Adrenal fatigue can be detrimental to your hormonal health and lead to symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, food cravings, and a cascade of other health issues. This is because the adrenal glands produce many of the body's hormones. When the adrenal glands aren't functioning correctly, it can interfere with hormone production, resulting in hormonal imbalances and other health issues. This article will discuss everything you need to know about adrenal fatigue.
What Are the Adrenal Glands?
To fully understand adrenal fatigue, it is essential to understand some basics about the adrenal glands and why they are so important. The adrenal glands are small triangular-shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys and are part of the endocrine system.
The hormones produced by these glands contain the chemical languages used to communicate throughout the body. The adrenal glands produce hormones that regulate blood sugar and reduce allergic and inflammatory reactions. The adrenals also maintain control over involuntary functions such as heart rate, digestion, and respiration.
As we age, the adrenal glands atrophy, with stress and poor nutrition accelerating this aging process. The adrenal gland consists of the adrenal cortex (outer layer) and the adrenal medulla (center). The adrenal cortex produces hormones called "glucocorticoids" that consist of cortisol, cortisone, and corticosterone.
In times of stress, glucocorticoid hormones can override glucose metabolism. By releasing stored glycogen from the liver into the bloodstream as glucose, the body now has the physical ability to deal with stressful situations. The body then converts muscle to energy, the muscle being the body's second source of energy.
This process is the body's backup system that overrides regular metabolic function and can help provide an extra boost of energy in times of crisis. Unfortunately, the problem with many people is that daily stress leaves them constantly in this state, releasing excess stress hormones leading to adrenal fatigue. You can commonly spot one of the common signs of adrenal fatigue: the dark circles under the eyes.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Essentially, adrenal fatigue, also known as adrenal exhaustion, refers to a state that occurs when the adrenal glands are overworked and overstressed. Prolonged exposure to stress causes excess production of stress hormones that drain the adrenals, leading to a depleted state. Constantly living in a state of fight or flight can result in many symptoms, such as low energy, brain fog, depressive mood, food cravings, nausea, lightheadedness, and more.
While there is much literature about adrenal fatigue and its symptoms of adrenal fatigue, not many people understand why adrenal fatigue occurs and what its consequences of it can be. There is no way to overstate how harmful adrenal fatigue can be to the body's health.
The constant release of adrenalin and cortisol by the adrenal glands caused by frequent stress leads to adrenal fatigue and an overall weakening of the body's operating system.
To neutralize the cortisol and adrenaline hormones the body releases a DHEA hormone. DHEA, often referred to as "the precursor hormone," is the most abundant hormone in the body produced by the adrenal glands.
DHEA converts or stimulates the production of estrogens and testosterone hormones, plus many other steroid hormones (especially those associated with aging). The constant depletion of DHEA to counteract cortisol and adrenalin affects the body's hormonal balance.
Add to this the adrenal fatigue, and not only will you age faster, but you will become more susceptible to metabolic and immune-related disorders.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Prolonged stress is the primary cause of adrenal fatigue.
Many people know that stress is one of the most detrimental things to your health, but not everyone understands why.
Stress causes the release of stress hormones. If stress is chronic, the excess of stress hormones depletes and exhausts the adrenal glands. To counter the stress response the body releases the hormone DHEA. However, the constant release of DHEA to counter stress hormones further depletes the adrenals.
Since DHEA is a precursor to many hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, and steroid hormones associated with aging, the depletion of DHEA can interfere with essential body processes and lead to accelerated aging.
It is essential to manage and reduce stress whenever possible.
In terms of underlying causes of adrenal fatigue, here is a list of potential causes:
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Mineral Dysregulation
- Toxic Load Build Up
- Excessive Use of Stimulants
- Poor Management of Emotional Stress
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue can manifest itself in a multitude of symptoms. Some of the significant adrenal fatigue symptoms include:
- Brain fog
- Food cravings
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Low mood
- Depressive mood
- Compromised immune system
- Cardiovascular issues
- and a host of other health issues and diseases.
In mild cases, adrenal fatigue can cause minor health issues like general fatigue, brain fog, low mood, etc. However, since the adrenal glands are part of the body's endocrine system, prolonged adrenal exhaustion can lead to serious health issues.
It is essential to look out for the initial signs of adrenal fatigue to prevent further health issues. It is also critical to keep stress levels low and to learn healthy ways to manage and reduce stress in your life.
