Fatigue Adrenal Fatigue And What To Do
Sangeeta Pati, MD, FACOG
Is it normal to get tired as we grow older?
As we age, hormone production and nutrient status decline. Hormone function is about 50% by the age of 50. Absorption of B-12 declines naturally with age. Although this is still considered normal, it is not optimal. The decline of hormones and nutrients results in a host of symptoms and ultimately leads to degenerative diseases such as arthritis, heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer. Correction of hormones and nutrients to optimal levels and mind-body interventions generally correct energy levels back to normal.
Why are we seeing more fatigue and adrenal compromise?
With increasing frequency we are faced with the progression of fatigue to adrenal insufficiency and often adrenal failure. These are the people, of any age, who come in with fatigue, achiness, insomnia, inflammation, hypersensitivity to everything, panic attacks and many more symptoms. These are the ones who end up with diagnoses such as fibromyalgia, anxiety disorder and early arthritis. As such, this has been appropriately called The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr. James Wilson. At this point in history, we will rarely encounter the patient who has strong adrenal function because:
What is adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout?
What are causes of fatigue and adrenal insufficiency?
Fatigue is caused by imbalances in each of the 5 areas of the 5-point model :
5. Body Balance:
Origins Of The Myth Of Adrenal Fatigue
The website of chiropractor and naturopath James L. Wilson, DC, ND, PhD, says that he coined the term adrenal fatigue in 1998 to identify below optimal adrenal function resulting from stress and distinguish it from Addisons disease. As many other naturopaths have taken up the diagnosis, it has spread widely across the Internet. Wilsons website notes that conventional medicine does not yet recognize it as a distinct syndrome.
That rather understates the attitude of conventional medicine. A literature review published last year in BMC Endocrine Disorders found no substantiation that adrenal fatigue is an actual medical condition. Therefore, adrenal fatigue is still a myth.
Adrenal fatigue is not recognized by the Endocrine Society or any other endocrinology society, but adrenal insufficiency is. One glaring problem for the adrenal fatigue concept is that the reported symptoms dont match those from adrenal insufficiency, although there is some overlap. The adrenal fatigue symptoms are mostly nonspecific including being tired or fatigued to the point of having trouble getting out of bed experiencing poor sleep feeling anxious, nervous, or rundown craving salty and sweet snacks and having gut problems, says Nieman. For the most part, these do not match symptoms of chronic adrenal insufficiency, which is characterized by weight loss, joint pain, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dry skin, low blood pressure, and fatigue.
What Do Adrenal Glands Do
Your adrenal glands are responsible for secreting more than 50 different hormones that are essential for life. Among these are adrenaline, cortisol, progesterone and testosterone. They are also responsible for the amount of inflammation in our body, our immune system, our blood sugar levels and the electrolytes in our blood. They influence all the physiological functions processes of the body and help stave off physical fatigue. Because they regulate so many important hormones, their proper function is critical for many functions essential to life such as producing energy, balancing electrolytes and storing fat.
These glands also help you deal with stress. When you are under stress, the adrenal glands engage many different responses in your body to make it easier for you to handle that stress.
But during periods of intense, prolonged stress or chronic illness, the adrenal glands begin functioning below the level needed to maintain health and well-being in the body. They still function, but at less than optimal levels. The result is adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion.
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How Do You Treat Adrenal Fatigue
Finding a cure for your adrenal fatigue usually means reversing the factors that led to your poor health in the first place. This might mean removing added sugars and junk food from your diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding or eliminating sources of stress.
There are other ways to support your body, make it more resilient to stress, and treat your adrenal fatigue. Adaptogenic supplements like ashwagandha can help to moderate your stress response, while basic nutrients like vitamin C can give your adrenal glands the nutrients they need.
Anatomy Of The Adrenal Glands
An adrenal gland is made of two main parts:
The adrenal cortex is the outer region and also the largest part of an adrenal gland. It is divided into three separate zones: zona glomerulosa, zona fasciculata and zona reticularis. Each zone is responsible for producing specific hormones.
The adrenal medulla is located inside the adrenal cortex in the center of an adrenal gland. It produces stress hormones, including adrenaline.
The adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla are enveloped in an adipose capsule that forms a protective layer around an adrenal gland.
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Adrenal Fatigue: What To Do When You Just Cant Do It Anymore
July 30, 2013 By Jaime Coffey Martinez
The bodys reaction to stress is called the stress response. Without this finely tuned process, we would not be able to get through a day. However, our modern-day high-tech, fast-paced lifestyles have elevated stress to epidemic levels. Our lives have become littered with psychological, physical, nutritional and environmental stressors, which in turn assault our body with chronic levels of stress hormones. Initially, there is some ebb and flow, but eventually, when stress becomes chronic, stress hormones are continually produced and released into the bloodstream which can result in a condition called adrenal fatigue.
