What is adrenal fatigue?
While it is not recognized as a medical condition, the term adrenal fatigue was coined in 1998 by the chiropractor and naturopath James Wilson and is thought to occur when one or more essential hormones, including cortisol, are not being produced in high enough amounts by your adrenal glands.
When we are experiencing stress, our bodies release short burst of cortisol into our bloodstream to cope with it. The theory surrounding adrenal fatigue is that prolonged exposure to stress can drain the adrenal glands of their hormones and lead to a low cortisol state, which brings with it a host of symptoms.1
Have you ever found yourself low of energy and feeling tired all the time? There could be many explanations for these common symptoms ranging from stress, simply overdoing things, leading a busy lifestyle, or a number of illnesses or infections, so it is always recommended to have a consultation with a doctor, but these common symptoms might also suggest you are experiencing adrenal fatigue.
Just because adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical condition though, doesn’t mean that the symptoms it causes are any less real and unpleasant, and it doesn’t mean that you should accept and have to put up with them.
What causes adrenal fatigue?
Your adrenal glands are found above your kidneys and are responsible for producing the hormones that help you regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, responding to stress and burning fat and protein. Adrenal fatigue is thought to be caused by these glands not functioning properly. There are no specific tests to diagnose adrenal fatigue, so often it is a case of ruling out any other health conditions and then treating the symptoms directly.2
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue brings with it a whole range of symptoms – some more common than others. Common symptoms include:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Brain fog
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Other symptoms might include:
- Aching muscles and joints
- Low blood pressure
- Dizziness when standing up
- Darkened skin of the face, neck and/or back of hands
- Craving salt
- Loss of body hair3
What can you do to alleviate adrenal fatigue?
As there can be many symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue and adrenal fatigue in itself is not a recognized medical condition, we would always recommend speaking to your doctor to rule out any other health conditions. Managing adrenal fatigue will often come down to ruling out other causes for the way you are feeling and then treating the specific symptoms you are experiencing. There are a number of steps you can take independently to manage your symptoms and live a healthier lifestyle, including giving up drinking, smoking and taking any drugs and taking regular exercise. Other ways to alleviate your symptoms include:
Adopting a regular sleep/wake routine
Studies have shown that sleep is important for helping your body and mind recharge and for keeping us healthy and staving off certain illnesses or diseases.4
t can be difficult to switch off and fall asleep though so if you are someone who struggles to switch off in the evening, follow these tip tips:
- Go to bed and set your morning alarm for the same time – even on the weekend. A regular routine will help your body recognize when it’s time to be awake and time to be asleep
- Make your bedroom a positive sleeping environment. Ensure it’s not too hot or cold and remove bright lights
- Ensure your bed, pillow, mattress and sheets are clean and comfortable to encourage you to relax
- Avoid watching the television and using your mobile phone in the bedroom
- Don’t have caffeine, alcohol or big meals in the hours leading up to your bedtime, as these all have a stimulating effect
- Exercise during the day to help your body relax in the evening and get ready for sleep
Treating adrenal fatigue by diet
As there is a lack of evidence surrounding adrenal fatigue as a condition, there is also limited evidence of how it might be treated by diet, but the health benefits of a nutritious diet are well known to include giving you energy and providing your body with the nutrients it needs to grow and repair.5
By following a healthy, balanced diet, you might be able to reduce the stress on your adrenal glands. Try to base your meals around lean protein, vegetables and whole grains so that your energy levels increase naturally. Studies have shown that Vitamins C, B1, B5 and E, magnesium, zinc, adrenal glandular, ashwagandha, panax ginseng, and liquorice may be beneficial in managing adrenal fatigue.6
Always remember that, whether the condition is recognized medically or not, your symptoms are very real and deserve consideration. Seeking medical advice should always be the first step, but it’s never too soon to start eating a healthier diet and making better lifestyle choice to help not only with adrenal fatigue, but with many other conditions too.