What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue
When talking about adrenal fatigue, we need to first start with the adrenal glands themselves. They are small but mighty structures located on top of each of our kidneys. They produce hormones that help regulate everything from blood pressure to our metabolism and even our mood. When they’re not functioning properly, the body can feel fatigued – wired but tired, depressed, anxious, cold, and you might even notice hair loss, energy spikes and crashes, and mental health issues. Some additional clues that can point to adrenal fatigue include:
- “Crashing” early on and/or throughout your day
- You’re tired all day at work, but feel energetic in the evening
- You’re exhausted at night but have trouble falling asleep
- Feeling unrested after a full night’s sleep
- Sweating excessively when performing light tasks (due to your endocrine system working overtime to compensate for the lack of adrenaline)
- Feeling thirsty and you can’t quite seem to quench your thirst, you have a dry mouth, or crave salt
- Blurry vision or difficulty focusing (cortisol can dehydrate the body, including the eyes)
- Craving stimulants. If you’re reaching for cigarettes, caffeine, and/or sugary snacks to keep you going, you may be instinctively substituting for your diminishing adrenal hormones.
- Unexplained weight gain
- Feeling emotionally fragile
But don’t worry! It is possible for your adrenals to heal if you know what steps to take to nourish them properly.
1. Eat every couple of hours to keep your blood sugar balanced
Eating only three times per day can be tough on the adrenal glands. This is because your adrenals release cortisol whenever your blood sugar drops too low between meals, which then brings your blood sugar back up. So, if you frequently go without eating for long stretches, you’re straining your adrenals and not giving them a chance to recuperate. Thus, you can support your adrenals by eating a light, balanced snack every 1.5 to 2 hours.
Examples of adrenal-supportive snacks include:
- One date (potassium), two celery sticks (sodium), and an apple (sugar)
- Half an avocado (potassium), spinach (sodium), and an orange (sugar)
- A sweet potato (potassium), parsley (sodium), and lemon squeezed on kale (sugar)
These examples aren’t substitutes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; they are examples of snacks to keep your blood sugar steady in between those bigger meals.
Other foods that support adrenal health include sprouts, asparagus, wild blueberries, bananas, garlic, broccoli, kale, raspberries, blackberries, romaine lettuce, and red-skinned apples. These foods help to strengthen the nervous system, reduce inflammation, ease stress, and provide critical nutrients for adrenal function.
2. Use Adaptogenic Herbs to Nourish and Support the Adrenals
Adaptogens have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Adaptogens increase the adrenal glands’ ability to cope with both physical and mental stressors. They work by “sensing” the body’s stress hormone levels, and either increasing them or lowering them, depending on the body’s needs. This ensures that we’re not too stressed or too tired. Some of our favourites include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Passionflower, Ginseng, Cordyceps and Reishi.
3. Address Key Nutrient Deficiencies
The adrenal glands require Magnesium, B12, and B6 to produce the hormones we need to regulate our energy levels, mood, mental energy, and overall wellbeing. And while they are found in many whole foods, we generally don’t get enough of them. This is because we need a lot of them, especially when we are stressed. Not to mention that these nutrients are easily excreted by the body, so they need to be replenished daily. And on top of that, most diets today are lacking in enough whole foods and these key nutrients, so we strongly encourage supplementing.
4. Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption
Stimulants are ultimately the number one depleting thing for the adrenal glands. Because stimulants force the adrenal glands to overproduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol (the same way it would if you were to encounter a lion), it leaves them depleted in times of need. Even worse, is when you’re already so depleted that stimulants no longer give you that boost.
If you feel dependent on caffeine, try swapping out your coffee for something that contains lower amounts of caffeine such as Matcha tea or Chai Tea. This will help reduce the demand on your adrenals. Another healthy way to increase your energy naturally would be to incorporate gentle exercise. Movement creates energy, along with countless other benefits!
In the case of alcohol, the same stress response occurs during consumption, and again when it stops. Not to mention that cortisol levels in the brain remain elevated long after blood cortisol levels return to normal. On top of that, the more taxed your adrenals are, the greater the toll alcohol will take on your body.
However, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to be gentle on yourself. Healing takes time and consistency, but with the right daily actions, you can feel energized, happy, and in control again.