Everything You Need To Know About Adrenal Fatigue
Do you feel constantly drained? Are you wondering if you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue? It's a common thing to be tired after a long working day.
But, if you are experiencing chronic fatigue and stress despite getting rest, there may be something off with your adrenal glands and hormone production.
In fact, you may be more likely to develop this condition if, you have a stressful job like being a doctor, nurse or police men in this global coronavirus pandemic; or are a shift worker, working student, single parent, or if you abuse alcohol or drugs.
Read on to find out; is adrenal fatigue real? What exactly adrenal fatigue is? Which specific natural diet and herbal supplements, naturopathic medical experts recommend for improving adrenal gland function and overall energy levels.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
The term "adrenal fatigue" was suggested in 1998 by Dr James Wilson. He’s a naturopath and expert in alternative medicine. According to him, it is a "group of related signs and symptoms that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level".
It's most likely to occur in people who are under long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress.
What Are Adrenal Glands?
Your adrenal glands are crescent-shaped structures, located on top of your kidneys. Proper working of these glands is essential for your everyday health.
They're in charge of releasing several essential hormones that help your body to:
- Burn fat and proteins
- Regulate energy levels
- Regulate blood pressure
- Regulate sugar
- Regulate immune system
- React to stressors
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue? Theory Behind It
Your adrenal glands respond to stress conditions by releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are an essential part of your "fight or flight" response.
According to the theory, if you have long-term stress (like working as a frontline fighter in coronavirus pandemic), your adrenal glands may exhaust from prolonged production of adrenal hormones (primarily cortisol). That’s why, adrenal fatigue sets in.
Adrenal Fatigue Vs Adrenal Insufficiency, How Can You Recognize It?
Adrenal insufficiency is also known as Addison's disease. It's a medical condition that occurs when your adrenal glands aren't producing sufficient amount of one or more hormones (1).
While adrenal fatigue is a theory that proposes high-stress levels can trigger adrenal insufficiency.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
According to Dr James Wilson, when somebody has chronic stress, their adrenal glands may get damaged and can't keep up, therefore, produce less of the hormones needed to feel healthy (2).
Feeling constantly tired is just one symptom of adrenal fatigue. Other adrenal fatigue symptoms might include:
- A weakened immune system
- Inability to handle stress or to focus
- Difficulty getting to sleep
- Difficulty waking up
- Sugar and salt carvings
- Lack of motivation
- Brain Fog
- Loss of body hair
- Dizziness when standing up
- Overuse of stimulants ( e.g., caffeine or energy drinks)
Symptoms of Adrenal Insufficiency
Adrenal insufficiency occurs upon damage to your adrenal glands. This damage causes your adrenal gland not to produce an adequate amount of hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. These hormones are vital for regulating the body's reaction to stressful situations.
- People having adrenal insufficiency may experience the following symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Low blood pressure (fainting)
- Salt craving
- Weight loss and decreased appetite
- Loss of body hair and sexual dysfunction in women
Adrenal Fatigue Test
If you're feeling constantly exhausted and want to figure out what the underlying cause may be, you should discuss your chronic fatigue symptoms with a trusted healthcare provider.
Though, there are no formal tests for adrenal fatigue, a natural medicine physician may test adrenal fatigue by:
- A blood test looking at DHEA-S levels (3).
- A simple saliva test for measuring cortisol levels
Adrenal Fatigue Diet
The adrenal fatigue diet is a food-based approach to improve adrenal glands functioning. The actual goal is to enhance your energy levels naturally.
Adrenal fatigue diet is similar to most recommended balanced diets, which generally include:
- Whole grains
- High protein food
This diet promotes:
- Optimum functioning of adrenal glands
- Normal blood pressure
- Improved stress levels
- Increased healthy nutrients in the body
Below are some dietary recommendations for those who are experiencing chronic fatigue and stress.
ADRENAL FATIGUE DIET
FOODS TO EAT
FOODS TO AVOID
Lean Meats, Fish, Eggs
Leafy greens and Colorful vegetables
Sea salt in moderation
Healthy fats such as olive oil and coconut oil
Best Herbal Supplements for Adrenal Fatigue
Research studies have shown that effective stress management is a key to reversing damage caused by abnormal hormone production from the adrenal glands (4). Vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements have been shown to help ease mental stress and support healthy adrenal gland function (5).
Below are the herbal supplements and vitamins that are scientifically proven to alleviate fatigue-related problems and induce calming effects.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been scientifically found to:
- Decrease symptoms of fatigue and depression (6)
- Counteract the symptoms of stress (7)
- Improve an individual's quality of life. Studies demonstrated that full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract effectively develops an individual's resistance towards stress (8)
As ashwagandha root extract supplements have been linked to calming effects, so it's recommended to be taken before bedtime (9).
Eleutherococcus senticosus is a commonly used adaptogen throughout the world. It has been scientifically found to (10):
- Improve stress, tolerance and energy. An eight-week study suggested that this herb boosted energy, metabolism, and physical performance in the study participants (11).
- Treat weakness, fatigue, stress intolerance, and nervous debilities.
- Act as an adrenal tonic.
Panax ginseng is one of the most popular medicinal plants throughout the world. Studies showed that it alleviates fatigue-related disorders (12).
Another research study demonstrated the beneficial effects of 200mg and 400mg of Panax ginseng on the mood of young, healthy individuals (13).
Acerola is a type of fruit that enriched in vitamin C. It looks like a large cherry but tastes more like a sour apple. Researchers at the University of Campinas found that it contains about 2600mg (26 times your RDA) of vitamin C per 100g of acerola.
Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure, better subjective stress responses and faster salivary cortisol recovery.
Holy Basil Leaf
Holy basil leaf is also an adaptogenic herb. It has been found to:
- Improve salivary cortisol levels and cognitive function. In a study, individuals were given 300 milligrams of holy basil leaf for thirty consecutive days. The researchers concluded that holy basil leaf has cognition-enhancing properties in humans (14).
Rhodiola Rosea is also an adaptogenic herb that alters hormone levels as well as:
- Improve energy levels and mental performance. A research study suggested that Rhodiola improves mental performance and decreases fatigue of the students around exam periods (15).
- Decrease cortisol levels. In a study trial, individuals with stress-related fatigue were given two daily doses for 28 days of Rhodiola Rosea, and the results suggested that it decrease cortisol levels.
Licorice root can help those who do not produce enough cortisol. Licorice root has also been found to:
- Regulate cortisol as a study conducted at the Queen Margaret University Edinburg found licorice root aids the body in regulating cortisol (16).
- Assist cortisol in improving energy levels (17).
Astragalus root is use for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes. It has been scientifically found to:
- Boost immune system
- Increases T-cell count to prevent colds and cases of the flu
In a clinical trial, 120 participants were given vitamin C. The results demonstrated that individuals receiving ascorbic acid supplementation experienced lower blood pressure, better subjective stress responses and faster salivary cortisol recovery compared to the control group.
So, Vitamin C supplementation may help mitigate the stress response.
Vitamin B6 is essential for adrenal function as it acts as a cofactor in many enzyme reactions, mainly in amino acid metabolism and biosynthesis of neurotransmitters.
It modulates the adrenal activity and the stress response (20).
Quick Final Words
Some of the medical conditions including adrenal insufficiency, obstructive sleep apnea, depression and autoimmune disorder might cause similar symptoms as adrenal fatigue. That's why, testing can be an essential part of adrenal fatigue treatment process.
Once you and your healthcare provider have a better sense of what is and isn't causing your symptoms, you can confidently start an individualized treatment plan using specialized diet and adrenal fatigue supplements.