Feeling tired, stressed or burnt out? Don’t feel like you have the energy that you want to have? It could be a result of adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands become overstressed and overworked, and it can lead to numerous health symptoms, especially symptoms of fatigue, exhaustion, and brain fog.
What Are the Adrenal Glands?
The adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped glands located on top of both kidneys. Adrenal glands produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions. They are among the first glands to respond to stress, and also among the first to suffer as a result of stress.
Cortisol & The Stress Response
When we undergo an excess of mental or physical stress, the adrenal glands can become depleted. The adrenal glands release a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol plays several important roles in the body. It helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates; suppresses inflammation; regulates blood pressure; increases blood sugar; and can also decrease bone formation. This hormone also controls the sleep/wake cycle.
Cortisol is released during times of stress to help your body get an energy boost and better handle an emergency situation. This is a great support when we are actually facing an immediate danger and need an energy boost to fight or flee from a situation. When we experience stress on a regular basis, however, excesses of the cortisol hormone are released. Not only does this deplete the adrenal glands responsible for many necessary functions, but it can have its own slew of negative health effects over time.
Chronic stress, or a constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time, can lead to mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders; cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke; obesity and other eating disorders; menstrual problems; sexual dysfunction; gastrointestinal problems, and much more. Chronic stress is terrible for the whole body.
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
Any kind of excess stress causes the adrenals to increase cortisol production. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenals have been overworked to a degree that they can no longer secrete levels of cortisol that are adequate for optimal function.
Possible stressors include environmental and dietary influences, financial or occupational stresses, as well as anxiety and emotional stresses. An overuse of antibiotics is also believed to possibly have harmful effects on cortisol production.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Some of the common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Fatigue, particularly upon waking
- Intermittent “crashes” and losses of energy throughout the day
- Difficulty regulating mood
- Brain fog
- Cravings for sugary or salty foods
- Overuse of caffeine and other stimulants
- Compromised immune system
- Frequent urination
- Decreased libido
Adrenal fatigue can lead to low levels of energy, chronic fatigue, brain fog, and many other uncomfortable symptoms. Thankfully, however, there are ways to restore adrenal health and to treat adrenal fatigue.
Treating Adrenal Fatigue
The recommended methods for treating adrenal fatigue involve plenty of rest, low-sugar/low-caffeine diet, avoidance of junk food, and the support of beneficial herbs and supplements. It is important to have a healthy sleep schedule and to find healthy ways to manage and reduce your stress. Pairing this along with diet is also very important.
Adrenal Fatigue Diet
An adrenal fatigue diet is intended to help your body maintain healthy blood sugar levels and support balanced cortisol levels. The recommended diet is a balanced diet of whole grains, vegetables, healthy fats and high-protein foods that provide your body with lots of stable energy. Along with this focused on whole foods, there is a suggestion to remove all processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol and caffeine—foods that can lead to unhealthy crashes.
With most, if not all, health conditions, diet is an essential factor to consider. The food you eat each day can either be the greatest medicine or the greatest poison depending on what you consume. Following the right diet, as well as the right lifestyle practices, can help to treat adrenal fatigue at the root. To follow an adrenal fatigue diet aim to include more of these foods in your diet:
- Vegetables, especially vegetables low in starch.
- Fruit, especially low-glycemic fruits like pears, apples, plums, cherries, kiwi, mango, and papaya. Be mindful when consuming fruit, however, as too much can quickly raise your blood sugar.
- Whole grains.
- High quality proteins.
- Healthy fats (such as avocado, fatty fish, olive oil, flaxseed oil, chiaseeds).
- Salt, in moderation, can help your body get important nutrients it may be lacking when you have adrenal fatigue.
Along with including the above foods in your diet, it is equally important to remove the following foods while on an adrenal fatigue diet:
- White sugar
- White flour
- Fried/fast foods
- Processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
Some recommended supplements for the adrenal fatigue diet include:
- Vitamin C (link)
- B vitamins (link)
- Coenzyme Q10
Best Herbs for Adrenal Fatigue
Along with diet and lifestyle, supplementing with herbs can be very helpful for people suffering from adrenal fatigue. Medicinal herbs have active compounds that can be extracted and used as safe and effective natural remedies. The top herbs for adrenal fatigue include:
Maca root is one of the best herbs to help adrenal fatigue. Maca, sometimes referred to as Peruvian ginseng, is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale, that has a long history of culinary and medicinal use in Peru. It mainly grows in the Andes of central Peru, in harsh conditions and at very high altitudes.
The root of the maca plant is used as medicine. It exists in several colors, ranging from white to black. Maca root is generally dried and consumed in powder form, but it’s also available in capsules and as a liquid extract.
Maca is often used as a tonic to boost energy and immunity, but it can also help reduce cortisol levels in the body and replenish depleted adrenal glands. Maca helps support hormone production when the body is under-producing hormones, as well as helping to balance hormones when the body is over-producing hormones. When used over time, maca can boost the function of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to restore balance and mitigate adrenal fatigue.
