When the adrenal glands are not functioning optimally, you can have a condition that is known as adrenal fatigue, or adrenal exhaustion. It is often overlooked, or not acknowledged by doctors. Adrenal fatigue typically develops after periods of intense or lengthy physical or emotional stress, when overstimulation of the glands leave them unable to meet your body’s needs. Some other names for the syndrome include non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, hypoadrenalism, and neurasthenia.
Opponents of the Adrenal Fatigue diagnosis argue that it is an invented condition, and that just because a severe version of the illness (Addison’s) exists, it does not mean that there necessarily has to be a milder form associated with it. This thought by medical professionals is sad and harmful to those suffering with adrenal fatigue. It may be a milder form of a very serious illness, but the symptoms, side effects, and struggles are present and should not be written off.
The history of Adrenal Fatigue goes back to the 1800s, when doctors first began to understand the function of the adrenal glands and how they could affect energy levels, libido, immunity and more. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2081266/
Today, thanks to those who believed in adrenal fatigue, we understand the seriousness of the issue, the symptoms, the triggers, and the treatment options.
Symptoms include: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1044180/?page=1
- body aches
- trouble concentrating
- racing thoughts
- moodiness and irritability
- always tired
- feeling overwhelmed
- hormone imbalance
- cravings for sweet and salty foods
- excessive fatigue and exhaustion
- non-refreshing sleep (you get sufficient hours of sleep, but wake fatigued)
- overwhelmed by or unable to cope with stressors
- feeling rundown or overwhelmed
- craving salty and sweet foods
- you feel most energetic in the evening
- a feeling of not being restored after a full night’s sleep or having sleep disturbances
- low stamina, slow to recover from exercise
- slow to recover from injury, illness or stress
- poor digestion
- low immune function
- food or environmental allergies
- premenstrual syndromeor difficulties that develop during menopause
- consistent low blood pressure
- extreme sensitivity to cold
- excess fat storage
Adrenal fatigue is estimated to affect around 80 percent of people in the world.
Chronic stress and lifestyle affect the body’s ability to recuperate from physical, mental or emotional stress. In fact, whether for a short time or a chronic condition, most people struggle with adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives. Adrenal Fatigue can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. Its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep, but it is not a readily identifiable entity like chicken pox or a mole on your back. You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to make it through the day.
Your adrenal glands are each no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape, yet are responsible for one of the most important functions in your body: managing stress. The adrenal glands mobilize your body’s responses to every kind of stress (whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological) through hormones that regulate energy production and storage, immune function, heart rate, muscle tone, and other processes that enable you to cope with the stress. When exhaustion occurs, it triggers changes in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it is a hard job to accomplish.
Besides managing stress, the adrenal glands are also responsible for balancing blood sugar, releasing steroids to reduce inflammation due to infection or injury, and manage the body’s fluid balances of both sodium and potassium.
Testing for adrenal fatigue can be done several ways: Postural hypoadrenia can be evaluated by taking the blood pressure while lying down and then again while standing up. The blood pressure should rise, up to 10mmhg systolic, or remain the same after standing up. A drop in the systolic pressure while standing indicates adrenal fatigue. Rogoff’s Sign can be tested by shining light into the eye and evaluating pupil size. The pupil normally will constrict and remain smaller. Pupil wavering, dilation, or no constriction at all indicates adrenal fatigue. The adrenal stretch reflex can be tested with Applied Kinesiology (muscle testing). Muscle strength is tested before and after stretching a joint capsule. Muscle weakness after a capsule stretch indicates adrenal fatigue due to a drop in the steroid cortisol.
Healing Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue Diet: http://draxe.com/3-steps-to-heal-adrenal-fatigue/
Before beginning a new diet, knowing what foods you are sensitive to is key. Food sensitivities prevent our bodies from absorbing and using the nutrients they need, as well as promoting inflammation and interfering with our sleep/wake cycle.
Rid the body of grains and sugar. These are very hard on the adrenal glands. Eating excess sugar/starches will cause blood sugar to spike and insulin to come to the rescue due to excess glucose in the bloodstream. Blood sugar then drops or plummets, causing the adrenals to work to bring levels back up. When you are suffering from fatigued adrenal glands, cortisol levels drop and make it difficult to maintain normal blood sugar levels. People with adrenal fatigue tend to have low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is another stressful situation that can further tax your adrenal glands.
