Adrenal Fatigue: How It Affects Your Life and How to Heal It
80% of American society is afflicted with adrenal fatigue at some point in their life yet most are unaware of the problem. They simply know they don’t feel well or perhaps symptoms lead them to explore other disorders; we do know that often symptoms denote multiple possibilities and sometimes overlap disorders. Do these symptoms apply to you?
- Weight gain, especially in waist or stomach, and it stubbornly sticks to you
- Fatigue ~ lack of energy ~ lethargy
- Brain fog ~ concentration difficulty
- Morning sluggishness ~ need for stimulants to get you moving
- Nervousness ~ anxiety
- Mild depression
- Dry skin and hair
- Pain in upper back and neck
- Unexplained hair loss
- Cold hands and feet ~ or just plain cold
- Allergies ~ both inhalants and food
- Low body temperature
- Reduced sex drive
If you said “yes” to several of these symptoms there is a strong possibly that you are experiencing adrenal fatigue. If you said “yes” to half or more, your adrenals are fatigued.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is simply the allowance of stressors to influence and perhaps take control over your life. Stress is a big issue in most people’s lives and all too often the person has no idea how to deal with the stress. The result is adrenal fatigue as well as many other imbalances within the body, mind and spirit of the individual. Stress has many faces such as:
Anger ~ fear ~ guilt
Not enough sleep ~ chronic fatigue
Too much exercise
Worry ~ anxiety ~ continually focusing on negative aspects and events
Exposure to large amount of toxins
What happens when your body becomes stressed?
Your adrenal glands are located directly above the kidneys which are found in the back of you right above your waist. In this tiny gland is the most abundant hormone in your body — DHEA. Cortisol (often referred to as the hormone of death) is also found in your adrenal glands. The adrenals main purpose is to be a stress regulator. Here’s an example.
You are traveling down the road and someone pulls out in front of you. You slam on your brakes, maybe say a few choice words, and are grateful that you avoided an accident. In the meantime you had probably stopped breathing momentarily, at the very least you only took shallow quick breaths. Your heart probably began racing and felt like it would pop out of your chest and maybe even your head started throbbing. What you probably don’t know is that your cortisol also shot up to accommodate for the demand put on your adrenals. This is what we term flight and flight, and it is beneficial when something like this occurs. However, when our life becomes a continual fight and flight atmosphere, we can easily develop adrenal fatigue. The adrenals kicking in for a sudden trauma is meant to be temporary. From the stressors already mentioned, it is usually a combination of various stressors that create this syndrome for you.
As a result of continuous stress to your body, your cortisol remains elevated and thus the symptoms begin. It is very likely that at the same time your DHEA is declining, and if you are 40 or older, it is doing so naturally. We know that hormones do decline with age, but if we are stressed they will decline more rapidly. All of this not only tears down your health but ages you faster both internally and externally. And who wants to age faster!
As a result of experiencing adrenal fatigue, most individuals reach for stimulants to get and keep them going — coffee, sodas, pills, alcohol, chocolate, nicotine, etc. They are masking their problem and it continues to grow worse without their awareness due to the cover-up.
Here’s the importance of cortisol.
It normalizes blood sugar ~ When a stressor occurs the cortisol increases the blood sugar level in your body, working with the pancreas to provide enough glucose to provide energy for your cells. Continuous increased blood sugar levels creates a blood sugar imbalance which can lead to multiple physical disorders such as diabetes.
Anti-inflammatory ~ Cortisol is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. When trauma happens to our body the cortisol is released to reduce the swelling and repair the injury. Too much trauma produces too much cortisol. There are many disorders associated with inflammation such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis.
Immune system supporter ~ Cortisol influences most cells that participate in your immune system’s regulation. Chronic high levels of cortisol suppress the immune system allowing an individual to be more susceptible to illness, especially to viruses.
Stress balancer ~ Cortisol helps to balance your stress reactions, but if stress becomes chronic then it can no longer maintain the balance. The result can be weight gain that is difficult to reduce, high blood pressure, estrogen dominance that can lead to uterine fibroids and even breast cancer, and much more.
So you can see how easy it is to find yourself in the throws of adrenal fatigue and yet suspect other disorders. I personally believe, as do many health practitioners, that it is imperative to repair your adrenals no matter what illness or disorder you have because the adrenals will always be affected if there is imbalance anywhere in your body.
Steps to repair your adrenals
- First of all understand this. Traditional medicine testing cannot detect adrenal fatigue unless it has become severe. That’s why so many physicians tell their patients — and you may have been one of them — to go home and relax or give them a prescription drug for anxiety to help. That’s simply a band-aid approach and resolves little if anything, and it definitely doesn’t cure the problem.
- However, there is a saliva test that holistic practitioners and doctors are using that has excellent results in measuring your cortisol and DHEA levels. It is called the ASI, or Adrenal Stress Index. Although nothing is ever 100% accurate, this has very high accuracy. The reason is that your saliva is part of your tissues and can relate to the lab technicians what is being absorbed within your body as well as the level of your hormones.
