How Do I Know If I Have Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal Fatigue. Do you feel like you’re lacking energy throughout the day and exhausted by the end of it? Even if you get what seems like a good night’s sleep? And even when your level of physical activity isn’t really high? You might be suffering from adrenal fatigue, and I’d love to share some tips to help you get through it.
Many people, especially women, tend to overwork themselves to the point their hormones go out of whack. This usually reflects in the adrenal glands and the menstrual cycle, causing them to go out of balance. If you’ve ever heard of the term burnout, this is it.
These small, triangular glands are situated on top of your kidneys and their role is to produce hormones that help regulate your immune system, metabolism, stress management, blood pressure, and more. When they don’t produce enough hormones or produce too many is when hormone imbalances start to occur, potentially leading to a variety of health issues down the line.
Adrenal glands produce the following hormones:
- Cortisol – also known as the stress hormone, cortisol regulates a variety of very important processes in your body, from the sleep/wake cycle and blood pressure to blood sugar levels and inflammation.
- Aldosterone – regulates blood pressure and blood pH by controlling the levels of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) in the blood.
- DHEA and Androgenic Steroids – these are precursor hormones that convert into female hormones (estrogens) in the ovaries and into male hormones (androgens) in the testes.
- Epinephrine (Adrenaline) – increases heart rate and sends glucose into the bloodstream. Its main role is to help you obtain energy when in fight-or-flight mode.
- Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline) – works in tandem with epinephrine, but has a higher impact on your blood vessels, helping increase your blood pressure. It’s even used in treating dangerously low blood pressure conditions.
Adrenal Gland Insufficiency
When your adrenal glands aren’t producing enough of these hormones, you’re suffering from what’s called adrenal insufficiency. This is a very rare condition which can be caused by Addison’s disease, certain autoimmune diseases, fungal infections, cancer, or by diseases of the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland.
On the other hand, when your body is under a lot of stress, it can trigger a mild case of adrenal insufficiency. This, and its common symptoms, is known under the term “adrenal fatigue.”
Even though the Endocrinology Society and all the other medical specialties do not recognize this condition as an official medical disorder, the connection between chronic stress and low cortisol levels which signal your body is in “burning out mode” cannot be ignored. The symptoms you feel are definitely real and if left untreated and undealt with, they can cause a myriad of health complications, from losing your period and kidney diseases to your hair thinning out and issues with your sleep.
What Are The Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?
The most common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Low energy levels
- Issues with sleep (insomnia or trouble falling back asleep)
- Sugar and salty cravings
- Brain fog and lack of focus
- Lack of motivation and willpower
- Mood swings and signs of mild depression
- Inexplicable weight loss or weight gain (usually water retention)
- Dry skin
If you’re experiencing one or more of the above, you are not alone. Stress is a major factor in all of our lives. Whether it’s work-related, emotional, physical, or you’re simply having too much on your plate, being in this constant state of fight-or-flight can definitely impact your overall health and cause adrenal exhaustion.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms are usually the ones that occur most commonly, but since they’re so vague, they can be a sign of some underlying conditions. If the blood tests your doctor orders show up with no other potential root causes of what you’re experiencing, it might be a good idea to try some of the protocols for combatting adrenal fatigue.
What Can I Do To Fight Adrenal Fatigue?
First of all, even if your doctor doesn’t give you an adrenal fatigue diagnosis, don’t dismiss your symptoms as nothing. Because the truth is, he or she probably won’t give you that diagnosis. As mentioned, adrenal fatigue isn’t a recognized medical condition and that’s simply because there’s not enough research around it.
Still, stress can influence so many aspects of our health, and attacking the adrenal glands doesn’t seem impossible. While the ways to detect adrenal fatigue aren’t really efficient and your official diagnosis may not be there, your symptoms are. And you need to find a way to fight them.
First and foremost, you need to lower your stress levels. You have to find a way to deal with the causes of your stress and control your body’s response to it. Whatever self-care, soothing technique works for you, it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s working. Here are some ideas for you to try out:
- Breathing techniques – focusing on your breath is known to reduce your stress levels and help you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, signaling to your brain that it’s time to relax and rest. There are a million different breathing techniques out there and even apps that can help guide you through them so you never feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Meditation – one step above breathing techniques is meditation. Although not easy to start with, people who develop a regular practice really seem to stick with it, swearing it’s the only thing helping them stay present and calm down.
- Journaling – if you like to put your thoughts on paper and clear your overworking brain, find a time in your day to sit, reflect, or simply do what’s called a brain dump – literally writing whatever comes to your mind at that moment. This helps you let go, both figuratively and literally.
- Other calming activities – some people say painting calms them down, others like listening to music or going for a run. Whatever activity makes you happy and less stressed, carve out some time in your busy week to participate in it. Whether it’s 10 minutes every day or an hour a week, give yourself the time to do it. You deserve it.
Herbal Supplements and Superfoods
Adrenal fatigue can also be tackled with adrenal supplements that help your body adapt better to stress. These are called adaptogens and they’re usually potent herbs and superfoods that are extremely powerful and healing.
Some of the most common include ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, schisandra, reishi mushrooms, ginseng, maca, and curcuma. Taking them in your smoothies, smoothie bowls, or even in pill form shows improvement in cortisol levels over time. Therefore, they’ll help support adrenal fatigue and lessen your symptoms.
Nutrition and Exercise
Cleaning up your diet will do you good in the long run, whether we’re talking adrenal fatigue or overall health and wellness. Stay away from junk food, sugar, and processed ingredients, and fill your plate with an abundance of vegetables, fruit, lean protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Your energy levels will undoubtedly improve and your micronutrient intake will drastically increase.
Another amazing way of coping with stress and fighting adrenal fatigue is exercise. Working out does wonders for the body. Find an activity you enjoy doing and schedule a session at least three times a week. But, be careful not to overdo it. Too much exercise is an additional stressor on your body which can only exacerbate your symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
At the end of the day, in order to treat adrenal fatigue and get rid of the symptoms you just have to find what helps you deal with stress in your own unique way. What works for me might not work for you. And that’s ok. We all deal with stressful situations in our own way, we all cope differently, we all heal differently. Keep your stress at bay, implement these lifestyle changes, and help improve your cortisol levels, and with it, your adrenal health.