Adrenal Fatigue: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
Does this story sound familiar to you?
Last night you had trouble falling asleep, but this morning you were so tired you had trouble waking up. You drank coffee that helped you power through the first half of the day. At 3pm, you were so tired you had trouble keeping your eyes open at your desk, and your brain was foggy. Yet it is now 10pm, and you are wide awake – completely unable to fall asleep again.
You are sleepy too often, stressed most of the time, foggy, achy, and thinking something must be completely wrong with you. Maybe there is something wrong…with your adrenal glands.
Chances are, you have heard somebody talk about adrenal fatigue. We are going to learn more about the adrenal glands, what adrenal fatigue is (and the controversy surrounding it), and things you can do to help support your stress hormones.
With this info, you can start feeling hormonally balanced, healthy, and energized again.
All About Adrenal Glands
Adrenal glands are part of your endocrine system, AKA: the hormone center of your body. They can be found right above your kidneys.
Your adrenals are big producers. They create hormones your body needs:
- Corticosteroids: A group that includes cortisol
- Catecholamines: A group that includes adrenaline
- Androgens: A male sex hormone found in both men and women
Are you noticing a pattern with some of these hormone types? Stress!
Cortisol is your main stress hormone and it controls three things: fear, motivation, and mood. Adrenaline is released when your body is stressed, and it gives you all those not-so-fun symptoms like pounding heart and heavy breathing.
These adrenal gland hormones are not inherently bad. Stress hormones actually save lives and can push us into greatness. Some can also treat inflammation.
The problem is too much stress hormone or stress hormones at inappropriate times. Most people are overly stressed all day long, which leads to too much cortisol, to too much adrenaline, and to what some call…adrenal fatigue.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue? Signs and Symptoms
Adrenal Fatigue is the idea that your adrenal glands were not created to withstand the constant state of stress we are in today. Therefore, they are not producing their hormones in the right amount or at the right time (think back to our original example: you are so sleepy you need a nap in the afternoon but can’t sleep at night).
The signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Feeling tired regularly
- Difficulty waking/trouble falling asleep
- Mid-afternoon slump
- Brain fog
- Mood swings
- Lack of motivation
- Body aches
- Reliance on caffeine to keep you up
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of body hair
- Food cravings (often sweet or salty foods)
- Poor immune system
Below are two videos of women sharing their experiences with adrenal fatigue, how it made them feel and what they did for it. See if their stories sound anything like yours:
Getting Diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue: Is It Real?
There’s some controversy over whether or not adrenal fatigue is a real thing. A naturopath, chiropractor, or alternative medicine practitioner may diagnose you with adrenal fatigue and a regular medical doctor may tell you the condition doesn’t exist.
Your natural doctor will probably give you a spit test to test your adrenals throughout the day and diagnose adrenal fatigue if the hormones are not behaving as they should. This test is just as controversial as the diagnosis itself – some swear by its effectiveness and others say it doesn’t work.
So, who are you to believe? Here’s one way to navigate the adrenal fatigue waters:
The most important thing to realize is many other health conditions can lead to similar signs and symptoms as adrenal fatigue. These conditions include, but aren’t limited to:
- Mental Illness
- Heart problems
- Sleep apnea
- Autoimmune disorders
Also know there is a condition called “adrenal insufficiency,” which has many of the same exact symptoms as adrenal fatigue, but they tend to be a little more extreme.
So, if the symptoms of adrenal fatigue above are interfering with your life, it is a good idea to first rule out any serious medical condition first. For example, if you have depression you never knew about – it is vitally important to get the precise treatment for that condition.
- If all your tests come back negative and doctors cannot seem to figure out why you are so tired/groggy/achy, and you are still experiencing those frustrating symptoms (a very common situation!), it can be extremely helpful to explore ways to rebalance the stress hormones produced by your adrenals. Read on to learn how.
5 Ways to Treat Adrenal Fatigue
Whether or not you have been diagnosed with “adrenal fatigue,” one thing is still very true: most people are both exhausted and stressed all the time.
Luckily for us, the same all-natural vitamins, herbs, and lifestyle changes we would recommend for an “adrenal fatigue” diagnosis are the very same all-natural vitamins and herbs that benefit anyone who is sleepy, achy, overly stressed, or brain foggy.
Either way – you win.
If you are generally healthy and have a go-ahead from your doctor to take some all-natural supplements, just about anybody is going to feel better, more energized, and less stressed by following these treatment steps:
1. Get Serious About Lowering Stress
This first treatment step may feel obvious. After all, it’s not like any of us really love being stressed. We’d lower our stress if we could, right? Maybe. Or maybe not. Most of us get into the habit of believing we must do all the stressful things that fill up our days and also believe we have no more time in our schedules to include stress-busting activities.
But ask yourself these questions:
- Are you moderately exercising regularly?
- Do you get outside regularly?
- Have you adopted some sort of grounding/spiritual practice like yoga, meditation, prayer, or journaling?
- Do you say “no” to invitations that fill up your free time, so you can truly have some free time?
- Have you tried talking to a licensed therapist?
- Have you tried diffusing calming essential oils like lavender or frankincense?
- Have you tried lighting your home with lamps and candles instead of bright overhead lights?
- Have you created a sleep routine?
- Have you removed toxic relationships from your life?
- Do you set up boundaries at home and at the office?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, there are still areas in your life where you could lower your stress levels. Lowering stress is mandatory for healing adrenals and balancing stress hormones, so it is time to take it seriously.