- Realize that all physical disorders have emotional cores. You may be able to “fix” your adrenal problem temporarily by making some lifestyle changes, but if you don’t release the negative emotion that underlies your stress it will simply come back again, perhaps in another form. We are multidimensional beings and it requires a balance in all four areas to be healthy. One tire on your car can cause quite an imbalance if it loses enough air. So it is with your body and health.
- Remove your stressors. You might be laughing right now as you’re thinking I don’t know what your life is like and what you’re going through. You might be surprised just how much I do understand. And yes, you can successfully become stress free. You see, I’m a recoveree of adrenal fatigue and had been experiencing it for decades but didn’t know it. I gave birth to and raised five children, worked all through those years, was driven to succeed in my work, began having big health challenges, divorced, experienced major financial struggles for several years, found myself in a potentially destructive business arrangement from which I finally detached, and so on. We all have our stories but you don’t have to stay in them. I left my old story and created a life free from stress and its affects on me. You can do it too! The key is in how you respond to the stressors. If you want to know more about how to live stress-free, click on my website www.drcarolynporter.com on the home page, and order my free eBook entitled Stress Free Living. There are many other products and services listed on my website that may help you as well.
- Get enough sleep! This can be a real problem for many people. So many come into our health store begging for something so they can sleep. Insomnia often accompanies adrenal fatigue yet it is most necessary for repair. 7-8 hours or more are necessary for healing and the adrenals repair most from 11pm — 1am. (some say the repair begins at 10 pm) So that means that you night owls might need to make some changes. I had to do this as well. Melatonin, 5HTP, herbs, magnesium, warm baths, reading before retiring, working with a coach to learn new ways to respond to your stress, listening to soft music, are all possible was to help you sleep. It is also essential to clean your liver and digest your food well to sleep well. Guides for this are mentioned below.
- Change your diet. Follow these guidelines to allow for adrenal repair:
- Eliminate sugar, caffeine, and alcohol — these fight against adrenal repair
- Consider adding salt to you diet — but only Himalayan or Celtic types
- Consume many organic vegetables, at least 6 every day
- Consider juicing veggies several times a week for cleansing your body
- Drink 1 mug of warm water on empty stomach every morning with ¬Ω organic lemon squeezed in it — cleanses the liver easily and naturally
- Exercise, but only moderately at first. Rule of thumb is to stop if tired.
- Eat regularly, at least three meals per day — may benefit from 5-6 small ones
- Eat plenty of good protein as amino acids found in protein help restore adrenals
- Progesterone cream — promotes healthy adrenals and thyroid glands, helps to balance estrogen overload
- Supplementation — this is an individualized process — there is no one protocol
- that works for everyone and what works for one can be toxic to another. Below are
- some suggestions but please do your own research and seek the help of qualified
- practitioners for your repair process.
Note: When your adrenals are fatigued the immediate craving is for sugar, yet ironically it is the worst thing you could consume as it furthers the adrenal fatigue. Individuals who crave sugar or carbohydrates often find that adrenal fatigue is a root cause of their cravings.
Adrenals will be better served with organic vegetables, the darker and brighter the better, plenty of good quality protein to ensure enough amino acids, plenty of water and the inclusion of beneficial oils like unrefined, organic extra virgin coconut oil. This kind of coconut oil can actually cause weight loss and provide the good fats necessary for the conversion of ALL hormones in your body.
Supplementation that can support adrenal repair:
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids — 1000 mg to 5000 mg daily, divided doses
- B-5, pantothenic acid, or panethine gelcaps — 1000 — 1500 mg daily, divided
- Vitamin E, mixed tocopherols — 400 iu’s daily, one gelcap
- Magnesium — citrate good form, 500 or more mg daily, powdered form good
- Natural progesterone cream — men can also benefit
Also may be beneficial:
- B complex, 50 — 100 mg 2 x’s daily
- Multi-vitamin/mineral — once daily
- DHEA — be careful with this, especially women, as only a little is needed to help
- Natural hydrocortisone — caution here as well — prescription only
Since most individuals with adrenal fatigue have compromised digestion, it is vital that they can digest food and supplement intake properly and have a good intestinal flora balance. You might want to include the following in your daily diet to assist in adrenal restoration:
- Probiotics – 2 — 3 times per day
- Digestive enzymes — with every meal
- Eating raw fermented vegetables – daily
Note: Often less is best, at least to begin. If your body is not functioning optimally, it may be necessary to introduce supplements and changes slowly so as not to “shock” the body or overload it. Of course, in the case of serious disease, it is often beneficial to saturate the body quickly to detoxify and ensure healing. Baby steps do best and know that adrenal restoration takes time, from 3 months to as much as two years, according to the severity of your adrenal fatigue.
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