Are you tired all the time?
It could be from adrenal gland fatigue. The adrenal glands are a seemingly insignificant part of our bodies, but they play a major role in how we feel. The adrenal glands sit on top of our kidneys and secrete hormones vital to life. These hormones are cortisol, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), aldosterone and adrenaline, which is also known as epinephrine. Cortisol helps regulate our metabolism. DHEA helps produce other hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, and is also a natural anti-inflammatory. Aldosterone helps regulate blood pressure. Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is the hormone responsible for increasing our heart rate and rushing blood to the muscles and brain in a rapid response to stress, also known as the “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline is also responsible for blood sugar spikes.
Stress is our body’s reaction to any change that requires a response. We all encounter stress in our lives, whether it be from the loss of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, getting married, moving, financial obligations, or chronic illness. Our adrenal glands release hormones in response to this perceived stress. There are short and long term adrenal responses. A short term response to acute stress can be harmless, but if a stressful situation remains for a long time, the cortisol levels remain elevated and result in burn out giving way to the term “adrenal fatigue”. There are many symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue, such as: chronically feeling tired, dizziness, low blood pressure, nausea, depression, disturbed sleep, increased abdominal weight gain, cravings of salt, difficulty concentrating, digestive issues, PMS in women and unexplained hair loss. Could this be the reason for that weight around your stomach that you just can’t seem to lose? Or for your overwhelming feelings of being run down?
There are several diseases and disorders associated with the adrenal glands, such as Addison’s disease, adrenal cancer, Cushing’s syndrome, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Adrenal gland stress can also interfere with thyroid function, so it is important to have your thyroid gland tested.
What can you do about it? It is useful to seek the help of a health care professional if you suspect you might have adrenal fatigue. Your doctor can make a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue based on the signs and symptoms and hormone testing. There are many simple ways in which to support your adrenals. The most important factor is addressing the underlying stress. Getting enough rest, and regular exercise will help. Food allergens can also lead to adrenal fatigue, thus, it would be beneficial to get food allergy testing from a health care professional and eliminate any food allergens from your diet.
Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals will help support the adrenals. Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and kale are high in vitamin B. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, steel-cut oats, barley, and millet are also good sources of vitamin B. Additionally, legumes like beans and lentils contain high amounts of vitamin B. Our bodies use protein to build and repair tissues, as well as to make hormones. It is suggested that adults consume about 0.6g-0.8g of protein per kg of body weight every day. As a general rule, eat a breakfast high in protein and low in simple carbohydrates. This will help regulate cortisol, as it is highest in the early morning. Try kicking off your morning with a green smoothie made with kale, spinach, mango, pineapple, and almond milk. Or a bowl of steel-cut oats with blueberries and cashew milk. Foods to avoid would be white sugar, white flour, artificial sweeteners, fried foods, soda, alcohol, and caffeine. Simple carbohydrates, such as refined grains, processed foods, sugar, and white flour products cause a sudden spike and drop in blood sugar, which we want to avoid. There are supplements and natural health products on the market which support the healthy functioning of the adrenal glands. For instance, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin C, licorice, theanine, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba have all been shown to support healthy adrenal functioning. It is important to seek advice from a trained health care professional when taking supplements and natural health products. Try your local natural pharmacy or health food store.
By supporting your adrenal glands, you may notice increased energy, improved mood, better sleep, weight loss, healthy blood pressure and improved ability to manage stress. So, why wait another minute? If you suspect you may have adrenal fatigue, making a few simple changes can make a world of difference.
Amanda George-Caligiuri, BSc
Graduate of Naturopathic Medical School
SHE Magazine USA