Did you know that chronic stress can affect your body’s 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 isn’t 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.
A relatively new term, “adrenal fatigue” was proposed as a new condition in 1998 by Dr. James L. Wilson, a naturopath and chiropractor. His assumption was that an overstimulation of the adrenal glands (or “adrenals”) by long-term stress could lead to an inconsistent level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the bloodstream.
In addition to this overload or improper stress hormone levels, people with adrenal fatigue often don’t have enough DHEA, the “parent hormone” responsible for the creation of many necessary hormones in the body.
Dr. Wilson describes the unique progression of adrenal fatigue throughout the day as follows:
The major issue with recognizing or diagnosing adrenal fatigue is the inability to distinguish its symptoms and patterns from other disorders. The parameters for this condition are nonspecific, which, unfortunately, has led to a great controversy around this topic, even though the very nature of cortisol and bodily hormones is that the effects are far-reaching.
A diagnosis for this condition is difficult because stress hormone levels typically fall in what conventional medicine would call “inside the normal range,” although the symptoms are clear to those suffering from the condition.
People who believe that adrenal fatigue isn’t a real health concern often state that consistent levels of chronic stress have no effect on the adrenals and the only true endocrine disorders are those caused by other diseases and direct damage to the adrenal glands.
However, many practitioners of natural medicine know, from experience in a health care practice and supporting scientific evidence, that hypoadrenia is very real and associated with a number of complications.
In addition, adrenal fatigue treatment is relatively non-invasive and is beneficial to your health, no matter the diagnosis. Of course, you should be under the care of a qualified medical professional, such as a functional medicine doctor, you trust, and see her or him about any symptoms you experience (of any disease) so the doctor can determine appropriate treatment.
Your adrenal glands (adrenals) are two thumb-sized organs that sit above your kidneys and are part of the endocrine system. Also known as the suprarenal glands, they’re involved in producing over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function, many of which are essential for life.
The adrenal glands work closely with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in a system known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis).
Adrenal glands play a huge role in stress response. Here’s how it works:
Your adrenal glands are also responsible for balancing hormones.
When discussing problems with adrenal function, it’s important to understand that adrenal fatigue is not the same thing as adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease or Cushing’s syndrome/Cushing’s disease.
Here’s a quick breakdown of these conditions and how they are different than adrenal fatigue:
What happens when the adrenal glands stop producing hormones efficiently?
Every bodily function is affected, and as adrenal hormone levels ebb and flow abnormally, even the normal “get-up-and-go” you get from them disappears.
Studies indicate that adrenal fatigue symptoms include:
As you can see, there are a number of symptoms that might be related to other underlying disorders, including some very common women’s health issues.
Fortunately, the ways to combat these issues are very similar and benefit your overall health. If you’ve experienced any of these adrenal fatigue side effects, take heart, for there are now many natural ways to treat and support your adrenal system.
Adrenal fatigue is a condition in which the body and adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience. Sometimes misunderstood as an autoimmune disorder, adrenal fatigue can mimic some precursors to other common illnesses and diseases.
Wellness doctors and practitioners believe that an episode of acute stress or prolonged (especially for over a year), ongoing stress can cause adrenal glands to become overloaded and ineffective, then improperly release cortisol. They believe that hypoadrenia can be caused by:
Can stress cause extreme fatigue? Yes, it absolutely can.
One study found that students undergoing chronic, long-term stress when prepping for medical exams at the end of their educational careers impaired the students’ cortisol awakening response.
By limiting this surge in cortisol that naturally occurs every morning when you wake up to help you feel alert, stress inhibits your ability to wake up fully, no matter how much sleep you get.
Another study, released in 2005, found that students diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome had “alterations in adrenal function,” particularly in females, suggesting that their adrenal glands were no longer receiving a normal amount of stimulation.
Depression may also play a role in the development or effects of adrenal fatigue. Research shows that after a major depressive episode, cortisol responses do not easily readjust to normal levels and might be somewhat responsible for a recurrence of depression.
And there’s research suggesting that hypothalamic dysfunction is common in multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. Researchers are evaluating why dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is common in multiple sclerosis, but it’s believed to be linked to abnormal cortisol secretion.
There are both conventional and natural treatments for adrenal fatigue. The first step is to diagnose the problem, which can be difficult because most people go too long simply dealing with their symptoms.