2. Up Your Vitamins
Here at Eu Natural, we are all about natural solutions. Let’s look at how some fundamental nutrients – Vitamin D and B vitamins – can support healthy adrenals, lower stress, and boost your energy.
- Vitamin D: Many Americans have low vitamin D levels (often due to living life fully indoors). Symptoms associated with too little vitamin D are fatigue, a lowered immune system function, and body pain – three of the symptoms also associated with adrenal fatigue. While making sure you get a bit of sunshine each day is key, supplementing with a high-quality D3 supplement is great too.
- B vitamins: There should be no wonder why the B vitamins made it to our list of ways to treat adrenal fatigue symptoms; they are some of the most energizing vitamins around – thanks to the fact they actually release energy from carbs and fat. They can also lower stress and anxiety.
3. Go Herbal
There are a few all-natural herbs and amino acids with little to no side effects that have been shown in medical studies to lower stress and boost energy.
- Ashwagandha: “Adaptogens” is a category of herbs that essentially fight stress. One of the most common is Ashwagandha. In a 2012 study, 64 subjects with chronic stress entered either a placebo group or an ashwagandha group (300mg for 60 days). Not only did the Ashwagandha group’s stress assessment show significantly lower scores, but their actual serum cortisol levels were greatly reduced.
- Holy Basil (Tulsi): Here’s another adaptogen. Holy Basil is an herb common in Ayurvedic medicine, and modern medical studies have shown it to be helpful in all sorts of ways as well including, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and…you guessed it…stress! Learn more about this easy-to-grow herb here:
- Rhodiola: This root herb has been used for many years to help ease both anxiety and fatigue, so it is a great option for those adrenal fatigue symptoms. Multiple studies have pointed to this herb’s ability to calm mental fatigue and potentially help symptoms of depression.
- Eleuthero: This adaptogenic herb, a type of ginseng, may not be as common as others on the list, but its uses include improving fatigue and reducing stress. One Reddit user writes of her experience: “Ashwagandha did more to improve my mood. Eleuthero helped me more in terms of managing stress.”
- L-Tyrosine: Next up we have an amino acid shown to help the physical body deal with stressful situations (one study gave examples of extreme cold or loud noises). Its ability to improve mental performance may help with the “brain fog” throughout the day as well.
- L-Theanine: This last supplement is an amino acid found in tea. Studies have shown it can actually help prevent the rapid heartbeat that often comes in that flight-or-flight response (in today’s world: right before a big work presentation or when dealing with in-laws). As Psychology Today reports: “At the same time it is increasing chemicals that promote feelings of calm, L-theanine also reduces levels of chemicals in the brain that are linked to stress and anxiety.”
4. Drink Coffee Properly
While small amounts of coffee can be a nice wake-me-up to start the day, too much caffeine is only going to make the cortisol problem even worse. Why? Caffeine stimulates cortisol – especially if you are already under mental stress.
If you are a full-fledged coffee addict, ease off slowly:
- The first thing is to cut out your coffee intake after lunchtime.
- Then either cut out a cup of coffee in the morning or replace it with a green tea.
- Continue to eliminate or swap until you notice an improvement in your sleep and natural energy.
*Remember, lowering caffeine will initially make you feel more tired. Push through for a week or two to see the results.
5. Take a Diet Inventory
Sometimes we don’t realize how poor our diet is until we write it all down. Track everything you eat for an entire week (or even two!) and look at what you find. Here are three key diet changes to hone in on if you experience adrenal fatigue symptoms.
- Consuming a lot of sugar and refined carbs? These are boosting your stress hormones and making it harder for you to get a good night’s sleep.
- Drinking a lot of alcohol? Alcohol inflames the body and often makes it harder to get a truly restful night of sleep. Try either cutting it out entirely or sticking to a glass or two of wine.
- Not getting enough fruits and veggies? You are missing out on antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals that will not only help you feel energized, but will also help you properly manage stress and boost your immune system.
Tips for Dealing with Your Mid-Afternoon Slump
While you are in the process of correcting stress hormone imbalances, you may want to rely on a few simple tricks to get you through your afternoon grogginess (without counting on caffeine!):
- Eat a nutritious snack: A little bit of natural sugar mixed with healthy fats and protein is the ticket. Think: apple and peanut butter.
- Move your body: Exercising when you’re exhausted may seem counterintuitive, but taking a quick walk around your building can help wake you back up.
- Drink up: Often times our fatigue is actually connected to dehydration. Use this time to fill up your water bottle or make some herbal tea.
- Experiment with short naps: If your workplace allows naps, you can experiment with them to see if they help you. Try taking a short nap when you feel like you need it (make sure it stays under 20 minutes). If you find the naps are disturbing your nighttime sleep, stick to the first 3 tips instead.
No More Adrenal Fatigue
Here is what this adrenal fatigue information should do for you:
- Help you realize your stress and fatigue are connected – which may be in the form of adrenal fatigue, it may be a different condition, or it could just be too much stress. No matter what – these adrenal fatigue treatment steps can help!
- Show you ways to take control of your life so you can feel better. Remember to start with a checkup to rule out any other more serious health conditions.
Proper lifestyle choices and a little help from all natural supplements may be the key you need to balance your stress hormone production, improve your adrenal health, feel more energized throughout the day, and sleep properly throughout the night.