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Many of us are battling with adrenal insufficiency, due to an overload of stress. Who doesn't have stress in their life!?
I'm sharing some of the things that I learned after suffering from extreme adrenal exhaustion for almost 1 year. This is not meant to replace medical advice from your doctor, just share some of the things I learned, and that worked for me.
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue? While they can vary greatly from person to person, these are the most common:
Feeling tired in the morning (despite adequate sleep)
Waking up in the middle of the night with energy, panic, or anxiety
Having an “afternoon slump”
Difficulty falling asleep
Weight gain or inability to lose weight
Feeling on edge
Low blood pressure
To start, I want to just be clear about what this diagnosis of "adrenal fatigue" (diagnosed through a cortisol test) actually means. There has been a lot of research done about this, and what we are calling "adrenal fatigue" really isn't an accurate way to put it. The symptoms one experiences with adrenal fatigue are not caused by the adrenal glands being "fatigued."
A few years ago, when I was going through this myself, I listened to a podcast from Wellness Mama with Ari Whitten, best-selling author and the creator of the Energy Blueprint system. He is an energy and fatigue specialist who focuses on taking an evidence-based approach to energy enhancement. It was very eye opening, and I suggest anyone battling with "adrenal fatigue" give this episode a listen. Listen to the Wellness Mama podcast episode #142: Is Adrenal Fatigue Real or Just Bad Science? With Ari Whitten here.
"And the basic idea of adrenal fatigue is that chronic stress, when you have chronic stress in the system, it sort of wears out the adrenal glands, and at a certain point the adrenal glands can no longer produce enough cortisol to keep up with the stress demands, and at that point, you are in adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout, or adrenal exhaustion. And then as a result of those low cortisol levels, you then experience various symptoms. And there are a whole bunch of symptoms that are claimed for adrenal fatigue. Obviously, chronic fatigue is probably the most important one. And then, some others are like hypoglycemia, poor sleep, weight gain, sugar cravings, salt cravings, things of that nature." - Ari Whitten
He explains how if you go online to PubMed, where you can find studies done on virtually every ailment, there is literally no studies or research done on adrenal fatigue. But there are a lot of other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, burnout syndrome and exhaustion disorder, which have symptoms that overlap with "adrenal fatigue" symptoms.
With the research he did on these other syndromes, he was able dive deeper to the root cause and to ask the question "What does this evidence say? Is chronic fatigue caused by dysfunctional adrenals and abnormal cortisol levels?"
This is what the science showed regarding the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue. "The science doesn't support the idea that it's your adrenals and your cortisol levels that are causing it… there's one little nuance here with the cortisol stuff that I wanna add, which is... even if you have low cortisol levels in the morning, (which is what the cortisol testing will test for to see if you have adrenal fatigue) it is actually not evidence of, "Adrenal fatigue." It is not evidence that your adrenals have been worn out and can't produce enough cortisol.
So what is the root cause of all this?
It actually begins in the cellular level, specifically in the mitochondria of your cells. Our mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) is what creates energy in the form or ATP. When our mitochondria are not functioning properly, they will not create the energy needed. So more accurately, adrenal fatigue should be called something more along the lines of "mitochondrial dysfunction."
So basically, chronic stress will down-regulate the mitochondria, putting it more into a hibernation state, shifting it out of energy mode into defense mode. This is the body's natural response to protect you.
Take a listen to the podcast to find out some of the ways Ari explains that we can optimize our mitochondrial function - this is especially of interest to those who suffer from chronic fatigue.
With all that said, I am not going to say do this and don't do that and your "adrenal fatigue" symptoms will disappear, but what I will share are some of the things that I learned when I suffered these symptoms that helped restore my energy, manage my stress and balance out my hormones.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to this. I learned that when it comes to supplements, especially adaptogens, it can take some trial and error finding the perfect match for you. It's important to calm your system down first before trying to rev it up with energy boosting adaptogens. Focus first on the ones that calm you, then work up to the more stimulating ones.
We can say that stress is the #1 cause of our symptoms, especially all those "adrenal" related. That is why these foods/supplements that help manage stress have been very helpful for many.
