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If you’re constantly tired and can’t figure out why, chances are you’ve got a case of adrenal fatigue. This stress-related condition occurs when your adrenal glands, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland are functioning below normal levels. Although you may have never even heard of your adrenals, they actually play a vital function in your health by helping to control your body’s response to stress. Understanding your adrenal glands and their function will help you better understand adrenal fatigue and help you better control this exhausting condition.
What Are the Adrenal Glands?
Sitting just above the kidneys, the adrenal glands are approximately 1 inch wide and about 2 ½ inches long. While your kidneys are both symmetrical in shape, this is not the case for your adrenals. The right adrenal is shaped like a triangle and the left adrenal is a sort of half-moon shape. Yellowish in color, there is one gland for each kidney. They are located near the kidneys because they have such strong influence on this part of your body.
There are three distinct parts to the adrenal glands with each part playing a different function in what they do.
The capsule is the outermost layer of the adrenal glands and is actually a protective layer of fat. The capsule is what protects the adrenal glands and serves no other real function than to encase and shield them.
The cortex makes up about 80 percent of the volume of your adrenal glands. The adrenal cortex serves three separate functions, with only a small amount of interaction with the medulla. In the adrenal cortex, your body produces DHEA and secretes it as necessary. In men, this can be converted into testosterone within the testes. In women, the adrenal glands are the body’s primary source of this male sex hormone.
The cortex is also responsible for the maintenance of our cortisol levels. With all its relative composites, cortisol is so important that we can’t live without it. Cortisol controls our sleep cycles, regulates blood pressure, suppresses inflammation, and helps us to generate energy from non-carbohydrate sources. The final function of the cortex helps us to regulate fluid and mineral excretion.
The medulla is the innermost part or core of our adrenal glands. This is where we manage our stress responses. The medulla secretes epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are what generate our primitive stress response and help to keep us alive in times of danger.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
As you may have guessed, fatigue is one of the main symptoms found with adrenal fatigue syndrome. If you’re constantly tired, even though you seem to be getting adequate sleep, you could very well be suffering from adrenal fatigue. Some of the symptoms characterized in adrenal fatigue are as follows. If these characteristics sound all too familiar to you, chances are you’re suffering from a case of adrenal fatigue.
Difficulty Waking Up in the Morning
Let’s say you got your recommended eight hours of sleep the night before, yet you wake up in the morning and feel like you can’t pull yourself out of bed. In some cases of adrenal fatigue, you’ll get enough sleep, but still wake up in a sleepy haze. In other cases (in the early stages of adrenal fatigue), stress will cause your cortisol and adrenaline levels to become extremely high which will cause a state of un-relentless restlessness.
Feeling Tired Everyday
As your condition of adrenal fatigue progresses, your adrenal glands become less and less able to produce the hormones your body needs. Cortisol levels drop, as does your adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels. These hormones are critical to maintaining energy levels and, as they get lower, you become more tired every day. People that suffer from adrenal fatigue usually have trouble keeping momentum and energy throughout the day, nor do they get that afternoon “lift” that helps keep them going.
Repressed Immune Function
The maintenance of proper cortisol levels is essential in healthy immune function. Not only does it have an anti-inflammatory effect that helps to regulate immune function, but also keeps this inflammation from becoming out of control. If you’ve got tons of stress and your cortisol levels are higher than they should be, you’re going to experience an immune system that doesn’t work as it should, leaving you more susceptible to illness and disease. On the other hand, if cortisol levels become too low, this can lead to chronic inflammation and respiratory disease.
In the early stages of adrenal fatigue syndrome, people will usually experience higher levels of cortisol production. Remember, adrenal fatigue is usually brought on by stress and this makes cortisol levels shoot through the roof, which will leave you seriously vulnerable to sickness and infection. As your condition carries on, cortisol levels will begin to drop and leave you more susceptible to chronic inflammation, allergies, and autoimmune disease.
Lack of Ability to Handle Stress
We all suffer from stress from time to time, but those that have adrenal fatigue have an especially difficult time handling outside pressures. We need our adrenals to function in tip-top shape in order to effectively handle stress that comes our way. When they are fatigued, they have a hard time producing the cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine hormones we need to effectively combat the tension in our lives. When stressed, people that suffer from adrenal fatigue often feel irritable, anxious, and lacking any drive.
Higher Energy Levels in the Evening
On one hand, people that suffer from adrenal fatigue are usually always exhausted. On the other hand, they will experience spikes of energy late in the day. As hormone levels bounce all over the place, cortisol and adrenaline become confused and instead of secreting what they need mid-morning, levels go up in the late evening causing a sudden late-night burst of energy. This usually happens in the early stages of adrenal fatigue when your adrenal glands can still produce the right amounts of cortisol and adrenaline for your body.
Other Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
There are actually quite a few symptoms of adrenal fatigue, with many of them commonly linked to the five above mentioned indications. Adrenal fatigue comes in different stages and the following symptoms are characteristic of the whole.
