Do you constantly feel tired, stressed, and have muscle aches? Seem to always be craving salty or sweet foods? You might feel like you have ‘brain fog’ and cannot remember things. You may have talked to your doctor and it appears nothing is wrong with you. It is frustrating to have these problems without knowing what it is or how to fix it. You may blame it on your busy and fast-paced lifestyle, but it actually could be a syndrome called adrenal fatigue. Most doctors do not think this is real, but functional medicine doctors have a different approach. Here are 5 nutrition, stress management, and supplement tips on how to help your adrenal health!
What is adrenal fatigue?1-4
Your adrenal glands sit right above your kidneys and are responsible for releasing cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline. They are part of the ‘fight or flight’ response that help to increase your heart rate and blood pressure in stressful situations. These help give you the energy to complete your daily tasks and power to overcome stress situations like dealing with work deadlines.
Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome that is associated with several symptoms like extreme tiredness and mood swings. It often comes from chronic stress like the loss of a loved one or worsening of a preexisting condition like diabetes. This results in a greater release of cortisol until the stress is too much and your adrenal glands get tired. The hormone release becomes irregular and lower than it should be, leading to symptoms.
Here are the symptoms:
- Constantly feeling tired or struggling to wake up in the morings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle aches
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
The symptoms of adrenal fatigue are nonspecific and you may notice you have quite a few of them. That is what makes it so hard to determine if you have poor adrenal health or if it is another condition like depression or entering menopause.
How do I know if I have adrenal fatigue?1-3
If you have some signs or symptoms of adrenal fatigue, you might want to consider getting an adrenal fatigue or cortisol test. This test measures the level of cortisol in your blood or saliva. Cortisol is typically higher in the mornings to give you energy to tackle your day and lower in the evening, so you can sleep. If you have adrenal fatigue, your body is not producing enough cortisol which can lead to limiting symptoms like constantly feeling tired or anxious, or other health issues.
If you think you might have adrenal fatigue, talk to your doctor or functional medicine doctor about obtaining an adrenal fatigue test.
What are the treatment options?3,5
- Improve your diet – Your diet affects your energy level and sleep quality. By focusing on a diet full of healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, vegetables, and grass-fed or wild-caught meat. Healthy fats include nuts, fish, avocado, seeds, olive and oil. Try limiting your intake of inflammatory foods like processed snacks, sugar, and alcohol. This diet decreases inflammation that may be affecting your symptoms, so try to incorporate a few of these foods into your daily meals.
- Stress management – This is one of the most important ways to promote adrenal health – fix the problem at the main source! Lowering your stress calms you and promotes your well-being. You could try mediating a few minutes a day, yoga, or listening to a podcast on an afternoon walk. Really, just whatever makes you calm and relieves your worries.
- Get quality sleep – If you do not have good sleep, it is definitely difficult to concentrate and go about your day. When your cortisol levels are irregular, this makes it even more difficult to sleep and adds to your stress. Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, but quality sleep is more important than the quantity of sleep.
- Decrease caffeine intake – This includes your daily cups of coffee! Coffee boosts cortisol levels which adds to your already abnormal levels. It is recommended to avoid coffee if you drink it every now and then, but if you already drink it daily, you are already tolerant of this ability. Try limiting your intake after 2 pm to avoid more sleep problems since caffeine can keep you awake.
- Nutritional supplements – Supplements like magnesium, inositol, L-theanine, and ashwagandha promote stress reduction and improving mood. If you need more muscle pain, magnesium may be a better choice while L-theanine can easily be found in green tea to help relaxation. Choosing a supplement can be overwhelming, but you should not select a product alone. Josefs Pharmacy offers a variety of quality and affordable supplements. A pharmacist would be happy to help choose the safe and effective supplement for you.
Could it be something else?3,7
If you think something is wrong with your adrenal glands, think, is there a stressor in your life? What could be causing it? Even if you do not have adrenal fatigue, stress management is key for prevention and lowering your risk of health diseases like heart disease.
If you have any of those symptoms mentioned earlier, it could be something else. The symptoms of anxiety and depression mirror these symptoms which can be treated with antidepressants and counseling. Other possible conditions include anemia; sleep apnea; menopause; autoimmune diseases; and heart, kidney, or liver problems.
If you think you have adrenal fatigue or want to learn more about natural and pharmacological treatments, talk with your doctor or pharmacist today.
- Anderson, P. Adrenal functional medicine. ZRT Lab website. https://www.zrtlab.com/resources/provider-webinars-on-demand/adrenal-function-assessment/?_hsmi=184085093&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_dBdyYL3d4DTb9jr18NHmKZc3e1ah0eAkkceZKnqS_7PLSYqYDUcRmgDuCTCRQiLl-qRoNbQg3SNHyr1xxvEKLkN7GVA. Accessed November 23, 2021.
- Adrenal fatigue: What causes it? Mayo Clinic website. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906. Accessed November 23, 2021.
- You might have adrenal fatigue, here’s how to treat it naturally. Dave Asprey website. https://daveasprey.com/adrenal-fatigue-treatment-symptoms/. Accessed November 23, 2021.
- Adrenal fatigue symptoms and treatment. Enjoy Natural Health website. https://www.enjoynaturalhealth.com/adrenal-fatigue-symptoms-and-treatment/. Accessed November 23, 2021.
- Adrenal fatigue: Tired, wired, foggy & fat. Arbor Health website. https://www.arbor-health.com/blog/adrenal-fatigue. Accessed November 23, 2021.
- Adrenal fatigue: Is it real? WebMD website. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real. Accessed November 23, 2021.
- Is ‘adrenal fatigue’ real? Harvard Health website. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-adrenal-fatigue-real-2018022813344. Accessed November 23, 2021.