Adrenal Fatigue: Diet And Lifestyle Changes To Treat Adrenal Fatigue
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How to Treat Adrenal Fatigue
Are you chronically tired, gaining weight and feeling depressed? Chances are that you have adrenal fatigue. It is estimated that 80 percent of the population has some degree of adrenal fatigue.
Unfortunately, conventional medicine does not recognize adrenal fatigue as a disease. This means that there are no standard diagnostic or treatment methods for adrenal fatigue.
However, do not lose hope. Adrenal fatigue can be treated by leading a less stressful lifestyle, diet and adrenal supplements.
Today you'll learn how to treat adrenal fatigue. But first, you'll learn what it is, why it happens and what the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue, also known as hypoadrenia is a condition or syndrome that occurs when the adrenal glands do not perform normally.
The condition may arise after a bout of illness such as flu, pneumonia or bronchitis, or a period of extreme stress. The resultant is fatigue that doesn't go away even after sleeping through the night. (1)
Adrenal fatigue is a challenging syndrome because it does not present with specific physical symptoms.
For this reason, many people suffering from hypoadrenia have no idea of what their problem is. Hence they have do not know that they can get better by following some known adrenal fatigue treatments.
Additionally, because the condition does not have specific symptoms, adrenal fatigue is not properly recognized by conventional medicine. However, conventional medicine recognizes adrenal insufficiency or Addison's disease which is actually a serious malfunction of the adrenal glands (2).
And yet, some people with adrenal fatigue find it extremely difficult to get out of bed, let alone carry out their daily activities.
But why does adrenal malfunction cause such extreme fatigue?
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
To understand how low adrenal gland function affects the body, we need to first understand the functions of the adrenal glands.
Functions of adrenal gland
There are two adrenal glands in the body, sitting on the top end of either kidney. These thumb-sized glands produce more than 50 hormones that are necessary for survival and different functions in the body.
Adrenal glands, together with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands form the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis). (3)
One of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands is cortisol, also called the stress hormone. Cortisol is responsible for setting our body clock, including preparing you to sleep and wake. Adrenals also produce adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone.
Other hormones produced in the adrenal glands include glucocorticoids responsible for balancing blood sugar levels; adrenaline/epinephrine hormones that have a controlling effect on heart and circulatory health; sex hormones; mineralocorticoids responsible for control of blood pressure as well as body fluid and mineral levels.
Things that lead to adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is not caused by any one thing. However, the modern lifestyle and diet contribute significantly to the development of the problem.
Chronic stress due to work, family or other issues
Overuse of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol
Low nutrient diet
Effects of adrenal gland malfunction
Having seen the many functions of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands, it is easier to understand why malfunctioning adrenals leads to adrenal fatigue. The malfunction leads to changes from the norm of the following:
Carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism
Heart and circulatory functions
These changes also affect many other functions as the body tries to correct the situation. Many of these effects are biochemical and happen within the cells. This leads to adrenal fatigue which presents with many different symptoms.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
There are many symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue, many of which may also indicate the presence of other health problems. And while you may not have all of them, if you have several of the symptoms, you are probably suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
Weight gain, especially around the abdomen
Insomnia or other sleep issues
Loss of muscle
Need to use stimulants like coffee to feel alert
Inability to deal with stress
Dizziness, especially when you get onto your feet
Decreased immunity such that you are always getting ill
Cravings for sugar and salt
Inability or unwillingness to get out of bed
Hair loss especially affecting the eyebrows
Low blood pressure
Food allergies and allergic reactions
Tests for adrenal fatigue
Because conventional medicine does not recognize adrenal fatigue as a medical condition, there are no specific tests for it. However, a naturopathic or holistic doctor can have your cortisol level tested to determine if it is too high or too low.
