It’s no secret that adrenal fatigue is in the spotlight, both online and in the tabloids . Everyone seems to be talking about their opinion on it, whether or not it is real and what we can do about it. The first thing to remember is, if this sounds like you, then I suggest you dig deep into accredited research to find out exactly what is going on in your body and how you can overcome these symptoms. I wanted to shed some light on this topic and really break it down and share my story. There are a lot of different pieces to the puzzle, and it is important that we educate ourselves and PREVENT rather than TREAT. So I wanted to cover what adrenal fatigue is, the signs/symptoms, and how you can heal from it naturally!
Conventional medicine will tell you that adrenal fatigue is not real, while functional medicine will tell you it is. Basically, adrenal fatigue is when your adrenal glands are overworked and are not producing enough of the essential hormones our bodies need. This decrease in hormones causes a whole slew of symptoms that are often diagnosed as just being overworked. In todays world, most people are in fact, overworked. But there are ways to combat this issue and get yourself feeling 100% human again.
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys. There are different parts of them as well; the medulla, the cortex and the capsule. Each of these portions has a different job, but in general, they secrete hormones. These hormones help to regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essentail bodily functions.
There are a number of things that can cause adrenal fatigue, and sometimes it can’t be pinpointed. In fact, you might not even know you have adrenal fatigue, until you get tested and address the issue. But here are a few factors that can lead to adrenal fatigue:
We all know that stress is the number one culprit to hormone imbalances. This is because any kind of stress, whether it be from a job, a move, a relationship, exercise, can all cause damage to our bodies. Anytime we are feeling stress, our body goes into “overdrive” mode to try and counteract what you are feeling. It is this stress response that initiates the release of “stress” hormones, like cortisol. Too much of these hormones can cause an imbalance in our bodies, and in turn completely drain the adrenal glands. And if we drain them, there are no more hormones to give, causing a whole slew of symptoms. Stress hormones like cortisol cause weight gain around the belly, something no one is looking to do.
Diet also plays a huge role in adrenal function…but why? Because we are not consuming more “empty calories” on a daily basis than we ever were before. These empty calories are things like refined sugar, over-processed grains and fake foods (no nutritional value). All of these foods have become incredibly popular because they are cheap and taste good. The manufacturers now can create MORE food for LESS money because the ingredients are all manufactured as well. But, we if are eating foods that are all chemically produced, how does our body use them? It doesn’t. Our bodies don’t know what to do with excess sugar or chemicals, so it initiates a stress response and releases more cortisol and insulin. Both of which put extreme stress on the pancreas and adrenal glands.
If you don’t sleep, you don’t recover. Point blank. And I don’t mean recover from a stressful workout or travel. I mean recover from the day. Each day we are awake, alert, working, walking, talking, breathing, and our bodies need time to regenerate. It’s like, you use your phone all day, but at some point you have to plug it in to get some extra juice. Same goes for your body. You need to “juice up” and rest because your bod worked all day. It needs time to slow down and recharge before it starts all over again. If you have poor sleep habits (sleeping too little) or you just aren’t sleeping well, it is going to show. And your body will again produce too many stress hormones and eventually burn out. Yah know, burning the candle from both ends…
This term a blanket term for everything else that can cause adrenal fatigue. Things like toxin exposure, chronic disease, trauma, mood disorders, exercise routine etc. All of these things can lead to adrenal fatigue, if they are bad enough.
As I stated earlier, there isn’y really a test to determine if you have adrenal fatigue or not. Adrenal fatigue can be determined by looking at your symptoms/lifestyle and making an educated conclusion. Now, functional medicine doctors can do blood tests to determine different hormone levels (that is what I did) or by just doing an evaluation. Here are some of the signs/symptoms that can show with adrenal fatigue:
• Mood swings
• Trouble waking up even after a full 8 hours of sleep
• Crashing between 3-5pm
• Weight gain
• Suppressed immune system
• Trouble sleeping or staying asleep
• Crutching on loads of caffeine
• Brain fog
• Craving salt/sugar
• Heart palpitations
• Hair loss
• Dry skin
The list can actually go on and on. And although a lot of these symptoms can be causes of different underlying issues, the truth is, if you are experiencing 5-7 of these symptoms, chances are you are dealing with adrenal fatigue.
Hormones are crazy. They can work with us, or against us, and it doesn’t take much to turn them against us. It is incredibly important that we take measures into our own hands when we feel like something isn’t right. For me, I began having a lot of digestive issues and was researching birth control. I decided to stop taking birth control in November, and I am still trying to recover my hormones. My adrenal glands are in overdrive, my testosterone levels are suppressed, by female hormones are non existent and the weather in Chicago is depleting my Vitamin D. So, I got problems. But I would have never known that these things were going on if I didn’t decide to educate myself and get my blood panel done. So I suggest that, no matter what you are feeling like, you get a full hormone panel done so you can see what is going on! But, if you do feel you are having symptoms of adrenal fatigue, here are a few ways you can help balance out your hormones naturally:
♥ Eat a diet low in sugar and high in healthy fats. (check out my blog post on SUGAR and how it negatively effects our bodies)
♥ Cut out caffeine–the number 1 sign of hormone imbalance is caffeine dominance. So cut the caffeine and heal those hormones
♥ Stay hydrated–water is incredibly important in regulating body functions.
♥ Determine food sensitivities/intolerances and remove them. Many people who suffer from adrenal fatigue have a lot of food sensitivities. by removing these we can support the gut and heal that as well.
♥ Supplements–there are some natural supplements that can help with adrenal fatigue. These include: magnesium, ashwagandha, glutamine and licorice root (for gut lining), B vitamins, and zinc!
♥ EAT BREAKFAST–adrenal fatigue is an over-stressing of the body. And overnight we obviously fast for 12+ hours, so eating breakfast is important for those who suffer from adrenal fatigue because we do not want to place more stress (fasting) on the body. The best breakfast is one with high protein, healthy fats and simple carbs (fruits or veggies).
♥ Remove inflammation–whether it be from foods, or life. Do your best to remove these. Omega-3s, vitamin C and turmeric are great anti-inflammatories.
♥ REST–sometime in your day you need to take a step back and breath. (check out my blog post about how stress effects our bodies)
♥ Decrease stressors–things like intense exercise, workload and travel can put a lot of extra stress on you. So decrease those.
What all of this truly comes down to is listening to your body and trusting it. If you are feeling tired and rundown, don’t push it. You can actually do more damage to your metabolism and hormones by overworking yourself rather than just resting and relaxing. I know we all think we need to get workout in hit our deadlines..but sometimes it is more important to just take a step back and relax. We must be in-tune with our bodies and really listen to what they are telling us. We need to stop getting so caught up in the routine and “daily grind” and start realizing when we have pushed too far.
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