You’re exhausted, burning the candle at both ends and coping with a series of caffeine or alcohol hits. Have you hit adrenal fatigue burnout?
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Our adrenals are 2 small glands that sit on top of our kidneys and are responsible for pumping out our the stress hormones, adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol down one pathway, and aldosterone, which regulates blood pressure, down another pathway.
Short-term stress is a good thing. It allows us to react quickly to a situation and can give us the energy needed to respond to a task or event such as an emergency or even a deadline. Adrenal and noradrenalin will kick us into action and cortisol will see us through until the event is over and we can relax.
But when we place constant mental, emotional, physical or chemical stress on our bodies, our adrenals have to work overtime to produce these stress hormones. When there’s no off-button, they eventually give up causing us to crash and burn. This is what many natural health practitioners dub Adrenal Fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue will not just cause exhaustion, but will affect the production of our sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, as well as their precursor hormone, DHEA causing hormonal problems. This becomes particularly important for women heading into perimenopause and menopause. Once ovulation becomes less regular (or ceases), so too does our pool of ready-made oestrogen and progesterone and the baton gets passed to our precious adrenals to pick up the slack.
The Stages of Stress
- Fight or Flight (Alarm) Response occurs during a confrontation with a stressful situation. It causes the release of adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol from the adrenal glands. These hormones direct blood toward the muscles and limbs allowing the individual to either fight or flee.
- Resistance, or Adaptive, Phase involves learning to cope with a perceived threat (stressor). During the Resistance Phase, cortisol is released and continues until the stress is removed and the body can return to a resting state. However, many of us live in this high-cortisol phase, never switching off. Some of the symptoms include: headaches, insomnia, hypertension (high blood pressure) and a state of restless anxiety.
- Exhaustion Phase occurs when the Resistance Phase is overwhelmed. This is a state of low cortisol and extreme exhaustion.
What Are The Main Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue?
- Allergies and respiratory infections
- Brain fog / poor memory / poor concentration
- Digestive issues
- Fatigue, often worse after exercise / exertion
- Frequent unexplained headaches
- Hypoglycaemia / low blood sugar
- Hypotension / low blood pressure / dizziness
- Irregular cycles, period problems and PMS
- Irritability / poor stress response
- Low grade fever / swollen lymph glands
- Low libido
- Muscle / joint pain
- Poor immune function / getting sick all the time
- Waking tired but feeling wired before bed
How Can We Support Our Adrenals And Restore Energy?
Diet and Lifestyle
- Prioritise sleep! Get to bed early, by 9.30-10pm and prepare for sleep an hour beforehand by creating a sleep routine, perhaps with a cup of chamomile tea, to let your brain know it’s time to relax and get ready for bed.
- Cut back on stimulants like coffee, alcohol and energy drinks and quit smoking.
- Improve your diet by including lots of dark leafy green and coloured vegetables, healthy fats and protein and remove processed and takeaway foods high in salt, sugar and polyunsaturated fats.
- Detox your home and work environment. Many commercial shampoos, skin-care and cleaning products are full of chemicals that we absorb, ingest or inhale on a daily basis. Choosing natural and organic replacements will lower the chemical and environmental stress on our bodies.
- Turn off the iPhone/TV/computer and remove all electronic devices from the bedroom.
- Say no to invites that are draining or you’re attending out of duty or guilt and have a few nights in instead.
Adaptogens are herbal remedies that modulate and support adrenal function. Their power comes not simply from their ability to only raise or lower stress-hormone levels, but to balance these levels and bring the adrenals back into homeostasis.
- Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng): At low doses, Panax is like kindling to a fire. Without overstimulating, it can provide that little spark to a depleted adrenal gland to keep the chi simmering whilst the adrenals are on their road to recovery.
- Withania somnifera: Great for those with low DHEA/testosterone levels: wired and tired
- Rhodiola rosea: Mentally and emotionally stressed; can’t sleep; Type As; corporates, heady types who can’t switch off; wired and tired.
- Eleutherococcus senticosis (Siberian ginseng): My favourite herb and great for the Exhaustion Phase/Phase 3 of the stress response, i.e. cortisol has dropped as has DHEA; there is no ‘wired’ picture here. This is the phase of complete exhaustion.
- Schisandra chinensis: I call this “Schizzy Schisandra.” Its ruby-red berry and warming, zingy taste is great for the thin, wirey superwoman. She’s often lean, run ragged and permanently on the go. It’s also a great Phase 2 liver detoxifier.
- Echinacea angustifolia/purpurea: Not just for immune boosting, Echinacea also helps modulate/regulate high cortisol levels with research showing “a potential benefit in the treatment of stress-related pathologies with a neuroinflammatory component, such as depression.” Zippy S et. al., Br J Pharmaol 2014; 171(11);2814-2826
- Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice root): Nourishing and one of the best herbs to down regulate cortisol. NB: Should NOT be used in cases of hypertension or high blood pressure.
- Rhemannia glutinosa: Adrenal tonic; may support the cells of the adrenal cortex and pituitary gland through long-term stress. Unlike Licorice, may be used in cases of hypertension.
Kate is a qualified naturopath who is passionate about helping women heal from hormonal havoc and inspiring women to know their own power, worth and wisdom.
Kate offers one-on-one Skype consults for irregular cycles, PMS and period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, peri-menopause, mood swings, fatigue and mental and emotional stress.
Simply drop me an email to see how I can help you!