Why do I Feel Tired All the Time?
On our last post, we discussed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Today, we are talking about Adrenal Fatigue, another condition that could be the reason you feel tired all the time. It’s important not to chalk up feeling tired to a busy life and stress because you could be suffering from a more serious health condition. If you are able to diagnose yourself with a health condition, you can treat it – and feel less tired.
Adrenal Fatigue is a condition which is actually not recognized by Western medicine. However, Western medicine does recognize Addison’s disease, which is essentially a worsened case of adrenal fatigue where the adrenal glands stop working completely. Adrenal fatigue can be viewed as the build-up towards this worst case scenario, where Western medicine finally recognizes that your adrenal glands have stopped functioning properly.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue occurs when your adrenal glands, hypothalamus and pituitary glands (called the HPA axis) are not functioning properly. The adrenal glands are responsible for producing and releasing several important hormones that help your body handle stress. These ‘fight or flight’ hormones are released when we face stressful situations to help us cope with the stress.
However, when we overuse our adrenal glands such as when we are always feeling stressed, our adrenals become overstimulated and worn down. Eventually, the adrenal glands can get so weakened that they can fail to perform adequately when we really need them.
Adrenal fatigue is also referred to as adrenal stress or HPA axis dysfunction. We refer to it through out this article as adrenal fatigue. Knowing the symptoms can help you combat adrenal fatigue.
What are the symptoms?
There are many symptoms, but the most common is fatigue. Individuals experiencing adrenal fatigue have difficulty waking up in the mornings, even though they’ve slept all night. However, those with adrenal fatigue may experience a short burst of energy in the evening, a result that occurs from a disrupted cortisol cycle (cortisol is one of the hormones the adrenal gland releases). If you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, you will experience some or all of the following symptoms, in addition to fatigue:
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Difficulty coping with stressful situations
- Craving for salty foods
- Low blood sugar
- Respiratory complaints
- Low sex drive
- Weight gain
What are the effects of Adrenal fatigue?
Now that you are able to recognize the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, you might be wondering how adrenal fatigue exactly affects our bodies and our health? It is important to understand the function of the adrenal glands in order to understand how adrenal fatigue effects our bodies.
The adrenal glands release stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine when we experience stressful situations. This is our bodies way of preparing us for the stressful situation we are being put in. You may have heard this process referred to as our ‘fight-or-flight’ response. People experience a sudden burst of adrenaline, clarity and energy all of which help us respond to a stressful situation. However, this response is only meant to help us when we really need it.
If you experience stress for a long period of time, the cortisol and adrenaline levels will eventually drop. These reduced levels of cortisol and adrenaline are what cause the symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
What causes Adrenal Fatigue?
So what causes your body to experience adrenal fatigue? Knowing the causes can help you reduce your risks of experiencing adrenal fatigue. Here are 6 reasons:
- Emotional stress
Stress is considered the #1 cause of adrenal fatigue. The effects of stress are numerous. There have been plenty of studies done on the health effects that stress can cause. This is why managing stress has become so important.
The average person consumes a lot more sugar today than in the past. Our bodies have found ways to cope with increased empty calories: by producing extra cortisol and insulin. This leads to increased stress on the pancreas and adrenals.
- Insufficient sleep
The average American only sleeps 6.1 hours every night. Those with adrenal fatigue likely sleep less. This is stressful on the body! Your body needs sleep to repair itself – you should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep.
- Chemicals and pollutants
We face chemicals, toxins, pollutants, pesticides, and antibiotics in our daily diets and in our environments. These chemicals and pollutants disrupt the adrenal function. See here, here, here for more information on how chemicals and pollutants affect our health.
- Chronic disease
Chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis all place added stress on your adrenal glands. This added stress leads to the adrenal glands being overworked, leading to adrenal fatigue. See here to learn more about fatigue and chronic illnesses.
Studies have shown that trauma can have lasting effects on health, effecting hormonal balance and adrenal performance. Severe trauma such as car accidents, physical abuse, and even surgery can lead to adrenal glands that are dysfunctional.
What to do?
Taking care of your mind and body are the most important things you can do for yourself!
Taking care your mind means reducing and handling stress, while taking care of your body means a healthy diet and getting the proper nutrients and vitamins.
Caring for your mind
Caring for your mind and spirit is something that is often neglected by the modern medical world. However, caring for your mind is just as important as caring for your body. A toll on your mind can lead to physical effects on the body! Think of stress – it effects your mind but overtime, stress will lead to physical changes in the body, such as adrenal fatigue.
Caring for your mind means reducing stress usually. This can include physical activity such as walking, swimming, yoga or tai chi. Exercises such as meditation and deep breathing also help our minds. They help to reduce stress and help reduce risk to adrenal fatigue.
Caring for your body
Along with exercise, stress-reducing techniques such as meditation and deep breathing, diet is a very important part of combatting adrenal fatigue. Our next post on Monday will discuss diet further but for now, there are some important reminders to help adrenal fatigue.
You should avoid foods that make your adrenal fatigue worse, and you should eat foods that will help you recover. The golden rule is to eat meals often and to consume nutritious and whole healthy foods (skip the junk food crap). Follow the guidelines below to recover and prevent adrenal fatigue:
- Eating at the right times
Skipping meals can be very unhealthy. Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner is essential to improving your health, especially breakfast! Breakfast gives you the energy you need to start your day and should last until lunch. You should be eating protein and a small amount of carbohydrates at breakfast for energy.
- Avoid sugary foods and junk food.
Opt for low-sugar fruits, healthy fats and proteins instead. Skip the processed and microwaved junk and opt for fresh ingredients you can cook yourself.
- Avoid caffeine
Caffeine actually makes adrenal fatigue worse!
- Stay hydrated
Water is essential to every healthy diet.
Some foods have been noted as ‘superfoods’ for adrenal fatigue sufferers. You can find most of these foods in health food stores and even regular grocery stores these days. Foods that are nutrient-dense, low in sugar and have healthy fat and fiber are ideal. The following are foods you can indulge in:
- Bone broth
- Fermented drinks
- Cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, etc.)
- Healthy fatty fish (such as salmon)
- Chicken and turkey
- Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
Along with diet, mind and body health, taking supplements can also help you recover from adrenal fatigue.
There a number of vitamins and minerals that are found to be low in those with adrenal fatigue. The most important vitamins include:
- Vitamin B5, B6, B12 – all of which are important in cell metabolism
- Vitamin C – this vitamin is essential to the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands and can help you recover form adrenal fatigue.
- Magnesium – helps to maintain energy flow
- Probiotics – improve digestion, reduces the side effects of antibiotics and may even lower stress levels.
Another supplement that may help you recover from adrenal fatigue include Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is believed to help the body adapt to stress, adrenal fatigue and regulate body processes. Over the years it has been used for arthritis, colds, as an aphrodisiac and more.
As always, consult with a medical practitioner before making changes, especially if you have a health condition, are on prescribed medication or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
On our next post, we’ll be discussing how to improve your diet to recover from Adrenal Fatigue and will even feature three delicious, nourishing recipes that focus on repairing your adrenal glands. Incorporating a healthy diet, taking supplements such as a-DRENAL and a multivitamin, and trying out stress reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga and tai-chi will lead you on the road to feeling refreshed, healthy and vibrant.
Have a fabulous weekend and check back on Monday to get the recipes! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter, so you never miss another great anti-aging article.