Managing Adrenal Fatigue
Like all good things in life, I'm learning to be patient with my health.
As I've mentioned, a few weeks ago I realized something wasn't right. I could hardly get out of bed. At first I went through a stage of sleeping more than I ever had. Then I was alert in the late hours of the night but couldn't get out of bed in the morning. Some days it was a struggle to get out at all.
I sought out professional help, read into the subject, and made a point of resting up, taking my vitamins and avoiding stressful situations. As anyone who lives and breathes may know, this is easier said then done. Life got stressful, things beyond my control happened, I indulged in all the wrong things at times and I started to feel worse again.
I've learned that my body is much more sensitive to stimulating situations and stimulants than usual. Even a dinner out with a few glasses of wine, or a morning with too much caffeine and sugar, can leave me feeling totally drained and set back the next day.
One of the most helpful articles I found on adrenal fatigue can be found here. Here are the symptoms they list:
- Morning fatigue -- You don't really seem to "wake up" until 10 a.m., even if you've been awake since 7 a.m.
- Afternoon "low" (feelings of sleepiness or clouded thinking) from 2 to 4 p.m.
- Burst of energy at 6 p.m. -- You finally feel better from your afternoon lull.
- Sleepiness at 9 to 10 p.m. -- However, you resist going to sleep.
- "Second wind" at 11 p.m. that lasts until about 1 a.m., when you finally go to sleep.
- Cravings for foods high in salt and fat
- Increased PMS or menopausal symptoms
- Mild depression
- Lack of energy
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Muscular weakness
- Increased allergies
- Lightheadedness when getting up from a sitting or laying down position
- Decreased sex drive
- Frequent sighing
- Inability to handle foods high in potassium or carbohydrates unless they're combined with fats and protein
None of these symptoms were completely unfamiliar to me, but they were new in the extremes I was feeling them in. I also experienced common symptoms like hot flashes, headaches, strong cravings for fats late at night and almost all of the symptoms listed here.
This same article explains how the adrenal glands play a significant role in the body by secreting more than 50 hormones necessary for life, including epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), progesterone and testosterone. Since they produce so many essential hormones, the adrenal glands are responsible for many of the functions we need to stay alive and healthy, like energy production, carbohydrate, protein and fat conversion to blood glucose for energy, fluid and electrolyte balance and fat storage.
Cortisol in particular controls the strength of the immune system and sets the motions for increased susceptibility to infections and disease, regulates blood sugar and blood pressure. Not something you really want to mess around with.
Here is what is advised for treatment of adrenal fatigue:
- Lying down during your work breaks (preferably at 10 a.m. and again anytime from 3 to 5 p.m.)
- Sleeping until 9 a.m. as often as possible
- Exercising (in moderation - anything too intense can stress your adrenals)
- Minimizing stress
- Taking negative people out of your life
- Eating regular meals
- Chewing well
- Doing something fun each day
- Combining unrefined carbohydrates with protein and oils (balancing blood sugar)
- Avoiding junk food
- Eating five to six servings of vegetables each day
- Taking calcium and magnesium supplements
- Adding sea salt to your diet
- Taking 2,000 to 5,000 milligrams of vitamin C each day
- Supplementing vitamin E with mixed tocopherols
- Taking B-complex supplements that are high in B6 and pantothenic acid
- Adding licorice root extract to your dietary supplement regimen
Other recommendations I've read include proper hydration, avoiding fruit in the morning, having low glycemic meals and snacks, addressing mental and emotional problems, keeping a steady sleep schedule, and meditation.
This article in particular states that if you take your treatment plan seriously, you can expect your adrenal fatigue to heal in 6 to 9 months for minor adrenal fatigue, 12 to 18 months for moderate fatigue, up to 24 months for severe adrenal fatigue. Some experts that I have spoken to suggested it could be repaired in much less time - two to three months. Either way the healing process is an overnight miracle.
As with the rest of my life, and health goals, I need to be patient.
My personal plan includes cutting back on stimulants (with celebratory wine and treats on occasion), sleeping as much as time permits, eating whole foods, keeping my blood sugar level stable, keeping a positive mindset, practicing stress reducing activities and following my current supplement regime:
- Usana health pak: includes Vitamin C, B 1,2,6 and 12, Vitamin E mixed with trocopheryl succinate, calcium, Pantothenic acid and more needed for adrenal repair (Pantothenic acid is one of the B-complex vitamins that is essential for adrenal gland health. It is naturally present in high doses in the adrenal glands but can become depleted as hormones are manufactured in response to stress.)
- CoQuinone: Provides vital ingredients for cardiovascular health, muscle function and healthy nerve function with powerful antioxidants
- PhytoEstrin: contains licorice root extract and other hormone balancing ingredients.
- Pure Rest: fast acting melatonin supplement to promote the body's natural sleep and wake cycles.
- Chromium and L-Glutamine: to help glucose levels
- Profavonal C100: Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients to the adrenal glands. It is needed to manufacture the hormones secreted by these glands in response to stress. The more stress you experience, the higher your vitamin C needs may be.