Tests used for adrenal fatigue determine the levels of the following:
Cortisol / Dhea ratio
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
Free thyroid hormone 3 (FT3)
Total thyroxine (TT4)
17-HP/ cortisol ratio
Iris contraction test is a test you can take at home. It involves sitting in the dark for a short while, then shining a flashlight briefly but repeatedly. If your iris remains dilated even when exposed to light, chances are that you have adrenal fatigue. (4)
But whether or not you undergo a cortisol test, if you have many of the adrenal fatigue symptoms, you should consider treatment. Remember also that adrenal fatigue treatments do not usually include any chemical medications and are therefore safe.
Treatments for Adrenal Fatigue
While mainstream medicine ignores the problem, holistic and naturopathic doctors recognize adrenal fatigue as a disease that affects many people.
This has led to continuing research and realization that adrenal fatigue can be treated through changes in lifestyle, diet and adrenal fatigue supplements.
While each of these treatment methods can help mitigate the condition, combining them will provide a more sustainable solution. Here now are the three adrenal treatment methods in details:
Adrenal fatigue is caused by hormonal changes arising from malfunctions of the adrenal glands. It follows that treatment for adrenal fatigue should aim at recovery of hormonal balance.
To achieve this, the causes of the disease should be addressed. This will allow for sustainable recovery and prevention from recurrence.
As we have discussed, causes of adrenal fatigue include issues like chronic stress, grief, intake of stimulants and inadequate sleep.
It is critical that you remove or deal with the issues that cause excess stress and ultimately lead to adrenal fatigue.
In case you are dealing with serious trauma caused by issues like grief or you have depression, you may need the help of a counselor.
In most cases, however, your adrenal fatigue is the result of leading a stressful life.
You can therefore reduce your stress by making corrective lifestyle changes such as the following:
Reduce your workload so that you have adequate time to rest. This will allow you to go to bed early every night. Aim to go to bed by not later than 10:00 p.m. every night so that you have at least 8 hours of sleep. By sleeping at the same time every night, your body will reset your biological clock. This will help your body to adjust so that you get restful sleep and are ready to get up in the morning.
Get adequate sleep. This means sleeping for around 8 hours every night. Most people get restful sleep by sleeping for 7 to 10 hours.
Avoid stressful situations whenever possible.
Reduce your caffeine and sugar intake.
Maintain a regular eating cycle so that your digestive system has sufficient time to digest the food and to rest.
Exercise regularly. You can improve the quality of your life and reduce stress by exercising regularly (5). However, as you work towards recovery from adrenal fatigue, avoid strenuous exercises which may increase stress and aggravate the condition.
Find fun activities and engage in them regularly, especially do things that make you laugh.
Diet is an integral part of adrenal fatigue treatment because your body should get the nutrients it needs for recovery. It should also contain less of the foods that aggravate the problem. Also note that adrenal fatigue adversely affects the functions of your digestive system. For this reason you should avoid foods that may overwork your gut or interfere with the production of adrenal hormones.
Foods to avoid as part of adrenal fatigue treatment:
For starters, avoid any foods that you may be sensitive or allergic to. This will get a big burden off the “back” of your adrenal glands. Also avoid the following:
Sugar can worsen your adrenal fatigue symptoms because it causes your body to increase production of insulin and cortisol hormones.
Note that long term sugar intake can lead to reduced cortisol and the sex hormones. This leads to low libido. In your treatment for adrenal fatigue, avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners and sugary foods.
This includes high-fructose corn syrup, candy and foods containing sugar such as breads. If you must use sweeteners, choose stevia or raw honey.
While alcohol may produce temporary stimulation and masking of adrenal fatigue, it worsens the condition because the adrenal glands have to work harder to process it.
While you may feel more alert after taking a cup of coffee or an energy drink, the caffeine in it can worsen your adrenal fatigue. Caffeine causes the adrenal glands to increase production of stress hormones.
You may not know it, but dairy products could be among the reasons you gain weight when you have adrenal fatigue. While many people are unaware, the increased weight in their abdomen may be the result of inflammation caused by dairy intake. This can happen even if you are not lactose intolerant.
