But what exactly is it?
Our adrenals sit on top of our kidneys – like little hats. Their job is to help our bodies manage it's daily stress response.
There are two parts to the adrenal gland:
The first is the Adrenal Cortex (the outside) which produces 3 hormones.
- Mineralcoticoids – (such as aldosterone) Which help to regulate blood pressure by maintaining salt and water levels.
- Glucocorticoids – (mainly cortisol) Which is anti inflammatory, immune suppressive and involved in the body’s stress response and metabolism.
- Adrenal androgens – (such as DHEA and testosterone) This is particularly important in early development of sex organs in childhood, but also for women during menopause (hence when women are under chronic stress they may have more pronounced menopause symptoms)
The second is the Adrenal Medulla (the inside of the gland), which is responsible for producing adrenaline, noradrenalin and dopamine. These are all responsible for moderating our stress response, known as the fight-or-flight response. Imagine being faced with a tiger- your reaction will simply be to run away (flight), or stay and fight (fight).
Originally we were designed to react to a stressor, respond accordingly and move on. These days our problems aren't as simple as being faced with a tiger though, and they never seem to go away (or be dealt with properly!).
This puts our body under constant stress, which causes our adrenal glands to weaken over time and eventually lead to a number of issues.
Some signs of Adrenal Fatigue may include:
So what to do?
There are a number of tests used to identify adrenal fatigue. Salivary testing and hair mineral analysis are the two I use. The salivary testing involves a 12 hour salivary test, which is used to analyse cortisol levels in the body at different times of the day. (This helps to see if you are producing enough or too much cortisol, and if it is being produced at the right time of the day.)
Hair mineral analysis identifies body metabolic type and if there are any mineral imbalances that may be contributing to symptoms, especially toxic metals and their balance in the tissues.
These tests provide an effective baseline to work from and are usually repeated 3 to 6 months after a program has been implemented for updated progress.
So what should you do if you have been identified as having adrenal fatigue? How do you start to heal?
Each person is very individual when it comes to healing, but the main areas I consider are:
- Your lifestyle – If you don’t change the fundamental reason why you are in this position to begin with, it is highly unlikely you’ll see real results. For example staying in a high-pressure job, not getting enough sleep and over exercising (or not moving enough) will prevent healing.
- Your diet – Changing the diet is essential to long-term success. Remove stimulants like and caffeine and sugar. Remove any allergens that you are aware of, environmental and food, these add additional stress to the body. If you are bloated after eating wheat, dairy or corn for example, an elimination diet may be beneficial.
Ensure you're getting adequate protein, the amino acids from good protein in the diet will nourish the body, balance blood sugar and are essential for hormone production.
Include fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, beet kvass) to support the gut flora. A healthy gut is going to ensure all the nutrients from your food are being extracted and utilized. 70% of your immune system is in the gut, therefore reducing the inflammation will reduce systemic stress. Include healthy fats such as avocado, chia seeds, coconut oil and grass-fed butter. These fats are beneficial for blood sugar balance, hormone production and prevent sugar cravings.
- Supplements –There are many herbs that are supportive and toning for the adrenal glands. Some of these include, Siberian ginseng, Withania somniferia, Rhemmania glutinosa, Rhodiola rosea, Schisandra chinensis, Astragalus membranaceus, Shatavari, Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Maca. Nutritional support may include vitamin C, B vitamins – specifically B6, B5, B3, folic acid, B12, vitamin E, Omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, tyrosine and CoQ10.
For the best and safest results make sure you get advice on which herbs and supplements to use, taking into account any other medications or conditions you may have.
We all need to learn how to manage in this fast paced modern world, without damaging our health. By taking steps to moderate our body’s response to stress, we are giving ourselves the best opportunity to feel amazing everyday.
If you find yourself identifying with any of these symptoms, it may be worth investigating, as simple changes can have lasting beneficial effects.