Do you have….
___ High levels of fatigue every day
___ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
___Cravings for salty foods
___Overuse of stimulants like caffeine or chocolate
___Difficulty getting up in the morning
___Inability to handle stress
___Higher levels of energy in the evening
___Recurring illness or infection
___Low or high blood pressure
___Low thyroid function
___Mood swings or depression
If you answered yes to even one of these, it’s possible that you’re suffering from at least a mild form of adrenal fatigue.
Click here for a more comprehensive list of symptoms.
Find out if you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue with Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Fatigue Quiz
How the Medical Community Views Adrenal Fatigue
You’ve probably heard about adrenal fatigue at least a handful of times (especially if you have alternative-medicine-minded friends).
But is adrenal fatigue really a thing? So many doctors still don’t recognize it as a condition.
Most physicians never study adrenal fatigue in medical school or internships. They may learn about Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency) – but Addison’s disease only refers to one end of the spectrum of adrenal dysfunction. It is possible to not have Addison’s, but to still have severely fatigued or overworked adrenals. These “undiagnosable” points along the adrenal health spectrum are still critical to recognize and treat, as burned-out adrenals can lead to multiple health conditions – including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, high or low blood pressure, hormonal imbalance, chronic infections, and thyroid dysfunction.
I have been fortunate to recently discover a few physicians who recognize adrenal fatigue as a real condition. Awareness of the issue is growing in the medical community, but there is still a long way to go.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal Fatigue has many possible causes, but most of those causes converge on one point: stress. Adrenal fatigue can be the result of several “minor” stressors over a prolonged period of time, and/or the result of one or two major sources of stress or trauma.
Stress can take on many forms – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. However, your adrenal glands will respond in the same way to each of these forms of stress. The adrenals do not know the difference between emotional/mental stress – such as the stress you might feel interacting with a difficult boss – and physiological stress (for instance, the stress your body experiences when you undergo a major surgery, or are consistently running on few hours of sleep). They respond to all of these events by producing cortisol.
The problem is, our bodies tend to be in fight, flight, faint, or freeze mode nearly every waking hour of every day (in response to a constant barrage of mini stressors). Although most of us aren’t being chased by a literal bear every day, there are enough environmental, social, emotional, and mental “bears” in 21st century life to trick our brains into believing that we are always in danger.
As a result, the adrenal glands keep producing extra cortisol so we can have the strength to take on these bears.
Some “bears” or stressors that can cause or contribute to adrenal stress – and eventually fatigue:
- Sleep deprivation
- A poor diet (this includes consuming foods to which you may be sensitive or allergic)
- Exposure to toxins – mild or strong (this can include everything from asbestos to laundry detergent and perfume.)
- Sickness/infection – especially repeated or prolonged infection(s)
- Emotional and mental stress, including:
- Marital/relationship stress
- Workplace issues
- Job interview
- Getting laid off or fired
- Financial troubles
- Emotional abuse
- Trauma (surgeries, car accident, abuse, trauma from war/deployment)
- Another chronic illness
Gradually, the adrenal glands begin to wear down from their continuous response to stress, and they lose their power to respond as effectively to future stressors. This is when symptoms really start to show up.
How to Recover
The most long-lasting way to recover from adrenal fatigue is to minimize the intensity and frequency of the stressors you face in life, and to develop methods for coping with those stressors which you can’t eliminate or reduce.
Aside from that, there are many remedies known to be helpful for adrenal fatigue sufferers. Of course, you’ll want to run all of these by your physician, and find the things that work best and are safe for you:
- Consume more salt (add it to everything) [Definitely run this by your doctor first! If you are currently seeing an MD, I do recommend visiting a naturopathic doctor or a chiropractor familiar with adrenal fatigue for a second opinion on this. They may each give you a different answer. 🙂 ]
- Consume adaptogenic herbs, such as Siberian ginseng (this is generally recommended over Panax [Korean] ginseng for women. Panax/Korean ginseng can boost testosterone levels, causing an increase in acne). Ginger is also great. I do NOT recommend ashwagandha (which is commonly recommended and used for adrenal fatigue), as it is part of the nightshade family, to which many people are sensitive (though perhaps unwittingly). Nightshade plants contain a glycoalkaloid poison called solanine. Additionally, I’ve read (and personally experienced) that ashwagandha only helps to a certain point with adrenal fatigue, and that if you take very much of it, it can actually begin to weaken the adrenals or sabotage the healing process!