Avoid Your Food Sensitivities
The low FODMAP diet has specifically been shown to improve fatigue for people with IBS and fibromyalgia . A gluten-free diet like the paleo diet or a low histamine diet are other options that may help, if appropriate for you.
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Q: Why Is A Multidisciplinary Approach So Important
A: After ruling out possible endocrine disorders, your endocrinologist can refer you to other specialists, including urologists, cardiologists, rheumatologists, allergists/immunologists and infectious disease physicians.
If youre diagnosed with POTS or another disorder, these specialists will work together to manage your health and develop a targeted treatment plan putting you on the path to symptom relief.
Symptoms And Signs Of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue develops over time in response to chronic stress. The longer it goes on, the more likely you are to develop symptoms. If youre used to a stressful lifestyle, you might think youre handling stress well. But in adrenal fatigue, your body may be telling you a different story.
Some of the more common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety, intense irritability, fuzzy thinking and weight gain. Adrenal fatigue and adrenal stress can create a long and varied list of symptoms because these issues are often intertwined with other hormonal imbalances.
Women in their 40s and beyond who find themselves tired, tense and stressed-out usually suspect their symptoms are caused by perimenopause. But even when women are on the cusp of menopause, adrenal stress can be the driving force behind more difficult symptoms.
All hormones are connected to and affect one another, but major hormones like cortisol have the greatest impact on hormonal balance. As levels of stress hormone become imbalanced, other parts of your endocrine system can be disrupted, amplifying symptoms and creating further problems.
This adrenal connection to other hormones helps explain why the effects of stress can show up in such a variety of unpleasant ways. First taking care of your adrenal problems makes it easier to resolve other hormonal imbalance problems including menopause symptoms.
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What Is Adrenal Fatigue Steps To Overcome It Naturally
Did you know that chronic stress can affect your bodys ability to recuperate from physical, mental or emotional stress? This is likely why most people have dealt with adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives.
Many proponents of this condition estimate that almost every person can experience adrenal fatigue, also known as hypoadrenia, to some degree at a particularly stressful point in his or her life.
Because the adrenals influence many parts of the body, symptoms of adrenal fatigue can mimic a number of disorders and isnt always easily recognizable.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms, like brain fog, moodiness and trouble sleeping, can be indicative of many disorders and are often overlooked by doctors. But more and more people are starting to realize that a combination of these health issues often indicate the onset of adrenal fatigue.
If you have adrenal fatigue, it can have significant effects on your overall health. Luckily, you can improve this common issue naturally by focusing on your nutrient intake and lifestyle choices.
How To Know If You Have Adrenal Fatigue & What To Do About It
How do you know you have adrenal fatigue? I mean, arent we all tired? In my experience, its really easy to shrug off the signs of adrenal fatigue and just push through, but that can make things much, much worse over time and can start to negatively affect your entire hormonal system. Thats what happened to me, and it brought me to my knees. I implore you to educate yourself about he signs and symptoms and do what you can to be proactive to begin the healing and make the lifestyle changes that adrenal fatigue requires in order to resolve. Adrenal fatigue is a loud and clear message from your body that things are not well.
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Get Vitamin D Levels Into A Healthy Range
Spending more time outside in the sun also helps boost levels of vitamin D, because your body manufactures this important vitamin/hormone when it senses the sun on your skin. Vitamin D is responsible for regulating over 200 genetic pathways, so make sure your levels are high enough. I recommend an optimal range of around 60 to 80 ng/ml. Ask your doctor about a simple blood test to help you keep track.
Here Are 20 Steps To Heal Adrenal Fatigue:
1. As soon as you wake up, drink a glass of water along with 1/4 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt. Then, throughout the day, have a pinch of sea salt with each glass of water and also use it to season your food. Daily total consumption of about 2 teaspoons of Celtic sea salt is a good place to start. The 80+ minerals in the salt will help nourish the adrenals and endocrine system.
2. Eat breakfast within one hour of waking. If you wait any longer than this, it can cause your blood sugar levels to decrease too much and your adrenals can start producing excess cortisol.
3. Eat regular meals throughout the day and include some protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fat in each meal. I know this is a simple step, but skipping meals can put a strain on the adrenals.
4. Remove all processed foods from your diet. Processed foods are a stressor on the body, and the goal is to remove stressors as much as possible to help support the adrenals.
5. Only do low-impact exercise like walking, pilates, gentle yoga or stretching. High impact exercise puts strain on the adrenals, especially when the adrenals are already fatigued. If youre having trouble losing weight, I know this can seem counter-productive, but Ive seen clients lose weight by resting and following the steps Im listing here.