- Craving Salty Foods
- Dark Circles Under The Eyes
- Dry Skin
- Frequent Urination
- Loss of Muscle Tone
- Low Blood Pressure
- Low Blood Sugar
- Decreased Sex Drive
- Respiratory Problems
- Lower Back Pain
- Weight Gain
- Poor Circulation
If you are experiencing a few of these symptoms, they may be an indication that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Stress is obviously a huge contributing factor of adrenal fatigue. The condition itself has been around forever, but has increased significantly in the past century. If you look at how much change our lifestyles have gone through in this time, you’ll see a pretty good indication of what is causing epidemic proportions of adrenal fatigue. It’s pretty safe to say that in the last hundred years, we’ve begun to experience far greater levels of stress and eat diets that aren’t always the healthiest. Toxic overload is something very common nowadays and correlates perfectly with the rise in cases of adrenal fatigue.
6 Common Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
The number one cause of adrenal fatigue is stress. Unfortunately, stress is something that has become an all too common facet of our modern society. Work pressure, relationships, family problems, and major life changes can all cause stress and if left untreated it can cause irreversible damage to your health.
Our diets have come far from their natural sources. Not only is much of the food we eat processed, but we tend to overload our bodies with ridiculous amounts of sugar. In the last 200 years, the average American has gone from eating about 2lbs of sugar a year to over 150lbs. All these extra empty calories make our bodies produce extra cortisol and insulin, leaving us much more susceptible to adrenal fatigue.
The modern convenient diets we have come to depend on aren’t exactly the healthiest and all this processed food is making us fat. Carrying around this excess weight puts stress on our internal organs and not only tires you out, but exhausts your adrenals as well.
It is no secret that we are surrounded by a number of toxins each and every day. From the food we eat to the chemicals we use to clean our homes with, our bodies are truly on toxic overload. The same chemicals that go into our food and the products we use every day are responsible for upsetting adrenal function and causing the hormones in our body to go haywire. While your body will try to compensate for this toxic overload when exposed, over time your body will react and you become more susceptible to the exhausting condition of adrenal fatigue.
Lack of Sleep
In the midst of our busy schedules, it sometimes seems impossible to get the sleep we need when we need it. If you don’t have a balance in your life, work long hours, or try to fit in too much, you’re not alone. We’ve gone from a healthy eight hours of sleep a night to an average of six, with many people getting much less than even this. Your body needs sleep in order to repair itself and rest. If you’re not getting the amounts you so desperately need, your body will begin to react and your adrenal glands will pay the price.
Unexpected traumatic events will wreak havoc on your body. Severe physical trauma, whether it is from an accident or something else, can be a serious cause for adrenal fatigue. Even traumatic events that aren’t expected, such as major surgery, will also have a direct effect on adrenal function.
When we develop a disease, our bodies need to compensate in other areas to try to make up for it. If you suffer from diabetes, asthma, or arthritis, your adrenal glands are going to be working overtime. As these diseases progress, your adrenals have the potential to become overworked and extremely fatigued.
Natural Solutions for Adrenal Fatigue
If you’re feeling exhausted and irritated and think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, fortunately there are some things you can do about it. Paying special attention to your diet plays a huge factor in rebalancing cortisol levels in the body and repairing adrenal function. Managing stress levels is something that is fundamental as well and creating a healthy balance between mind and body is the first step in combating this tiring condition.
Adrenal fatigue doesn’t have to be something that continues to ruin your life. With a little attention to the things your body really needs, you’ll be able to get rid of adrenal fatigue and live a happy, healthy lifestyle.
4 Things You Can Do For Adrenal Fatigue
Pay Attention to Your Diet
If you want to say good-bye to adrenal fatigue for good, you’re going to have to bid farewell to some things in your diet as well. Processed foods and sugars should be eliminated and replaced with good wholesome foods, adequate amounts of protein, and plenty of water. Electrolytes are also really important for people who suffer from adrenal fatigue. Adding lemon to your water or drinking pure coconut water are some easy ways to get the electrolytes your body needs to recover.
Your body needs natural ways to keep up energy levels so you don’t end up crashing mid-day. Coffee is the usual go-to for the mid-afternoon slump, but it actually makes adrenal fatigue much worse. Caffeine actually adds a lot of stress to your adrenal glands and produces cortisol and adrenaline the same way as when you are in a “flight or fight” response. This seriously depletes your adrenals over time and causes serious stress on your system. Cutting out the caffeine is key when looking to get rid of adrenal fatigue.
Instead of starting your day with your typical cup of joe, think about water and lemon followed by a healthy balanced breakfast. Getting a healthy dose of balanced protein and healthy carbs will give your body the energy it needs without a heavy crash in the afternoon. Whole grain oats and berries are another great way to give you natural, lasting energy.