Rhodiola is an herb that can help to balance the secretion of cortisol during difficult situations. Rhodiola grows in the cold, mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. It is also known as arctic root or golden root. The roots of Rhodiola are used for medicine, and are considered to be powerful adaptogens.
Adaptogens are a select group of herbs that support the body’s natural ability to deal with stress. They are called adaptogens because these herbs aid our bodies in adapting and responding to, or recovering from, both short-term and long-term physical or mental stress.
Adaptogens work at a molecular level by regulating a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands—all of which are involved in the stress response. Essentially, they work by “hacking” the stress response in the body.
When we face a stressor, whether physical or mental, our bodies go through what is called general adaptation syndrome (GAS). GAS is a three-stage response: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens help us stay in the resistance phase longer, via a stimulating effect that holds off the exhaustion. Instead of crashing in the midst of a stressful moment, task, or event, we attain equilibrium and can move through it.
Rhodiola is considered one of the top adaptogens and adrenal fatigue herbs, and it can help regulate stress, improve adrenal health, and support energy levels in those with adrenal fatigue.
If you’re even partially in tune with the world of health and wellness, you’ve likely heard of the powerful adaptogen ashwagandha. Meaning “horse smell” in Sanskrit, ashwagandha has a very strong taste, so many people prefer taking ashwagandha as an extract or in supplement form.
Ashwaghanda, also known as Indian Ginseng, is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. The name Ashwaghanda is Sanskrit for “smell of the horse.” This name refers to both the smell of the ground root, as well as for the abilities Ashwghanda is said to provide that are of the strength of a horse. It has been used for over 3,000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration.
Ashwagandha supports the body’s inflammatory response and is also used to optimize blood pressure. It is another notable adaptogen, and also considered one of the best adaptogenic herbs for adrenal fatigue. This adaptogen may support the activity of immune cells known as natural killer cells that help you fight off infections, support enhanced thyroid function and the production of both T3 and T4, and help optimize your body’s pain response to conditions such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
Ashwagandha helps the body cope with stress by boosting adrenal function. It is widely used to balance stress hormones and energy levels of those suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Ginseng is a popular herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, and one that has long been associated with energy and vitality. It is also a great herb for adrenal fatigue and is incredible in its ability to modulate the body’s stress response.
Studies show the potential of using ginseng as an adaptogen to support the body’s inflammatory response during a number of conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. Ginseng even impacts autoimmune disease by boosting the body’s ability to suppress the pro-inflammatory cytokines generated by chronic stress.
Eleuthero root is another famous Chinese medicinal herb that has been used for well over 2,00 years. In addition to supporting the body’s appropriate stress response, eleuthero may also enhance nervous system health and boost energy levels. Eleuthero contains bioactive compounds that support the body’s response to fatigue.
Eleuthero may help balance hormone levels by mitigating the symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, memory problems, and loss of strength caused by low estrogen levels that can occur at menopause.
Licorice root is considered to be one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies. Native to Western Asia and Southern Europe, this medicinal herb has long been used to treat various ailments and flavor candies, drinks, and medicines. Among the many benefits of licorice root is the support of adrenal health.
Licorice helps the adrenals by preventing the breakdown of cortisol, one of the major hormones produced by the adrenal glands to combat stress. Its cortisol sparing effects help in maintaining energy levels which results in a better response to stressful situations.
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is a type of basil with many medicinal benefits. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional Indian medicine as a treatment for many conditions, from eye diseases to ringworms. From the leaves to the seed, every part of the holy basil plant is considered a tonic for the body.
Among the many benefits of this impressive plant is the ability to support adrenal health. Holy basil is an adaptogen, and like our other adaptogenic friends mentioned above, it can help the body regulate and adapt to stress.
As an adaptogenic herb, Tulsi supports adrenal health and a state of equilibrium in the body. It helps you respond to stress in a healthy way and helps to nourish the body.
Adrenal fatigue is common health issue that people suffer from, and it occurs when the adrenal glands become overstressed and overworked. When this happens, the adrenal glands stop being able to produce much of their necessary hormones and can lead to numerous health symptoms, especially symptoms of fatigue, exhaustion, and brain fog.
Thankfully there are ways to restore adrenal health and to treat adrenal fatigue. The recommended methods for treating adrenal fatigue involve plenty of rest, low-sugar/low-caffeine diet, avoidance of junk food, and the support of beneficial herbs and supplements.
The best reported herbs for adrenal health include:
- Eleuthero Root
- Licorice Root
Consuming one, or multiple, of these herbs alongside the right diet and lifestyle practices can help to restore adrenal health and eliminate adrenal fatigue. Once your adrenal glands are functioning properly again, you will experience much more energy, vitality and stability in your mind and body.