Have you been feeling more anxious than usual? Maybe you are bone shattingly tired, or you find yourself craving sugar. Perhaps you've been waking in the night for no apparent reason. You could be experiencing adrenal fatigue. Read on to find adrenal fatigue foods, tests and supplements, what they are and how they can work for you.
But first a quick story about my own experience with adrenal fatigue:
Just after I had my second child I went through what I consider the worst 3 years of my life. Pete and I were living out the stuff of nightmares in a business with an evil witch holding all the power.
I remember waking on the morning after our escape thinking and feeling I have nothing left. I was suffering full blown adrenal fatigue only I didn’t realise it at the time.
As is often the way with women, instinct kicked in and my head and heart knew that I needed to take it easy. I only did what was absolutely necessary. I slept, ate well, didn’t start anything that took too much brain power and enjoyed being a mum for a while.
On reflection there was so much more I could have done to for a quicker recovery but luckily I had age on my side and recovery came reasonably easily.
As we get older and move into menopause and beyond adrenal fatigue becomes more common as the stresses that come with aging catch up with us. It is now so much more important to know what you are dealing with and how to go about reversing adrenal fatigue naturally.
What Are Adrenal Glands?
The adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce a variety of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol which they use to regulate the body’s response to stress.
Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you're totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body's "fight or flight" response.
The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body's normal reaction to stress. It is a necessary reaction so you are alert and ready in case of an emergency, such as when being stalked by a shark in today’s terms, when you take evasive action to prevent a car crash.
After a short time, the fight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.
Overworked Adrenal Glands
What happens to your body when you subject yourself to stress constantly? Notice I say “subject yourself”. You are in complete control of the stress you allow yourself to be under.
When your adrenal glands are constantly secreting stress hormones, they can become tired. Your cortisol reserves dry up and that’s when adrenal fatigue sets in.
Other hormone issues such as hyperthyroidism can exacerbate adrenal fatigue by putting more pressure on your body to produce cortisol.
Tests For Adrenal Fatigue
There are not medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it's not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working.
At that point, there can be a diagnosis of "Adrenal Insufficiency" or "Addison's Disease".
This can be tested for with the ACTH Stimulation Test. Cortisol levels in the blood are measured before and after a synthetic hormone (ACTH) is given by injection.
The adrenal fatigue saliva test can be done at home.
You can get a test kit online which will contain a full set of instructions and all equipment required to provide your sample for testing.
Testing is done by taking 4 saliva samples over a 12 hour period. You would then send the samples to a collection centre for testing.
After assessing the test a health practitioner would contact you with the results.d
What Are The Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue
Your natural cortisol level starts higher in the morning to wake you up and get you moving.
It tapers off during the day and is at its lowest in the wee small hours of the morning.
Constant high levels of stress during the day can disrupt this pattern and are caused by:
- To much coffee
- To much sugar
- Not enough sleep
- Not taking time out
When your levels of cortisol have been elevated for a long time they can become depleted.
The list of symptoms for Adrenal fatigue is almost identical to the list of symptoms that you might experience in menopause. Which makes complete sense as it is a hormone imbalance.
Healing adrenal fatigue is therefore much the same as what you would do for improving your menopause symptoms with maybe a few small distinctions.
This is the sort of exhaustion and fatigue that you can’t seem to shake. You feel foggy and heavy.
A midday nap doesn’t fix it and you’ve just started sleeping through your alarm in the morning.
A very common symptom of adrenal fatigue, especially for women, is putting on weight around your waistline. You might be eating healthy and exercising but the weight is still going on.
When your cortisol spikes, as it continually does with adrenal fatigue, your body thinks you're in a life or death situation and redirects blood flow to your legs and arms in case you need to run for your life.
And in case food sources are going to be scarce your body converts all the excess energy it can into fat. On guess where. Of course, straight to your waist it goes.
To complicate matters more, high intensity workouts can also spike your stress hormones. Drop the hard core cardio in favour of more weights and HIIT or yoga.
ARE YOU MAKING THESE MENOPAUSE WEIGHT LOSS MISTAKES?
And what you should be doing instead!
Not Sleeping Well
When cortisol levels are up and down they can cause you to wake in the night and usually around 3 am.
It is worth noting that unstable sugar levels in your blood causing hormonal imbalance can also do this.
A 3 am wakeup is your possibly body crying out for energy, and one way to fix it is to drink something high in fat before bed that can nourish you overnight.
A warm chai latte before bed could help this. Here is my recipe for one which is super delicious.
One of the other functions of the adrenal glands isto control your hydration.
The more stress you have, the more hormones and salt they send out to circulate in the body.
When your stress levels fall, all that sodium that has built up needs to be excreted so the body will let it out in your urine along with other important minerals.
If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue you may lose the ability to keep your sodium, potassium, and magnesium levels where they need be.
This then causes cravings for foods which will replace the sodium that we have lost.
If you're peeing a lot, your skin is dry and you are craving salty foods, maybe consider taking some electrolytes until you can get your hormones under control.
