Adrenal fatigue (or burnout) is a condition when the adrenal glands are overwhelmed and overworked, which can lead to hormonal imbalance and low cortisol levels. Adrenal fatigue is quite a big problem nowadays, affecting millions of people of all ages. If you suspect the condition, you will be recommended an endocrinologist who will test you for Cushing or Addison’s disease, rare endocrine disorders triggered by dangerously low cortisol levels. The treatment for both diseases is quite difficult and involves medication or surgery, but you should know that you can fix your adrenals naturally.
Is Adrenal Fatigue A Hoax?
No, adrenal fatigue is very real. Many doctors fail to acknowledge the condition as it is a disease for which they can prescribe drugs. Most doctors refer to adrenal fatigue as hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction which is a term that describes miscommunication between the brain and adrenals. Adrenal fatigue isn’t a problem with the adrenals themselves – it’s actually a lack of communication between the brain and the gland. This leads to low cortisol levels as the production of this vital hormone is impaired and a slew of health problems.
The adrenals are a couple tiny glands sitting on top of the kidneys that are responsible for our sex hormones and cortisol (the stress hormone). In more ways than one, the adrenals are a control center for the human body – they manage our stress response, the function of our thyroid, our libido, metabolism and hormone levels as well. When they’re functioning properly, your body will run smooth. If their function is impaired, however, you will experience problems.
During stress, the body reacts with a chain of hormonal events that prepare it for “battle.” The hypothalamus releases the CRH hormone which stimulates the production of the ACTH hormone. This in turn stimulates the release of cortisol in the body which puts the body in a fight-or-flight mode and ensures you don’t lose your senses when stressed.
However, constant stress and other factors trigger this cycle non-stop, resulting in high cortisol levels and eventually depletion of the hormones needed to help with stress. Over time, this can overwork the adrenals and cause anxiety and depression as well as neuroendocrine dysfunction.
Adrenal fatigue causes a variety of symptoms including:
- brain fog
- weight gain
- low libido
- loss of focus
- sugar and/or salt cravings
- digestive problems
All of this can lead to serious problems and will definitely interfere with your daily activities, so stopping the problem before it does further damage is of utmost importance.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
The causes of adrenal fatigue are many. The main trigger is surely stress, but unhealthy lifestyle and diet, alcohol abuse, autoimmune disorders, microbiome imbalance, lack of sleep and chronic inflammation can also be the causes. Too much coffee when you’re under stress can also overwork the adrenals. Not sleeping well won’t allow your body to regulate hormones and heal and if all of this goes on for years, your adrenals will definitely suffer.
The good news is that preventing adrenal fatigue is as simple as paying more attention to your diet and sleeping properly overnight. Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep and eat a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables. Learn how to relax as well, as stress can trigger all the events that will lead to adrenal fatigue. You can try meditation, yoga or various breathing techniques that will provide results. Add some probiotics and vitamin C in your diet, reduce your coffee and alcohol intake and eat in regular intervals and your adrenal should start sorting themselves out.
The first step you should do, however, is get a saliva test at your doctor in order to detect any problems with the adrenals. The test will measure your cortisol levels and requires 4 samples. Your doctor will then identify the real problem and tell you what you need to do to heal your adrenal glands.
The second step in the treatment requires consuming a nutrient-dense diet along with a healing protocol. Vegetables should be the base of all your meals and you should also consume high-quality proteins that should come from grass-fed meat and fish. Switch the regular table salt with sea salt and introduce healthy fats in your diet such as coconut oil, butter and ghee. Finally, add some bone broth in your daily diet as well as sea vegetables and probiotics.
The third step of the treatment is adding some supplements in your diet. These include vitamins B and C, probiotics, adaptogenic herbs as well as nettle and tulsi tea. All these supplements will regulate your cortisol production and relieve stress, effectively improving the function of your adrenals.
The fourth and final step of the treatment is restoring your natural circadian rhythm. In order to start sleeping properly and get some much-needed rest, you need to put your sleep on a schedule. Try waking up and going to bed at the same time, eat every 4 hours and don’t get in bed later than 11 PM. Make sure your blood sugar levels are kept in check as well – this means removing sugar and gluten-rich foods from your diet. Support your digestion and metabolism with probiotics and you should be able to sleep much better.
We mentioned adding adaptogenic herbs into your diet in order to support your adrenals. The best adaptogenic herbs that can help you do that are ashwagandha, licorice root, holy basil, schizandra, maca root and rhodiola. Of course, you shouldn’t pick them on your own. We suggest going to a health store and talking about your problem with a nutritionist who can recommend the best herb for your case.