8. Spend more time outdoors. Getting fresh air and being in nature helps reduce the stress response in the body.
13. Consider taking B Vitamins I recommend Cataplex B from Standard Process.
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When Stress Becomes Distress
The dark side of chronic hypervigilance is anxiety! Your brain and body get stuck in survival mode, and you end up with:
- Afternoon fatigue, caffeine, or sugar cravings
- Allergies, food reactions, hives
- Perfectionism, feeling that youre never doing enough
- Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up still tired
But Is Adrenal Fatigue A Real Disease
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce several hormones, among them, cortisol. When under stress, we produce and release short bursts of cortisol into the bloodstream. The adrenal fatigue theory suggests that prolonged exposure to stress could drain the adrenals leading to a low cortisol state. The adrenal depletion would cause brain fog, low energy, depressive mood, salt and sweet cravings, lightheadedness, and other vague symptoms.
Numerous websites mention how to diagnose and treat adrenal fatigue. However, the Endocrinology Society and all the other medical specialties do not recognize this condition. The Endocrinologists are categorical: “no scientific proof exists to support adrenal fatigue as a true medical condition.” This disconnect between conventional and complementary medicine adds to the frustration.
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Increase Your Stress Tolerance
Though stress doesnt fatigue your adrenal glands, it does have documented effects on your mental wellness, memory, immune system, digestion, sleep, and hormones, and can absolutely cause fatigue .
Adaptogens are herbs that help your body tolerate stress better and support good energy levels. Rhodiola , Eleuthero , and Ginseng have been shown to help reduce fatigue, stress, and exhaustion . Licorice root is commonly recommended to help with fatigue, but there is virtually no research to confirm this.
Lifestyle changes to increase your sleep, and to manage your stress can help you feel less overwhelmed and fatigued by day-to-day stress. Going to bed early, handling sleep problems like sleep apnea, and practicing stress reduction activities like yoga, meditation, exercise, and time in nature can help too.
What Do The Adrenals Do
The adrenal glands are the bodys emergency system. When the body is under chronic stress, the adrenals will send out cortisol into the bloodstream. Over time, chronic cortisol output can weaken the endocrine system, immune system, liver, digestive system, and brain. It can also cause the thyroid to slow down and in some rare cases, it will speed up . So, if you are wanting to reduce your thyroid symptoms, start with healthy adrenal glands.
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This Is How To Recover From Adrenal Fatigue
Recovering from adrenal fatigue depends upon you. It means changing your lifestyle, changing your relationships with other people, and taking good care of yourself. I tell my patients to treat yourself just like you would a newborn babywith a lot of loving care and attention. When you are tired, go to sleep. When you are hungry be sure you have plenty of healthful, nourishing food. When you are stressed by someones demands, learn to say no, at least temporarily. In this way, you will slowly learn to take the stress off your adrenal glands and allow them to heal.
Warning Signs You Have Adrenal Fatigue And How To Beat It Forever
The easy, relaxed lifestyle experienced by our ancestors no longer exists, and we’re not even aware of how much stress we’re under. The problem? “Our lifestyles have changed, but our bodies haven’t,” Dr. James Wilson said in his November lecture at the First Arizona Choices Exposition in Tucson, Ariz. A large portion of our population is feeling tired and stressed out, and we want to know why.
The adrenal glands sit over the kidneys, where they play a significant role in the body, secreting more than 50 hormones necessary for life, including epinephrine , cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone , progesterone and testosterone. Since they produce so many essential hormones, the adrenal glands are responsible for many of the functions we need to stay alive and healthy, including:
- Energy production – carbohydrate, protein and fat conversion to blood glucose for energy
- Fluid and electrolyte balance
- Fat storage
One hormone in particular, cortisol, is extremely important for keeping our body systems in balance, as well as protecting our cells. For example:
- It controls the strength of the immune system: Too much cortisol weakens the immune system, setting the motions for increased susceptibility to infections and cancer, while too little leads to an overactive immune system and autoimmune disease.
- It normalizes blood sugar.
- It regulates blood pressure.
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Supplements To Improve Fatigue
Low blood levels of vitamin D have been proposed as a contributor to fatigue in a number of autoimmune health conditions, including lupus . However, there are few studies that confirm the relationship. So, though there are numerous reasons to take vitamin D, fatigue isnt one of them.
Risks And Side Effects
First, remember that any new dietary regimen or addition of supplements in your lifestyle should be implemented under the supervision of a physician/naturopath you trust.
In general, introducing more plant-based foods into your lifestyle and eliminating stimulants, sugary foods and processed items with a ton of sodium or chemicals added to them is going to help you feel and live better, regardless of conditions you may or may not have.
The larger concern comes when referring to herbs, spices, supplements and essential oils used to combat adrenal fatigue. Dont blindly use any new supplements, herb or essential oil without medical supervision or proper education on how, how much, how often and how long to use these supplements.
There are several herbs that should not be used when pregnant or breastfeeding. This includes medicinal mushrooms, adaptogenic herbs and some essential oils.
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