If you are gluten intolerant or have sensitivity to gluten, you should avoid consuming gluten-containing foods. Food intolerance and sensitivity causes inflammation and stresses your body. This ultimately leads to adrenal fatigue.
While soy is a common ingredient in many foods, it is a major contributor to adrenal fatigue. Soy can lead to adrenal fatigue by inhibiting the absorption of iodine. This interferes with the production of thyroid hormones, which adversely affects metabolism, energy production and ultimately aggravates adrenal fatigue (6)
Processed foods, especially highly refined products. Besides being unhealthy on their own, processed foods, including meats usually contain chemical additives and preservatives.
Additionally, excessive consumption of processed meats can overwhelm your adrenals. These can be very taxing on the adrenals and worsen your AF.
Hydrogenated oils including canola, soy and corn oils cause inflammation in the body which can aggravate adrenal fatigue. Opt for healthy oils like olive, coconut, ghee and butter from pasture raised animals.
Foods to eat as part of treatment for adrenal fatigue:
Eat nutrient-rich, non-GMO and organically produced whole foods. These will provide your body with the energy and support that it needs:
Organic, non-GMO vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower
Nuts and seeds like walnut, almonds, chia, flax and pumpkin seeds
Probiotics like fermented vegetables
Healthy fats and oils like olive, coconut, avocado and macadamia
Medicinal mushrooms like cordyceps and chaga
Drink sufficient amounts of water, but avoid excess intake because it can worsen the electrolyte levels in the body.
While it is beneficial to take the right quantities of nutrients every day, it is not always possible. For this reason, you should also consider incorporating adrenal supplements in your treatment program.
Similar to nutrients, adrenal supplements provide your body with ingredients that help in the recovery from adrenal fatigue. They include vitamins, minerals, herbs and spices.
Mineral and vitamin supplements in the treatment for adrenal fatigue include:
Magnesium is used in the conventionally recognized adrenal insufficiency. And because adrenal fatigue is a similar disease, you will benefit by supplementing with magnesium. (7). Magnesium is involved in hundreds of functions in the body.
Selenium deficiency has been found to contribute to adrenal fatigue. Taking selenium supplements may therefore contribute towards improving the condition. (8)
B-complex vitamins, especially B12 and B5 can reduce adrenal stress and therefore help in treating adrenal fatigue.
Vitamin C is also referred to as the stress busting vitamin. It minimizes effects of stress, thereby helping you recover faster from adrenal fatigue. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/vitamin-c-stress-buster)
Besides its functions of supporting magnesium-phosphorus balance and in building strong bones, vitamin D supports adrenal functions.
You can get more vitamin D in your body by spending more time in sunshine. You can also get more vitamin D by taking supplements.
Note, however, that if you decide to take vitamin D supplement, it should be accompanied by vitamin K1 and K2. These vitamins are required in order for vitamin D to work effectively.
Adaptogenic herbs and spices
Studies have found that some herbs and spices have adaptogenic properties. This means that they help the body to adjust the prevailing status and to provide corrective action. Adaptogens are able to reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels (9) (10).
Adaptogenic herbs for adrenal fatigue treatment include:
Some adaptogen herbs like licorice root increase your DHEA levels. On the flipside, however, extended use may have side effects. Therefore, if you decide to use any adaptogenic herbs, including any extracts for treatment of adrenal fatigue, do not take it for more than 21 days at a time.
Rosemary and lavender essential oils can also be used as adrenal supplements. Studies indicate that these oils reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels and reducing oxidative stress. (11)
While conventional medicine does not recognize it, if you’ve been wondering how to treat adrenal fatigue, now you know. You can recognize it by checking your symptoms against those we have shared here.
And if you have it, now is the time to stop suffering. Adrenal fatigue can be treated by making lifestyle changes, eating a healthy diet and taking adrenal supplements.
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