3 tips to help your body manage stress
1. Provide your adrenals with the right food
Sea salt and minerals When your body has been producing too many stress hormones for too long, the need for minerals increases. Start off the day with 1/4 tsp of sea salt dissolved in water can provide the minerals you need to get going. Continue to include salt in your diet throughout the day. Something that helped me was to make sole water (pronounced solay) water, which I would consume first thing each day. Click here for a recipe
Liver Liver is nature's multivitamin, but more than that it is an excellent source of B vitamins, easily absorbed minerals, and fats that are needed for healthy cell membranes. Researched has found that liver contains an "anti-fatigue factor" - which makes sense because I notice my energy levels are much higher when I consume liver regularly. A good amount is a serving of fresh liver 2-3x a week, or even easier - take it in supplement form. I like Ancestral Supplements beef liver the best. Shop it here, and use the code CARATEN for 10% off your order from their website. I attribute part of my healing journey to this superfood!
Vitamin C can be considered food for your adrenals because the highest concentration of Vitamin C in the body is stored in the adrenal glands. Vitamin C is used by the adrenal glands in the production of all of the adrenal hormones, and especially cortisol. When you are under prolonged stress, vitamin C can become depleted. The most useable forms of Vitamin C are going to come from whole food, or from a food liposomal (meaning the water soluble C is coated with a lipid (fat) to make it useable by the body. Here are a some vitamin C supplements I personally use: Pure Synergy Pure Radiance C Ancient Nutrients Vitamin C Seeking Health Liposomal Vitamin C (use the code NOURISHEDHEALTHCOACHJAN to get 10% off)
Adrenal Cortex "Traditional peoples, Native Americans and early ancestral healers believed that eating the organs from a healthy animal would strengthen and support the health of the corresponding organ of the individual. For instance, the traditional way of treating a person with a weak heart was to feed the person the heart of a healthy animal...and the adrenal gland was cut up into pieces and fed to all members of the tribe to support adrenal health. Dr. Royal Lee, and other early nutritional pioneers, believed the degenerative processes of a specific organ / gland could be reversed by ingesting the corresponding raw materials specific to that organ / gland... that adrenal glandular tissue provided adrenal glandular specific building blocks to nourish, support and remodel one's own adrenal glandular." - Ancestral Supplements. I personally took adrenal cortex during my healing journey, and it is important to note there is a difference between the entire adrenal gland and taking just the cortex. For some, taking the entire gland can make things worse depending on what stage you are in, so if you try it, I would stick with adrenal cortex to begin. You can purchase adrenal cortex with liver from Ancestral Supplements here, and use code CARATEN for 10% off their website.
Magnesium Magnesium is responsible for hundreds of biological processes in the body, and helps make new mitochondria, and increase their efficiency. Shop Optimal Magnesium from Seeking Health (use the code NOURISHEDHEALTHCOACHJAN to get 10% off)
2. Take it easy and slow down It's super important that we switch out of "fight or flight" mode into "rest and digest" mode. Practice deep breathing everyday, and slow down. Especially if you are in the beginning stages of this, you want to catch yourself now. This will help slow down the constant release of cortisol.
This is not the time to set new life goals for yourself or accomplish new PR's in the gym. Take it slow and gentle with workouts, incorporating walking and other slow paced exercises. Avoiding chronic cardio patterns is key at this stage as well.
3. Try some adaptogens
I love adaptogens for balancing out stress levels. These are exactly what they sound like. They help your body "adapt" to stress, and be better equipped to handle sources of stress. There so many herbs that are classified as adaptogens, and there is not right combination for everyone. We are all different, so trying out some of them can help you figure out which ones your body is responding too, or work with your naturopathic or functional medicine doctor to see which are the right ones for you. I found the ones that worked for me, and they did change over the course of my healing. Here are some options:
Reishi mushroom (when it comes to functional mushrooms, always look for the fruiting body, many mushroom supplements are ineffective and grown on grain)
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Velvet bean (mucuna puriens)
Here are some supplement recommendations: Freshcap organic reishi mushroom
Have you been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, or have suffered from the symptoms associated with it? If you have, share in the comments how you were able to heal, and what has worked for you.
The material on this website is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace medical advice given from your doctor. The information on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.