Do I Suffer from Adrenal Fatigue?
Although conventional medicine fails to recognise Adrenal Fatigue (or HPA axis dysregulation) as a real problem, it does affect an ever increasing number of people, especially in the developed countries; it can be hard to diagnose and it can be life-changing, but it can be overcome.
The adrenal glands are wonderful powerhouses that sit on top of the kidneys and that are in charge of producing hormones that help the body to control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, they react to stressors like a major illness or injury, and regulate blood pressure.
Unfortunately, due to the high level of stress, mixed with a bad diet and sleepless nights, these glands get depleted, and that’s when your body stops coping.
Normally people with adrenal fatigue pumps out stress hormones on a constant basis (also when there is no danger in sight) and wake up tired, struggle during the day, feel like napping in the afternoon and are exhausted but wired at night. For the above reasons, these people survive on coffees, sugary foods (always seeking the hit, like real addict), alcohol and marijuana to unwind, and they deal with co-related symptoms such as GIT issues, headaches, muscle tensions and so forth. In the worst-case scenario, patients suffering from adrenal fatigue can end up in bed for months, unable to lift themselves up. It is a simple way of the body to say: if you don’t listen, I shut down, thank you very much!
If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, recovery is the only way out of the never-ending tiredness, which will also affect your work, social life, family and willingness to live.
So, what can you do?
• Rest and sleep
I can’t stress this point enough. If the body and the brain have been wired for a long time, it takes time to reset. Changes won’t happen overnight. That’ s where most of the people struggle and eventually fail to improve. There is no point in goggling down expensive supplements if you don’t prioritize your sleep first. The more you relax and tune in with what your body needs, the soon you will recover and feel energised as you were in the past (or maybe better); so ask yourself: can I cut down some working hours? Can I say no to the cinema on Wednesday and that party on Friday and get a massage and a good night sleep instead? Can I ask for help or can I delegate? Can someone babysit my baby while I have a nap? Can my husband do the nighttime routine by himself so I can meditate and drink a cup of tea instead?
• Resilience to stress
Stress will always be in our lives, so it’s better to learn how to deal with it. For example, if you get stressed before a presentation or every time your teenage kid leave the house on a Saturday night, it is better to develop some tools and coping mechanism to avoid that the outside madness rules your inner peace. You can get ready for the presentation and you can bring up the most wonderful and trustworthy kid, but at the end of the day what happens out there is always a surprise. But we can learn to modify what happens inside ourselves. I highly recommend to learn breathing techniques, invest your time in a meditation course or simple learn and master perspective. These won’t only help you only to overcome adrenal fatigue, but it will also improve the quality of your life in the long term.
Exercise is an excellent little helper when trying to defeat fatigue; obviously, there are stages where the idea of tidying a shoelace is too much, and that’s ok. As I said before, listen to your body (not your lazy mind) and go with it. Start by walking, every day if possible, for at least 30 minutes; incorporate a yoga class into the weekly routine (it doesn’t have to be a strong and sweaty vinyasa class, yin yoga or yoga Nidra would be better options to start with). Keep building up your exercise routine and your strength without overdoing it.
But (there is a big but) while for some people exercise is most beneficial when experiencing fatigue, gym junkie and fitness addict struggling with constant tiredness should just swap their HIIT class with stretching and resting. Exercise, when the body is already depleted, can lead to injuries, weight stagnation, underperformance, and unhappiness. If something that you used to love feels more like a chore, maybe you just need to stop and recharge.
• Balance your blood sugar level
Have you noticed that when tired we tend to reach for fatty foods, carby meals, and sugarish snacks? It is not only you and it isn’t only a coincidence. When we eat excess sugar, our pancreas and adrenal glands produce extra insulin and cortisol to handle the influx of sugar and empty calories. A long-term high-sugar diet can contribute to lower levels of key hormones and neurotransmitters that leads to the classic symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue — tiredness, low energy levels, and a general lack of vitality and enthusiasm.
So opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits veggies, and leave the sugar at bay…for now at least.
• Alcohol & Coffee, the adrenal “fatiguers” best friends
You have been feeling low and tired, and you beg your mum’s friend to buy you a double shot cappuccino. Your brain needs help, and you think that help comes under the form of caffeine. Wrong! Caffeine depletes the adrenal glands and when consumed in excess can cause tachycardia, high blood pressure, sweating, moodiness, and insomnia. So, there is no need for a long-winded explanation to understand why it would be better to swap that espresso for a caffeine-free chai.
The same goes for alcohol; not only it’s rich in sugar, but it tends to disrupt our sleep, appetite, and digestion. Although it feels so right to reach for a glass of Pinot Noir at the end of an exhausting day, it is actually contributing to our misery.
• Gluten and Diary
When recovery from Adrenal Fatigue, it is an excellent idea to cut down (even eliminate completely) gluten and dairy products. Although dairy products can be quite beneficial and very nourishing (think yogurt and probiotics), allergy to casein or lactose intolerance has been linked to fatigue, indigestion, and tiredness. The same goes with gluten; although some cultures thrive on it, there is an ever-increasing number of people suffering from celiac disease or undiagnosed gluten intolerance. Allergies and intolerances can cause inflammation in our body, which makes our system work in overdrive.
Also if giving up on that morning croissants make you weep, focus on how much better you will be able to feel.
As I said before, supplements taken by themselves can be quite useless; but if they are consumed along with a proper diet and a sound sleep routine, they can become incredibly helpful. If suffering from AF, vitamin C, Bs and Magnesium should be taken on a daily basis.
As previously stated, never medicate yourself, and always talk to your nutritionist before starting a new program.