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Understanding and Healing Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is fairly common but many who have it don’t even know it. Could this be you?

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

According to Dr. Axe in his article 3 Steps to Heal Adrenal Fatigue, an estimated eighty percent of the world’s population is affected by adrenal fatigue. That is an immense amount of people dealing with a very real problem! Because of the many forms of stress we face—environmental toxins and pollutants, nutritional, and mental or emotional sources—and the frequency of the stress, our adrenals are constantly on overdrive. All of these have an impact on the body, and stress, no matter the form, impacts the adrenal gland. But why does this matter?

adrenal_glands_position_location_picThe adrenal glands are two small organs that are a part of the body’s endocrine system and rest right on top of the kidneys. Their purpose is to produce and maintain the balance of over fifty hormones that run and affect nearly every system and bodily function. Therefore, we can see that having a healthily functioning adrenal system is vital for life!

Hormones are somewhat “sensitive” molecules because they react to each other as well as to conditions within the body. When we have a thought that makes us feel scared or anxious, for example, hormones quickly respond to that thought and raise the heart rate or increase blood pressure. Our hormones are very tightly connected to the thoughts, feelings, and conditions going on inside of us every second of the day!

Because the adrenal glands make and secrete these hormones, they are a major player in the stress response. When our body, or more specifically, our brain, perceives a threat, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, the adrenal gland is stimulated to release certain hormones to help you deal with, and in some cases survive, a threat. The hormones secreted during times of perceived threat (aka stress) act to rush blood to the brain, heart, and muscles while decreasing the function of systems such as digestion, the immune system, and others that aren’t immediately needed for survival. This is the body’s defense system, also known as fight or flight, that was designed to help us stay alive during times of physical danger.

Because the body wasn’t designed to handle so much of the chronic, low-level stress we experience in today’s modern world, it is not well equipped to maintain a constantly heightened state. Over time, as stress levels remain chronically high, the adrenal glands get taxed from being over-stimulated and burn out. This is when adrenal fatigue, and eventually adrenal exhaustion, occurs. The adrenal gland simply cannot keep up with the demand being placed upon it. And because the adrenal gland makes and secretes the hormones essential for our very lives, a number of problems and illnesses can arise when our adrenal glands begin to function poorly.

Stress on the Adrenal Glands

While there are a number of different stressors in today’s modern life, some of the top causes that greatly tax the adrenal glands include:

  • stress_man_study_books_pencils_overwhelmed_unhappy_hurt_picHighly stressful situations including death (of others) or divorce
  • Prolonged stress due to finances, poor work environment, or poor relationships
  • Negative thinking and emotional trauma
  • Unhealthy diet and little or no exercise
  • Sleep deficiency
  • Environmental toxins and pollutants

While it is a normal part of life for each of us to experience some form of stress during our lives, it is the constant, chronic stress that has a devastating impact on the adrenal glands. For this reason, those who are hardy or take the time and care to focus their thoughts and work on stress reduction have less incidence of adrenal fatigue or exhaustion. But how do you know if you have adrenal fatigue?

You Might have Adrenal Fatigue If

Again, because the hormones secreted by the adrenal glands affect every single cell and system of the body, the list of symptoms can be many. Some of the top symptoms, however, include:

  • Fatigue and lack of energy and difficulty waking up
  • Depression
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Muscle weakness
  • sleepy_tired_woman_alarm_bed_light_awake_picTroubled sleep
  • Increased inflammation
  • Hair and bone loss
  • Irritability
  • Sugar or salt cravings
  • Weight gain

Because adrenal fatigue is so prevalent today, knowing how to treat and heal it is important.

Treating Adrenal Fatigue

1. Diet

First, it’s imperative to focus on a proper diet. A diet that is going to help heal and reverse adrenal fatigue is one that will support adrenal function instead of further stress it. When we eat a diet high in processed junk foods, the body isn’t going to get the nourishment it needs to function properly, putting stress on the adrenal glands, which leads to fatigue.

Foods that are vibrant and nutritious will replenish the adrenal glands and help build hormones optimally. The first step in the diet should be to take out all of the toxic and processed foods. Second is to replace them with nourishing, whole foods that provide the body with a high amount of nutrition for a relatively low amount of calories. Some of the worst foods for the adrenal glands include caffeine (including coffee!), processed chocolate, high sugar foods, processed and microwaved foods, and hydrogenated and processed vegetable oils. On the flip side, some of the best adrenal-supporting foods include healthy fats such as coconut or olive oil, avocado, mineral salt, cruciferous vegetables, olives, seaweed, and raw nuts and seeds.

2. Supplements

In addition to diet, there are also some supplements that can help support and nourish the stressed adrenal glands. Some of the top supplements recommended by many naturopathic and other health care practitioners include:basil_broccoli_walnuts_flax_seeds_oil_olive_pic

  • Vitamins B5, B12, C, D
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Ashwagandha
  • Holy Basil

It’s important to note that these supplements should come from a high quality, whole food form.

3. Reduce Stress

Lastly, it is key that steps are taken to reduce stress of all forms. This will mean different things for different individuals, but can include a number of methods:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Napping
  • Exercise
  • Having a regular sleep cycle
  • Affirmations and positive thoughts
  • Laughter
  • Counseling

In addressing adrenal fatigue, it’s important to note that treatment doesn’t happen overnight. Just as it took several weeks or even years to develop, true healing can take just as long. It’s estimated that it takes approximately six months to a year to heal even minor adrenal fatigue, and can take over two years for severe adrenal fatigue! For this reason, it’s best to focus on creating lifestyle changes that will continue to support the optimal functioning of the adrenal glands.

Learn more about adrenal fatigue and how to heal!

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