What’s up with adrenal fatigue? Are you running around overworked, tired and constantly on caffeine? Do you feel rundown no matter what you do? Are you overwhelmed by any change that comes your way? If so, you may be experiencing Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). AFS is brought on by specific stressful situations but it can also be caused by ongoing stress over a long period of time. The problem is that we don’t really notice until we are completely run down and our body starts to respond negatively. Yet, we are all running on low fuel, multi-tasking, sleeping less and reading on our mobile devices at night – and thinking we can get away with it. Guilty…. But are we really getting away with it?
Adrenal Fatigue is that step beyond tired, where you can’t sleep, barely function without caffeine, and you are completely exhausted during the day. Stress takes a huge hit on our cortisol and adrenal hormone levels. If these are out of balance, it can take a hit on blood sugar, fat, protein and carb metabolism, immune and anti-inflammatory responses, and more. Even with a perfect diet, the body doesn’t function if it is always in a state of stress.
The symptoms of adrenal fatigue run a vague line between being just exhausted to actually having adrenal dysfunction. Add to that, doctors rarely recognize adrenal fatigue due to multiple reasons: they only diagnose it when the adrenals are completely malfunctioned (Addison’s Disease); there is no pharmaceutical treatment for adrenal fatigue and lab tests are inconclusive.
According to the book, Adrenal Fatigue – The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, here are some basic symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- A person feels tired for no reason
- Inability to wake at a reasonable hour
- Rundown, overwhelmed responses
- Difficulty bouncing back from illness or stress
- Craving for salty and sweet snacks
- A person with Adrenal Fatigue feels more awake, alert and energetic after 6 p.m. than any other time of the day
Keep in mind, the above symptoms are not cut and dry. People can still function with an early wake up by masking it with caffeine. A person’s body can function on stress very well, that’s why it goes undetected. They are functioning fine due to the adrenaline levels that are in their body and they are in a constant state of fight or flight.
So what can we do about it?
If you are “diagnosed” through a nutritional consultant or holistic practitioner, they will guide you through a personal approach to get you on track. You can also try to speak to your traditional doctor and mention the HPA Axis Response. Until then, here are a few tips:
Top 5 Tips to Balance Adrenals:
- Cortisol levels are at their highest between 6-8 am, peaking at 8 am; low liver function that accompanies low adrenal fatigue decreases appetite in the morning. Try to eat one hour upon wakening so your body doesn’t have to play catch up all day. Additionally, this will help regulate blood sugar.
- Eat a combination of fat, carbs and protein to balance the rate at which your body converts glucose. If you are not on a gluten-free diet, soak your grains to reduce the phytic acid and make them easily digestible. And, it’s best to eat them in combination with a fat and protein.
- Always include essential fatty acids with your food. I recommend coconut oil, but if you don’t love it, olive oil, grape seed or even flax will do the trick. If you follow the Weston Price Foundation’s philosophy, Sally Fallon recommends fermented cod liver oil, pastured egg yolks and wild caught cold-water fish. Also, it’s best to have the olive oil fresh, not cooked.
- I know this is a shocker – but be very careful of the amount of sweets, including fruits in your diet. Some of the sweeter fruits include bananas, raisins, dates, figs, oranges and grapefruits.
- Improve sleep by going to bed before 10:30 and try to stay there until 9 (even if it’s just on weekends). If you have trouble sleeping, there are some supplements on the market like melatonin, magnesium citrate, calcium citrate and 5-hydroxtyryphtophan (5HTP). I have found some peace with an herb called Ashwaganda, available at Whole Foods in a product called Sleep Thru. Start with 1 because it can be so effective you may sleep past the alarm! If you take 2, it will help you sleep through the night, but you may feel slightly groggy upon awakening.
Dr. Nitun Verma, MD, a specialist in sleep medicine and the Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont, recommends that we all come up with an evening ritual before we go to bed. Of course this may include sleep-oriented meditation, cutting back on the screen time and ditching the caffeine.
The screen is addicting. But, truly, if we all just shut it down once in awhile, perhaps we can get the balance that we are looking for in life!
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