Updated: May 25, 2020
Adrenal Fatigue is more than just our adrenals running out of hormones. It is a systemic issues that effects multiple areas of our lives and leaves us feeling totally exhausted.
Adrenals are responsible for producing our get up and go hormones, like cortisol and nor-adrenaline.
Elevated cortisol is responsible for central body fat accumulation and increased inflammation.
Stress, sugar, sleep and diet impact your metabolic flexibility which impacts adrenal health.
Here’s a familiar story…Patient X presents to clinic feeling extremely tired. She drags herself out of bed in the morning and needs to kick-start her day with a heavy dose of caffeine.
She feels exhausted in the afternoon and snacks on high sugary treats and caffeine. Her sleep is disturbed, and she has trouble concentrating. But most of all, even though she feels she is eating well and exercising, she can’t lose weight!
Does this ring true for anyone else?
These are all symptoms of adrenal fatigue and although this is not a condition accepted by the medical community, adrenal exhaustion is a very real thing. Because even when all the testing has taken place and differential diagnosis has been ruled out, symptoms still exist.
A little biology! The adrenal glands are 2, triangle-shaped endocrine glands. One sits on top of each kidney. They form part of the body’s hormonal system. They produce several hormones that are involved in controlling your blood pressure, metabolism and your body’s response to stress, including adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol and aldosterone.
So does Adrenal Fatigue exist?
Perhaps the idea of the adrenals becoming too tired and reducing their output is far too reductionist and simplistic in its thinking? Instead, adrenal fatigue should be considered and researched in a more holistic perspective, that explores what is happening to the mitochondria at a cellular level, the health of the cell membranes, what dysfunction is occurring in the tissue and organ itself, and how are these issues could be impacting on the patients systems? So in my mind, yes, it does exist. We just need to research it in different ways.
So what causes Adrenal Fatigue:
1. Life is in Overdrive
Most of us don’t realise how stressed we actually are. We process so many thoughts on a daily basis and have a none stop ‘to do’ list ticking away in the background. Often these perpetual thoughts impact our sleep, which is a critical time for the brain to decompress and recover from our daily activities.
Chronic ongoing stress means the adrenals make more stress hormones like cortisol. High cortisol is responsible for weight gain and driving up inflammation.
2. Got a craving for sugar?
A sign of blood sugar dysregulation is craving sweets and feeling irritable if we get hungry. It happens because we have consumed highly processed foods that have caused a spike in blood glucose and then we come crashing down. Unfortunately, not having stable blood glucose drives up inflammation and damages the energy powerhouse of the cell called the mitochondria.
Cellular energy works on supply and demand basis. These mitochondria and cell membranes need to be healthy or there simply isn’t enough energy to keep up with the demand of the adrenals.
3. Are your Circadian Rhythms Broken?
Are you addicted to you device? Are they on once it’s dark outside…then there is a good chance you circadian rhythms are broken. Blue light from devices interrupts the serotonin to melatonin pathway and makes it hard for us to fall asleep. Our adrenals need clear signals for when they can start to rest and recharge.
4. Diet is a bit of a mess?
We all try so hard to get the diet right, low carb, low fat, high protein…it all gets a bit confusing and we end up giving up. The adrenals, mitochondria and cell membranes need to be nourished, they need good fats, plenty of fresh vegetables and good sources of proteins.
They don’t like alcohol and excess caffeine, sugar and sweeteners, refined vegetable oils and processed foods high in sodium and sugar.
So what can be done to improve adrenal health?
1. Learn what makes your feel stressed. Heart Rate Variability devices can help you to monitor what situation are activating your fight & flight response (and release of cortisol). Then you are able to implement stress management techniques or remove yourself from the stressful situation.
2. Magnesium is a great mineral to help manage sugar cravings and balance the nervous system. Monitoring blood glucose is also a great way to check if you are really hungry and need food or is it just a craving.
3. Switch devices to red screen from 7pm and switch devices off altogether from 9pm. Spend that last hour before bed journaling or meditating and getting the mind ready for sleep. Finally when you wake in the morning, access natural light as quickly as possible. This will help set your circadian rhythms and optimise your morning cortisol levels.
4. Don’t start your day with caffeine! Especially on an empty stomach. This is going to switch every on too quickly. To help regulate blood sugar ensure there is a small amount of good fat in every meal, avocado, coconut oil, nuts, seeds or butter. This slows down digestion and combined with good quality sources of protein and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetable you should cover off the minerals needed to support the adrenals. Vitamin C, B, Magnesium & Calcium are the go to nutrients.
If you are interested in our adrenal reset plan, reach out today and we can start to recharge those batteries and get you feeling brand new again.