We have two separate nervous systems in our bodies. The sympathetic and parasympathetic. Too much stress means you spend your time using the sympathetic system, otherwise known as the fight or flight system.
In contrast the parasympathetic system is known as rest and digest.
As mentioned earlier when you are in fight or flight, blood is diverted to the legs and arms taking it away from your digestive system.
Continued high levels of cortisol can lead to digestive issues. Digestive issues can then lead to other more serious problems.
The Gut / Adrenal Gland Connection
It is widely considered that there is a connection between the health of your gut and the health of your adrenal glands. If you feel you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue the easiest place to start would be to work to get your gut in balance.
If you don’t experience a change for the better, then it is important you see your doctor to rule out other conditions.
Anxiety and depression
Of course when you are stressed you feel jittery and anxious and with continual high cortisol this becomes your normal state.
It is also the case when cortisol is depleted as with adrenal fatigue, we can tend towards low moods.
Further symptoms that may show up when you’re adrenal glands don’t work as they should
• Aches and pains
• Blood sugar imbalance / sugar cravings throughout the day
• Falling prey to every virus and sickness that passes by.
• Breakouts and acne
• Low sex drive
• Brain fog and memory loss
• Poor circulation and dizziness
• Irritability and mood swings
• Hunger shortly after eating
• Having a short fuse
Best Natural Treatments For Adrenal Fatigue
Healing your adrenals to the point where you feel normal is a long slow journey so you need to be in it for the long haul.
My suggestion is to live it everyday. As you go about your life consider everything you do with respect to what it will do to your adrenals.
- Do you really need that second cup of coffee or glass of wine?
- Perhaps you don't need to watch another half hour of T.V.? Why not switch off and wind down for the night before bed or maybe do a wind down yoga routine like this one.
- Try having a glass of water each time you enter the kitchen to keep your hydration up.
- Get to bed 15 minutes earlier, then 30 minutes.
- Put aside time for meditation
How to Heal your Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue Foods
Here are all the usual suspects of a bad diet and a good one.
- Refined Carbohydrates -
- every type of sugar
- sugar syrups
- all types of flour
- any ingredient with starch in its name
- products containing refined carbs
- instant cereals and grains such as polished white rice, porridge etc.
- Other inflammatory foods
- Processed meats
- Trans fats
- Vegetable and seed oils
- High fructose corn syrup
Include these adrenal fatigue fighting foods:
- lean protein, especially in the morning to stave off cravings and stabalise blood sugar
- leafy greens and colorful vegetables
- low-sugar fruits
- sea salt in moderation - aids the body in eliminating toxic minerals.
- healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and grapeseed oil
- probiotics to promote gut health
Consider how much coffee you drink
This is a funny one. If you usually drink coffee keep doing so but try to stick to one in the morning.
If you don’t usually drink coffee and you have adrenal fatigue, now is not the time to start.
People who are used to drinking coffee don’t get the same cortisol spike as people who are new to drinking coffee however, thankfully you still get the same boost of awakeness.
Take supplements to help balance your hormones
Tends to be deficient in people with adrenal fatigue. A B vitamin is a great way to boost your energy if you’re feeling fatigued..
Magnesium works well to promote calm. It can be effective in helping with depression and is important for optimal thyroid function.
One of the first signs of magnesium deficiency is fatigue.
Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt): Lavender Bath Salts
- 2 cups Epsom salts
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
As you're running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved
Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!
Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.
Magnesium calm is a great product and will also help with hydration.
These electrolyte drops are easy Just add a few drops to your water. You may need to add a wee squeeze of lemon if you dislike the taste
Helps with absorption of other vitamins and minerals, plus hydration. Vitamin C tablets will support the body to replenish a run-down adrenal and immune system, and help keep stress and fatigue to manageable levels.
Ashwagandha can improve resistance to stress as it slows down cortisol production in the body.
It helps improve hormone imbalance which will lessen some of the impacts of symptoms such as mood swings and anxiety. It may also improve energy levels.
Meditation is one of the most powerful ways to cope with stress. I know from experience that even only 10-15 minutes per day allows me to better cope with stressful situations.
Try it for two weeks every day and see if you notice a difference
Don’t Do heavy cardio workouts
Cardio-heavy workouts will spike your cortisol making symptoms of adrenal fatigue worse.
Try pilates, yoga, walking or easy biking.
An cardio work at night will cause a cortisol reponse the may disrupt your sleep.
Get 8+ Hours of Non-Disrupted Sleep
I know this can be difficult, especially for mums with kids at home.
Help your body help you by not drinking coffee after midday, eating to improve your blood sugar levels and doing gentle exercise in the morning.
Have a good night time routine and go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Signal your body that it is time for bed by turning down lights, and doing something other than sitting in front of a blue screen.
Stick To Calm Social Activities
Pick and choose what you do in your social life. Perhaps a walk or yoga session and coffee with friends is better than a night-club and drinks.
A movie and a vegan meal is better than a loud party.
Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they get tired.
Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific tell-tale symptoms.
The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques and balancing your gut biome with the adrenal fatigue foods mentioned earlier in this article.