What is Adrenal Fatigue? – Adrenal Fatigue 101

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What is adrenal fatigue? It sounds daunting. Do you live a stressful and busy life? Juggling long work hours with family engagements while drinking cup after cup of coffee or energy drinks to get you by? You may have adrenal fatigue and not even realize.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands are overstimulated for extended periods of time. Many things stimulate the adrenal glands but stress is the biggest factor. Stress can come from anywhere in life from work deadlines, parenting children, exercise in the gym and the consumption of stimulants such as coffee or red bull. An overstimulated adrenal system leads to an imbalance of cortisol which is the stress hormone. This can lead to unwanted weight gain.
The thing about the adrenals though is there is no immediate off switch. When your adrenals are activated through stress they don’t just switch off and immediately begin recovering, they keep pumping.

What are the adrenal glands?

Your adrenals are an organ responsible for producing over 50 different hormones that drive nearly every bodily function. You can safely guess that they are very essential to living a happy and healthy life, and an overworked adrenal system is a recipe for disaster!
The adrenals are also responsible for balancing other hormones such as the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone. Out of balance sex hormones can cause all sorts of health issues such as weight gain, depression, anxiety and mood swings.

Causes of Adrenal Fatigue

If you have adrenal fatigue, your adrenal glands aren’t able to keep up with the tremendous stress each day. Here are some things that can cause adrenal fatigue:
  • Lack of sleep
  • Physical or emotional trauma i.e. death of a loved one, breakup, injury
  • Prolonged stress such as financial hardship, toxic relationships
  • Poor diet choices, overconsumption of food, crash diets, lack of exercise
  • Too much exercise i.e. Overtraining
  • Depression
  • Food allergies, sickness
  • Surgery
  • Stimulants i.e. coffee and energy drinks/pills

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Because so many bodily functions come into play around the adrenal glands, there are quite a number of symptoms for adrenal fatigue. These are:
  • Food cravings, sugar or salt or both
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic fatigue (always tired, unmotivated)
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Depression
  • Moodiness/irritability
  • Insulin resistance
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Muscle loss
  • Bone Loss
  • Skin issues such as dry skin, acne
  • Sleep problems/Insomnia
  • Weight gain

What Can You Do to Prevent Adrenal Fatigue?


Unfortunately there are causes that are sometimes unavoidable such as loss of a loved one, or a breakup but there are things you can control. If you are worried about getting adrenal fatigue or think you may already have it, the first thing to change is your diet.
  

Diet

Avoid sugars and sweeteners such as cereals, candy, sweets or anything with high-fructose corn syrup. Even artificial sweeteners are bad to have and can have an impact. Just be weary sugar is an additive that is snuck into many different foods, breads, condiments and dressings.
Avoid excessive consumption of carbohydrates. The inflammation that can occur after eating high amount of carbohydrates can do more damage to your adrenals. Try to avoid if not remove gluten and starchy carbs from your diet.
Do not eat processed foods. Processed foods such as precooked microwavable meals have many preservatives that don’t digest well and tax your body’s digestive system. Try to buy natural organic foods and cook the meals yourself.
Cut back on the protein. Too much protein can stress your hormones more than you know. Particularly with processed meats there are added hormones which can do more harm than good. When eating meat stick to grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and turkey or wild caught fish.
Avoid all vegetable and hydrogenated oils like canola and soybean oil. Only use healthy fats for oils such as extra virgin olive oil, organic butter, ghee or coconut oil.
Avoid coffee and black tea, and limit the amount of green tea you may drink. You want to cut caffeine from your diet.
Here is a list of foods you should always have in your diet for they are easily digested and are dense in vital nutrients.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower
  • Green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon
  • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
  • Free-range chicken or turkey
  • Avocado

Sleep

You need adequate sleep at least 8 hours a night. You may find yourself sleeping much longer if you are a coffee addict and you stop drinking it. If you struggle to sleep because of anxiety or stress, try different breathing techniques while listening to soothing music.
Avoid using your mobile phone, computer or watching tv up to 2 hours before bed. Using your mobile phone or computer can prevent you from falling asleep. Your brain doesn’t recognise the difference between the light of your phone or TV screen and the light of the sun. What happens when the sun goes down, your body begins to produce the hormone Melatonin to calm your body and your mind and prepare it for sleep. Looking at your phone screen is going to inhibit this.
Try to sleep while listening to light rainfall soundtracks and breathing very slow but deep breaths. To stop your brain chatter, think slow meaningful thoughts of self betterment. While breathing slow, think thoughts such as I am healthy, I am motivated and I am caring. Any goals you wish to achieve you can manipulate into your subconscious by thinking these thoughts.
Don’t just think the words, see the words in your mind as you slowly pronounce them visualise each letter. While breathing deep breaths this should work to calm your mind and prepare you to sleep.

Exercise

Make sure to exercise each day. If you are heavily fatigued force yourself to get up and go for a walk around the neighbourhood in the sunlight. This has many health benefits in and of itself. Don’t stress your body too much. Avoid intense workouts like interval training or heavy resistance training. Use light weight with moderate to high volume in your resistance training.

Kick the coffee

Impossible! I know! I’ve been there. Coffee is a vital part of your day, but that caffeine is also adding to the stress on your body. Replace your morning coffee with lemon water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and you’ll be feeling twice as good in a week’s time. The first few days will be a struggle but the withdrawal pains are worth it.

How long does it take to recover from adrenal fatigue?


Adrenal fatigue is not something that occurs overnight, it usually takes months even years to develop. This is generally how long it takes to recover from it. Minor adrenal fatigue may take 6-9 months, moderate fatigue may take 12-18 months and severe fatigue can take 24+ months to recover.