This subject is near and dear to my heart. I have suffered from adrenal fatigue myself and certainly know how it feels. It took a while to figure it out, but with the help of a good naturopath (thanks Kamerin) I am now on the road to recovery and feel much better! Your adrenals are two tiny glands that sit on top of your kidneys and control your stress responses throughout the day. Have you heard of the “fight or flight response?” That’s them.
THE ROLE OF YOUR ADRENALS
The fight or flight response kicks in whenever we think we are in danger. This could be from something actual, like being chased by a bear or something perceived, like worry. Unfortunately, as amazing as our adrenals are they don’t know the difference and act the same way whether the danger is real or not. The adrenals secrete hormones, like cortisol (the king of all your hormones) as well as aldosterone and adrenaline which control your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight and stress response.
When we are in real danger the adrenals pump out cortisol which increases our heart rate, blood pressure, suppresses digestion and releases glucose into the blood stream getting us ready to run! Once the danger is over, insulin is secreted to metabolize the sugar floating around and the metabolic process is brought back to a relaxed state. Unfortunately in our crazy world of go-go-go and daily stresses, like getting the kids to school, stressing about our weight or finances and our jobs, we are forcing our adrenals into overdrive and they never get to relax!
Can you see how these glands are vital to survival and are how emotion and worry can affect our metabolism, our immune response and cause adrenal fatigue and exhaustion? Constant stress is going to wear out your little adrenals making you feel tired and mess up your hormones causing all kinds of symptoms. Check out these 10 signs of adrenal fatigue. When adrenal fatigue sets in we exhausted, unmotivated and get frequent colds and illnesses. You will become less resilient to life’s stresses and can become more emotional and unable to bounce back. If this sounds familiar, put up your hand. (mines up!)
The reality of it all, is that in the real world most of us are under some form of stress. The key is to become aware of and acknowledge the difference between the clear and present danger that needs to be acted on immediately and learning how to mediate our thoughts and worries that create perceived dangers and cause a physiological stress response in our bodies.
Amazingly one of the best and easiest ways to support your adrenals is to just relax! I know, easier said than done right? What your adrenals need to know is that “hey I’m good. You can just chill out, I don’t need you right now… there is no emergency.” In fact sometimes I repeat that to myself when I feel overwhelmed in order to bring me back to reality! I tell myself, “there is no emergency, chill out girl!” Relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, gentle yoga, leisure time gardening, visualization of your favourite place or a gentle hike through nature are all ways tame the wild beast inside you!
A routine sleep pattern, even on the days you are not working will help control cortisol levels and make you feel rested. Essential oils like lavender will also help induce sleep as well as calming music. Avoid checking your phone or reading emails too close to bed time as the light from the phone actually stimulates your brain to stay awake. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary and a place of relaxation which means no TV in the bedroom, it’s disruptive and again does not promote a healthy sleep pattern.
EAT A BALANCED DIET,
Eat a diet which includes many vitamin B-rich foods like leafy greens, bananas, avocado and avoid sugars and sweets. Eat regularly and try not to skip meals. When you get really hungry this causes a stress response and wakes up those adrenals, calling them into action. They release glucose into your blood stream and cause fluctuating blood sugar levels. Plan on eating small meals regularly throughout the day to maintain your blood sugar levels and stave off hunger. Try starting your day with a breakfast smoothie full of vitamins and healthy fats to start your day!
BACK OFF THE CAFFEINE
This is a tough one for a lot of people including myself, I love to have a morning coffee but now it gives me heart palpitations. Why? It stimulates your adrenals to dump cortisol and adrenaline into your blood stream causing an unfounded state of emergency! The alarm bells go off but there is nowhere to go! Cutting back or eliminating caffeine takes some dedication, I get it. It’s a ritual and it’s social, but once you cut back you will start to notice you have more energy and you won’t be getting the low energy slumps throughout the day. Drink lots of water and don’t be surprised if you initially get headaches as you come off caffeine. You can replace coffee with non-caffeinated herbal teas, like chaga that soothe the adrenals and will also help hydrate you.
Exercise is also a great way to support adrenal fatigue just don’t go crazy! When your adrenals are fatigue or exhausted the last thing you want to do is high impact/high aerobic fitness. Exercise, although amazing for you, causes a stress response which means your adrenals kick in to action. When your adrenals are exhausted you don’t want to overexert yourself and tax them even more. So moderate activity is key. Moderate activity will help burn up some of that extra cortisol floating around and balance your hormones. You should feel good after exercise. If you are constantly feeling absolutely drained then you may want to re-evaluate your intensity level.
VITAMINS AND HERBS
B vitamins, especially B complex, are just freak’n awesome and are a wonderful supplement to include when you are stressed physically and emotionally. They support healthy neurotransmitter function, they help regulate your blood sugar, combat fatigue and depression. Relaxing herbs such as valerian, chamomile and lemon balm can be taken as a tea and can help calm the nervous system and help you relax. Adaptogens like chaga (pronounced Shaaga) and ashwanganda specifically support the adrenals in times of fatigue and burn out.
Peace and Love,