- Get more sleep! <3 If this means cutting something out of your life, or finding a way to say “no” to some people, events, or other activities/services, it’s worth it. You cannot continue to take care of others if you don’t first take care of yourself.
- Get tested for celiac. Ask your doctor to order a blood test for gluten antibodies. I also recommend getting your genetics tested for the HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes, which predispose you to be susceptible to celiac. While you’re at it, I recommend just getting a more comprehensive genetic test, to see if you have mutations on MTHFR, CBS, or other genes.
- Test for other food allergies and sensitivities. And honestly, the most accurate (though crappy) way to test for this is to try eating a lot of a given food for a period of time, and see how you feel. Before you do that, though, I recommend cutting back to a very minimalistic diet (such as bone broth and maybe some meat, healthy fats, and/or produce – and NO dairy or grains), then reintroducing each food, one at a time. This will make it much easier for you to recognize a food reaction when it’s happening.
- Licorice root can be helpful, but check with your doctor, as this one can cause sodium retention. (Actually, that may be why it’s so beneficial for adrenal fatigue sufferers, as sodium levels tend to drop with the rise of adrenal dysfunction.)
Some other remedies which I’ve personally found helpful (and there is some overlap from the list above):
- Supplementation with B6 and magnesium
- Minimal to no exercise. Lately, I’ve been learning some simple yoga moves, and that level of activity is just about right for me. Overtraining and excessive/intense exercise are contraindicated with Adrenal Fatigue.
- Lots of sleep
- Supplementation with Siberian ginseng and ginger root.
- Licorice root tea
- High salt consumption
- Hydration (But be aware: it’s important to include enough electrolytes – such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium – in your diet and/or supplement regimen, as hydration will dilute your electrolyte supply. Avocado is a great source of potassium and a decent source of magnesium, but I recommend running a controlled test first to make sure you’re not sensitive to it.)
I also recommend testing for heavy metal poisoning. Rather than doing this with chelation, however, I suggest locating a doctor who practices applied kinesiology (muscle strength testing). This is a lot safer and faster than chelation – especially if you are unsure whether you are genetically responsive to and tolerant of chelation. It is with applied kinesiology that I learned I am still holding on to a lot of mercury and a slightly lower amount of aluminum.
Applied kinesiology (AK) is not an exact science, and sometimes it may miss foods/toxins/microbes that are problematic, but I’ve noticed that the substances it does identify as issues are, in fact, problematic for me. (For example, my doctor was able to accurately identify gluten, casein, egg, sulfur, nightshade plants, high MSG/glutamate foods, and more recently, avocado as issues for me, via AK muscle testing.)
If you’ve been poisoned, then the metals in your system may bind to the proteins in your tissues, creating an antigen that your body sees as foreign. The body then proceeds to attack your tissues that are bound to the metal. Such an autoimmune reaction could certainly wipe out your body’s energy and fighting reserves, which could lead to adrenal fatigue.
However, adrenal fatigue is often only the tip of the iceberg. Heavy metal poisoning, pyroluria, other genetic conditions, and serious infections can cause or aggravate adrenal fatigue, so it’s important to look into these issues, or it may be impossible to fully recover. I recommend finding a naturopath or chiropractic doctor who is open to natural remedies and can help you identify any hidden diseases.
Your doctor may recommend testing for conditions like Lyme, Hashimoto’s, and pyroluria.
Thanks for reading! 🙂 Hope this helps you at least a little in your journey to wellness. <3
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