How to Treat Adrenal Fatigue
The best thing to do is to prevent adrenal fatigue in the first place. However, it is possible to reverse adrenal fatigue if you already have it. Below, we will discuss some of the foundational tips for fixing adrenal fatigue and managing stress to prevent adrenal fatigue from occurring in the first place—as with all health issues, focusing on prevention is always best if possible.
Utilize Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogenic herbs are among the best adrenal fatigue treatment options available. They have a unique ability to help the body better adapt to stress, and help to both prevent and treat adrenal fatigue.
Adaptogens are herb or supplement that helps enhance the body's natural ability to adapt to stress. Adaptogens work at a cellular level by regulating a healthy balance in major glands associated with stress, such as the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands. Many adaptogenic herbs also have immune-supporting properties.
While it is always essential to remove unnecessary stressors in your life if possible, adaptogens can help you better handle the stresses of daily life. Adaptogens can make a great addition to your health routine.
Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, tulsi (holy basil), turmeric (link curcumin), and Gotu kola are common adaptogenic herbs. These are beneficial to take for preventing adrenal fatigue and also for recovering from it.
Give Your Body the Nutrients That It Needs
We cannot talk about how to reverse adrenal fatigue without discussing nutrition. Your body needs certain nutrients to function. Nutrient deficiencies can stress the body and contribute to hormonal depletion and adrenal fatigue. Your body also needs certain nutrients to repair itself.
It is essential to make sure that you meet your nutritional requirements overall. However, specific nutrients, in particular, are beneficial for repair. Among the top nutrients for recovering from adrenal fatigue include:
Keep A Regular Schedule
Regularity helps keep the nervous system relaxed. In times of uncertainty or irregularity, the body is more likely to become stressed. Skipping meals, for example, can be stressful for the body. Eating meals late at night can also be stressful for the body. Try to support your nervous and digestive systems by sticking to a regular schedule. Aim to eat close to the same time each day and eat three regular meals. Similarly, aim to keep a regular sleep schedule of waking and sleeping each day simultaneously.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is essential for our health. During sleep, your body recovers from the stresses of the day. If you are sleep-deprived, your body cannot fully recover, and the stress compounds. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, and even more if needed. Sleep is essential for recovery from adrenal fatigue. Also make sure to read our blog about helpful tips for improving sleep quality.
Like sleep, water and hydration are essential for health. Dehydration can also be detrimental to health and a significant stressor for the body. Treating adrenal fatigue avoids unnecessary stress and gives your body what it needs to heal. Water is essential for so many functions in the body, so make sure you are drinking enough each day. Also, make sure your water quality is pure and avoid tap water or bottled water.
Caffeine causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol as a way to provide your body with energy. In general, caffeine can be taxing to the adrenal glands and is best to avoid or drink in moderation. However, it is even more important to avoid all caffeinated beverages when recovering from adrenal fatigue. If the adrenals are already depleted from excess cortisol production, you don't want to force them to release even more.
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are among the worst things you can put in your body. They lack the enzymes that whole foods have and often include preservatives, fillers, and chemical ingredients harmful to health. So avoid eating processed foods, especially if you are recovering from adrenal fatigue.
Avoid High Impact Exercise
While exercise is essential for health and for recovering from adrenal fatigue, high-impact exercises may be too stressful for the body in this depleted state. Avoid exercise routines like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and focus on moderate activities like walking, jogging, calisthenics, and mild resistance training. Yoga can also be great, as it offers further benefits for reducing stress.
Get Outside in Nature
Nature is healing. Fresh air, beautiful scenery, sunshine, and vitamin D. Getting out into the natural world often is a great way to reduce stress and improve quality of life.
Find Healthy Ways to Manage Stress
Among the essential tips for recovering from adrenal fatigue is to find healthy ways to manage stress. Stress is considered the number one killer and the root cause of illness. It is also the number one cause of adrenal fatigue. Therefore, finding ways to reduce stress and keep stress levels low is essential for your health.
Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, journaling, painting, music, swimming—many excellent practices help relieve stress. Experiment with different stress-relieving techniques and find what works best for you.
Adrenal fatigue is a condition that many people suffer from. It occurs when the body is under prolonged stress, which causes the adrenal glands to release excess stress hormones, which eventually causes exhaustion and burnout.
When this occurs, the adrenal glands may not produce hormones as efficiently. This is a big problem, as the adrenal glands are responsible for creating many of the body's most important hormones that help regulate numerous processes like digestion, blood pressure, immunity, reproductive health, and more.
It is essential to find ways to lower stress and ensure that you give the body everything it needs to be healthy and well. We hope that the tips in this article can help you better understand adrenal fatigue and how to prevent it from occurring.