Make sure to eat plenty of protein in the morning (and throughout the day), and include a lot of greens and brightly colored vegetables. Consider starting your day with Organic green tea, as it has high levels of nutritive phytochemicals which support the adrenal glands. Use a Natural Salt (Himalayan Sea Salt) regularly, as it contains many trace minerals, which help to support the adrenals. Be sure to eat your meals slowly in small amounts and often.
Specific Foods to avoid:
- Caffeine: This can interfere with your sleep cycle and make it hard for your adrenals to recover.
- Sugar and Sweeteners: This includes avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners as well. Avoid sugary foods, cereals, candy, sweets, etc. Be aware that sugar is an additive in many breads, condiments and dressings. Try to avoid as much extra sugar as possible.
- Processed and microwaved foods: Most microwaveable foods have many preservatives and fillers that are hard to digest and wear out your body’s energy and digestion cycle. Avoid boxed items and things with long shelf-lives. Stick with whole, real foods and cook them yourself.
- Hydrogenated oils: Vegetable oils like soybean, canola and corn oil are highly inflammatory and can lead to adrenal inflammation. Try to only use good fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, organic butter or ghee.
Nutrientd-Dense Foods to Include:
- Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Fatty fish (e.g., wild-caught salmon)
- Chicken and turkey
- Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
- Seeds, such as pumpkin, chia and flax
- Kelp and seaweed
- Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
These foods help overcome adrenal insufficiency because they’re nutrient-dense, low in sugar, and have healthy fat and fiber.
Include Supplements: Taking certain adrenal-boosting nutrients in their whole-food form could greatly improve your symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.
- Holy basil
- Fish oil (EPA/DHA)
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
Get More Sleep: Even if you don’t feel tired, try turning off all electronics (cell phones, computers, tablets, etc.) and close your eyes in a completely dark room before 10 pm at night. Even if you don’t fall asleep and stay asleep, you are lowering your stress levels and retraining your body to sleep when it should be sleeping.
Reduce/Eliminate Stress: It may be impossible to eliminate stress completely, but reducing it is certainly a reasonable task to accomplish. Add yoga, meditation, or tai chi into your weekly routine to help with adrenal exhaustion.
Go Outside: Connect with the earth.
Exercise but do not Over-Train: Excessive cardio or endurance training is hard on the adrenals. Make sure to exercise regularly, but include relaxation, stretching, and yoga.
Studies show that exercising between 1-5pm can raise cortisol levels.
Optimize DHA Levels: When your adrenal glands are unbalanced, your DHEA production will suffer greatly, and your stress hormone (cortisol) can roam freely inside of your body, destroying all the hard work you are doing to get your endocrine system back in shape. One of the best ways to support DHEA in the body is through magnesium supplementation. Magnesium flakes in a foot soak, magnesium oil or lotion topically, or oral supplementation are all ways to increase magnesium intake.
Chiropractic Care for Proper Adrenal Gland Function: The 9th Thoracic vertebrae is very important in the maintaining the nerve supply to the adrenal glands. However it is more complicated than just making sure it is in place, the function of the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis is closely related to the ANS (autonomic nervous system) and influences production of adrenal hormones that regulate stress adaptation. Chronic or excessive stress can overtax the ability of the HPA axis to respond correctly, which results in suboptimal adrenal function (exhaustion). In combination with proper diet and lifestyle changes, chiropractic care can achieve deeper changes that increase well-being, vitality and the ability to handle stress.
Adrenal fatigue not only occurs on its own, but can be a side effect of a chronic illness. Everything from arthritis to cancer adds stress to the adrenal glands and can trigger the laundry list of symptoms listed above. That being said, almost everyone will experience some form of adrenal fatigue in their life span. Losing a loved one, a stressful career path, raising children, the stresses of life may be enough to trigger exhaustion of your glands. By being aware of how you are feeling and taking note of your symptoms, you have the ability to bring your glands back to health. Take the time and energy needed to completely feel whole again.
Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is not a condition you can take a pill and reverse over-night. In fact, because it is typically caused by years of adrenal-depleting factors, it often takes at least six months (and often years) to reverse, and it must be done by nurturing the body rather than fighting it.