughs as much as possible.
You can refer to my The Art of Balance (Stress Reduction Guide) for additional strategies, techniques, exercises, breathing practices and meditations to help to manage your stress level.
The Road to Recovery
Adrenal fatigue is not something you can reverse quickly or with one magic pill. In fact, because it is typically caused by years of adrenal-depleting factors, it can take six months up to years to reverse. Recovering from adrenal fatigue must be done in a nurturing and supportive way rather than with an aggressive, all-in or quick approach.
For a supportive and progressive approach to recovery, check out The Art of Living From the Inside Out online transformational program to see if it’s right for you and your recovery needs. It’s an all encompassing 8-week video based nutrition and lifestyle program that I created to address all areas of nourishing yourself AND can be done at your own pace.
Have you suffered from adrenal fatigue? Do you have any suggestions that have helped you?