Many people go for some time without consulting their general physicians or endocrinologists about some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. This is one major reason why diagnosis of this condition is uncommon.
However, experiencing high cortisol symptoms over a long period of time can really take a toll. In addition, some symptoms can be indicative of more serious conditions.
If you experience one or a combination of adrenal fatigue symptoms for an extended period of time and your symptoms have begun interfering with normal life, relationships and/or activities — such as work, family time or school — it’s time to visit your doctor and ask about adrenal fatigue.
Tests for adrenal fatigue are, unfortunately, another source of confusion for many. You should know ahead of time that these tests must be done by someone who understands the nature of adrenal fatigue and that tests for adrenal fatigue are rarely definitive.
The most common of these tests includes testing bodily fluid for cortisol. Blood tests are almost never helpful in this regard, but a 24-hour salivary panel may help your doctor recognize abnormal cortisol patterns, including a lack or overload of stress response.
Many doctors also test thyroid function in conjunction with cortisol levels because of the way these hormonal systems are interconnected.
Other tests that may be used to help diagnose or confirm adrenal fatigue include:
There are also two safe home tests you can try, which include:
Because of the controversial nature of this condition, you may need to seek out a naturopath who will help you treat adrenal fatigue with a combination of dietary advice and supplement recommendations, as well as any hormonal or other medications necessary.
Studies indicate that an oral dose of 20 milligrams of hydrocortisone is recommended by some for routine cortisol management, while an occasional dose of 50 milligrams may be prescribed but should not be taken regularly or in higher doses.
Your physician or endocrinologist should help you understand the potential side effects of this and any other medication recommended.
Treatment for adrenal fatigue involves:
If you’re asking, “How can I help my adrenal glands?” the answer may be closer than you think — adrenal fatigue treatment looks a lot like the healthy, healing diets to help combat the underlying issues causing a number of conditions.
In every case of adrenal recovery, diet is a huge factor. There are a number of foods that offer adrenal support, helping replenish your adrenal energy so your system can come back to full health.
First, you must start by removing any hard-to-digest foods and any toxins or chemicals in your environment.
The idea behind the adrenal fatigue diet is to remove anything that taxes your adrenals.
Foods to avoid include:
Next, you want to add nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest and have healing qualities.
Foods to add to your diet include:
These foods help overcome adrenal fatigue because they’re nutrient-dense, low in sugar and have healthy fat and fiber.
Another major change to overcoming adrenal fatigue is taking the right supplements using supporting herbs. Because it can still be a challenge to get enough of every nutrient you need every day, supplements can be used to ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals that are vital for adrenal support.
In addition, there are certain herbs, spices and essential oils that can help to fight adrenal fatigue and support an energetic, vibrant life.
Remember to use whole-food-based supplements from reputable companies, and use only 100 percent, therapeutic-grade, USDA Certified Organic essential oils. Make sure you trust what you purchase.
The most important key to restoring your adrenal function is to heed your mind and stress needs. Pay attention to your body, and try the following natural stress relievers:
Let’s talk about “self-talk” for a minute. Our bodies are made to heal. However, the words we say have a great impact on our body and our ability to heal.
Regardless of what diet and supplements you take, your environment is one of the most important components.
So, be kind to yourself. Try to avoid saying negative things about yourself and others. It’s important to choose to be around positive people and stay positive about yourself as well.
Many people roll their eyes at such advice, but it’s scientifically proven that it’s possible to reduce pathological worry by practicing “thought replacement,” a positive self-talk practice that involves verbally reciting positive outcomes to stressful situations.
How long does it take to recover? It’s not an easy question to answer because adrenal fatigue recovery time has never been studied.
Recovery for adrenal fatigue can take a little while, though. After all, it took months, maybe years, to wear out your adrenals — so it takes a little time to build up their strength again.
For full adrenal recovery, you can expect it to take:
The best approach is to make solid changes to your lifestyle for lasting results. Some people notice a difference in their overall well-being after just a few weeks of better foods that aid in detoxification of the body and adrenal fatigue supplements.
If you aim for a balanced lifestyle with a healthy level of sleep, exercise, fun and a positive environment, then you are most likely to keep your adrenal system going strong!
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. Don’t 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.
The post What Is Adrenal Fatigue? Steps to Overcome It Naturally appeared first on Dr. Axe.