Although it’s estimated that up to 80% of all adults experience some level of adrenal fatigue during their lives, it is one of the most under-diagnosed illnesses in the US.
The adrenals are two walnut-sized glands that sit on top of each kidney. They are the main stress control system of the body, and manufacture important hormones: adrenalin, cortisol, DHEA, and aldosterone. They interact with the hippocampus and pituitary, creating a cascade of hormones that affects every gland and tissue in your body, impacting your energy level and sense of well-being.
When stress is excessive or prolonged, the adrenals work overtime. They become fatigued, resulting in a decreased output of cortisol. Many factors make up your total stress load: financial/work-related stress, family/relationships, fears, environment, chronic illness or infection, allergies, smoking, poor diet, toxins, sleep deprivation, too much or too little exercise.
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- Morning sluggishness, Fatigue
- Depression, anxiety
- Cravings for salt
- Compulsive eating
- Memory loss, fuzzy thinking, indecisiveness
- Decreased sex drive
Food to Support the Adrenals
Choose whole, organic, unprocessed, unrefined foods. Include a healthy fat, a high-quality protein, and a complex carbohydrate at every meal. Eat 5 to 6 small meals throughout the day to maintain blood sugar levels. Avoid lowcalorie diets and skipping meals.
- Eat six to eight servings of colorful organic vegetables every day.
- Avoid eating fruit in the morning to prevent blood sugar issues.
- Best fruits to eat: papaya, mango, plums, pears, kiwi, apples, cherries
- Limit these fruits: bananas, raisins dates, figs, oranges, grapefruit
- People with adrenal fatigue are often dehydrated and may drink too much water. Add ½ tsp of sea salt to a glass of water and drink first thing in the morning, and another around 2:00 to replenish needed electrolytes.
- Vitamin C with flavonoids, 3000mg
- Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), 800IU
- B Complex (B5/250mg, B6/50-100mg, B3/75-125mg, B12/200-400mg)
- Magnesium Citrate 400mg
- Calcium, 750-1000mg (Alternate taking calcium one day and magnesium the next)
- HCL & Digestive Enzymes Recommended Reading: The Cortisol Connection, Shawn Talbott Adrenal Fatigue, James Wilson, ND, DC, Ph.d www.nutralicious.us Food to Support the Adrenals
Stages of Adrenal Fatigue
Alarm: Your “red alert” response to perceived danger immediately activates the nervous system. Adrenalin is released, increasing your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, and blood sugar is elevated. A surge of blood and energy rushes to your arms and legs so that you can fight or flee. Digestion and other functions shut down as your body focuses the danger.
Adaptation: The body adapts to the stressor long after the effects of the initial “fight-or-flight” response have calmed down, as the body tries to return to normal. Fat and protein from the muscles are converted to glucose for energy. Cortisol takes over to mitigate the initial stress-response, but chronic cortisol production causes an imbalance of other hormones, and inhibits the immune system, increasing risk of infection. This stage can go on for years, until cortisol production fall.
Exhaustion: With prolonged stress, bodily systems begin to break down as the adrenals are no longer able to produce enough cortisol, which, along with high insulin, leads to high blood sugar. They also can’t produce aldosterone, leading to the loss of sodium; this imbalance of electrolytes damages the kidneys and results in cellular damage, triggering certain illnesses, reducing the body’s ability to fight an illness, and making some diseases harder to control.
Allergies and Adrenal Function
Allergies create inflammation in the body. Cortisol is anti-inflammatory. The more frequent or severe the inflammation, the more cortisol is needed. The adrenals become fatigued as they work harder to produce more cortisol to soothe the inflammation. A vicious cycle leads to progressively greater adrenal fatigue and larger allergic reactions.
Reactions to food allergies vary from person to person. Since symptoms of food allergies can occur from 30 minutes to several days after ingestion, it can be difficult to identify the offending food. You can also develop addictions to food.
If you feel bad after eating a food you crave, it probably contains a substance you’re allergic to as well as nutrient that you need more of.
Eliminating foods you are allergic or addicted to is essential to healing the adrenals. As your adrenal health improves, you will suffer from fewer allergies, and you can usually add these foods back in to your diet, although this process could take several months to over a year.
Hypoadrenia and Disease
Adrenal fatigue, or hypoadrenia, occurs when over-worked adrenals are no longer able to produce the hormones required to deal with prolonged or extreme stress. It can range from nearly zero function to almost normal, and can affect every system in the body.
Hypoadrenia is an underlying factor in hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, diabetes, anxiety and depression, chronic respiratory infections, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, heart disease, and reproductive problems.
Blood, urine and saliva hormone tests for hypoadrenia are all available, however the saliva test for adrenal function is the most accurate, as it measures the amount of hormones inside the cells. The “normal” range for adrenal function in blood and urine tests is very broad, and conventional doctors often only acknowledge a problem if the test results fall outside the accepted norm.
Addison’s disease is characterized by adrenals that produce very low levels, if any, of cortisol. This is most often caused by autoimmunity, but can also be the result of severe infection or chronic stress.
Cushing’s disease is a condition of extremely high levels of cortisol, often the result of taking steroid medications. It can also be caused by a malfunctioning pituitary, or pituitary tumor that over-stimulates the adrenals.
Adrenal fatigue falls within the “acceptable” range of conventional medicine testing. However, over time, sustained excess cortisol can lead to weight gain, hypertension, bone loss, depression, and degenerative disease.
Adrenal Fatigue, Blood Sugar & Weight Control
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is common in those with adrenal fatigue. The normal stress response by the adrenals is to increase the blood glucose level by sending cortisol through the bloodstream to the liver, where it triggers the release of sugar (stored in the form of glycogen) to be released into the bloodstream in the form of glucose. When your adrenals are fatigued, cortisol production is low, and it’s harder to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Skipping meals strains the adrenals by causing low blood sugar that requires more cortisol production. People with hypoglycemia often overeat or choose caffeine and high-fat foods for extra energy, which temporarily boost cortisol, causing glucose to spike. However, excess glucose is stored as fat.
Things to Avoid
- Hydrogenated oils
- Processed and refined foods
- Deep-fried foods • Alcohol
- Foods you are allergic to.
- Limit sugary foods and drinks.