Cutting out all processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars is where you need to start and by doing so you will cut off what is feeding your adrenal gland fatigue. Replaced with a balanced diet full of adequate protein and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables will help you begin to restore your body back to its natural balance and initiate healthy adrenal function.
Find Ways To Reduce Stress
It’s pretty hard not to be stressed with the demands of today’s modern world. We’re taxed for time and working longer hours with many of us juggling family, career, and our personal lives. When we don’t take the time to manage the stress we’re faced with every day it tends to grow, leaving us fatigued and without ways to cope with everything that comes our way.
Accumulated stress is something that greatly contributes to adrenal fatigue. Without taking the time to relax and get back to our natural rhythms, our bodies must work overtime to compensate. When we’re constantly stressed out, our adrenals are working hard because our bodies recognize this as the flight or fight mode. When you’re stressed, your adrenals counteract this stress by raising blood pressure, increasing heart rate, suppress your immune function, and increase your blood’s clotting ability.
These stress symptoms are all supposed to be short lived, but when you continue to stay stressed out they continue to not only stay in your body, but make things worse as time goes on. Stress will keep your adrenal glands on high alert, but reducing stress and taking the time to relax will give them adequate time to recover and function normally.
If you’ve got adrenal fatigue, one of the first things you should do is begin to lower your stress levels. Focus on your breathing, take a walk, or do whatever it is that will help you relax. Meditation is an excellent way to reduce stress and sitting quietly with your breathing for even five minutes a day will tremendously improve your health. Find ways to relax every single day and you will soon see your fatigue symptoms become a thing of the past.
Choose Beneficial Supplements
Not only does adrenal fatigue wipe your body’s energy, but it also wipes out vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best. In order to take care of adrenal fatigue, it is important to give back to your body what it needs. Finding the right supplements and combining them to effectively give your body back what it needs is extremely important when you are looking to get rid of adrenal fatigue for good.
Knowing what to take to restore your body to its optimal health after suffering from adrenal fatigue is vital and the following supplements are an excellent place to begin on the road to wellness.
- Vitamin C
As the king of antioxidants, vitamin C plays a large role in your adrenal function. It is directly involved in the production of cortisol in your adrenals. Not getting enough vitamin C can obviously wreak havoc on your adrenal glands and greatly contribute to adrenal fatigue. Start with 1000mg a day and increase slowly over time. This essential vitamin is truly a building block that will help repair your adrenals and have you healthy in no time at all.
- Vitamins B5, B6, B12
The combination of these three essential B vitamins will help with adrenal fatigue and give you back the energy you have lost. B5 helps with cellular restoration, B6 helps with the creation of adrenal hormones, and B12 helps with the production of energy. Adding these vitamins into your daily intake of healthy foods will do wonders for adrenal fatigue.
Probiotics have made quite a buzz lately and for good reason. They help to improve digestion, reduce the side effects of antibiotics, and give our bodies the healthy bacteria it needs to stay healthy. Probiotics are great at extracting more of the nutrients out of the foods we eat. This helps to greatly improve digestion, something that is very important for many adrenal fatigue sufferers. They will also work to support the immune system and protect you from any further adrenal damage.
While these are the most important supplements you can buy for adrenal fatigue, there are a number of others that will help immensely including:
Get The Right Exercise
While getting exercise is important for anyone, people that suffer from adrenal fatigue need to be especially aware of getting sufficient exercise 3-5 days a week. There’s a catch here though. Getting the wrong types of exercise can actually make adrenal fatigue worse. In the case of adrenal fatigue, cardio and heavy weightlifting are things you’ll want to avoid, while gentle stretches and muscle toning exercises should be embraced.
If you experience adrenal fatigue, you’ll want to focus on taking the right steps to help your body repair itself naturally. When you start, simply focus on breathing and gentle stretching. A beginning yoga class would be excellent until you move onto slowly toning and strengthening your muscles. When your body begins to repair itself, moving onto a more fluid exercise routine will help tremendously. Once your body is comfortable, try some power yoga or gently aerobics. You want to get your blood circulating, but don’t want to overwork your body. Walking is another way to get the exercise you need without exhausting yourself even further.
Managing Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is very real and affects some 80 percent of people at one time or another. Understanding adrenal function and the symptoms that come with adrenal fatigue are the first steps in giving your body back the energy it needs. Adrenal fatigue does not have to upset your life forever. Taking the time to recognize the signs and properly taking care of your body will help your adrenal glands return to their normal functioning state and leave you full of the energy you deserve to make it through life without feeling exhausted, drained, and worn out.
Testing For Adrenal Fatigue:
If you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, there is a simple saliva test you can order. This Adrenal Stress Profile consists of a series of saliva tests that measure the level of cortisol four times daily to establish its circadian rhythm. Additionally, this test measures a two-sample average of the sulfated form of DHEA (DHEA-S), and related metabolites including progesterone, estradiol, estriol, testosterone, and melatonin. For more information on testing, check out www.nourishbalancethrive.com.