EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ADRENAL FATIGUE
April 25, 2020
Do you feel constantly drained? It's a common thing to be tired after a long 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. This is most likely to occur in people who are under long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress. In fact, you may be more likely to develop this condition if, you have a stressful job, are a shift worker, working student, single parent, or if you abuse alcohol or drugs.
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".
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 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, 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
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
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:
Low blood pressure (fainting)
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
WAYS TO COMBAT ADRENAL FATIGUE THROUGH DIET
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:
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.
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 Root 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, it is 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 Fruit 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 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). 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. It can assist cortisol in improving energy levels (16). A study conducted at the Queen Margaret University Edinburg also found licorice root aids the body in regulating cortisol (17).
Astragalus Root has been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes. It has been scientifically found to boost immune system and increase T-cell count to prevent colds and cases of the flu.
Vitamin C Research has shown that adrenal glands secrete vitamin C as a response to stress and contains one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C in the body (18)(19). 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).
Final note: 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.