Do you suffer from vague, unexplainable symptoms that you can’t pinpoint exactly why or how they started?
Chronic tiredness, feeling exhausted for no reason, trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour? Feeling run down or overwhelmed, and not bouncing back from illness or stress as easily as before? Craving sweet or salty snacks, or relying on caffeine or other stimulants to get you through the day? Feeling more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day? Overthinking and constant worrying and being anxious or depressed? This is just a short list in a long line of symptoms that adrenal fatigue can bring.
Every day, our adrenal glands are working hard to keep us in optimal health, releasing around 50 hormones which keep us going. From giving us a little burst of energy to get up in the morning, to keeping us alert and balancing our blood sugars, our adrenals are releasing cortisol and adrenaline in the right amounts for what we need.
Unfortunately, with the stresses and strains of modern life, often our adrenals are overworked, and many of us end up suffering with adrenal fatigue without even realising. Longer working hours, shift patterns, relationship stresses, food intolerances, toxins and even over-exercising can cause our adrenals to release adrenaline and cortisol; the ‘stress’ hormones, over and over, far more than we need them to. The reason for this dates back to the stone age, when life was a lot more relaxed and the adrenals only released extra hormones when there was a risk of real danger, causing the ‘fight or flight’ response that many of us are familiar with. Nowadays, the ‘fight or flight’ response is often triggered for less serious reasons, but is triggered far more regularly, causing us to live with chronic stress. Basically, our lifestyles have changed, but our bodies haven’t.
People with adrenal fatigue often look and act relatively normal. They may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet they are not well and live with a general sense of unwellness or gray” feelings. They often use coffee, colas”
― James L. Wilson, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st – Century Stress Hormone
So what can we do to support ourselves?
There are ways you can heal your adrenals and get your body back to balance. It is important to deal with any stress the body is experiencing. Looking at your diet is a good place to start. Digestion and absorption of vital nutrients can become impaired, many people struggle to lose weight even though they are eating modestly. Seeing a qualified nutritional therapist can be valuable, as they can recommend what foods to avoid and what to eat instead, creating a personalised plan to help get your adrenals back on track.
Having a regular sleep pattern is also helpful, getting to bed before 11pm is important as many people have a surge of cortisol after 11pm making it even more difficult to maintain a healthy sleep pattern. Gentle exercise should be supportive of the body, so yoga, swimming or walking are best for adrenal fatigue, as anything vigorous can make the condition worse. Along with exercise it is important to maintain good levels of hydration as this is also a sign of Adrenal Fatigue.
Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to help us look at how we react to stress, helping to bring us into the present moment. Meditation can help switch off the stress response helping to calm the nervous system and encouraging restful sleep. Mindfulness can help improve our response to stress.
It is possible to recover from adrenal fatigue. Recovery takes time, and varies from person to person, for some it may take 6 months for others 18 months. Making lifestyle changes can be a challenge. However, with a little willingness to change, learning to listen to our bodies and being kind to ourselves it is possible to reduce the stress on our adrenal glands allowing them to heal.