Most of us have noticed at sometime or the other, that the feeling of tiredness and fatigue just refuses to go away, no matter what we do. We eat, we sleep, thinking it would go away, but it doesn’t. Reason to worry, isn’t it?
We visit the doctor and he prescribes some medication, but our body does not respond. Reason to worry some more! Now what do we do?
A common and often misunderstood cause of constant fatigue is a condition called adrenal fatigue. Since very few doctors recognize and treat adrenal fatigue, millions of people live with feeling chronically exhausted and confused about why that’s so. What makes this particularly disturbing is that once adrenal fatigue is diagnosed, it can be treated and resolved and people start to feel better in just a few months’ time.
Why am I sooo tired?
The adrenals (small walnut-sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys) produce numerous hormones — adrenaline and others — that impact bodily functions including blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, liver function and immunity. They also produce two crucial stress hormones — DHEA and cortisol — whose job it is to balance the body’s response to stressful influences, including blood sugar fluctuations. Living with stress — whether mental, physical or emotional, for a protracted period result in a situation where the need for a constant supply of these two hormones outstrips the adrenals’ production capacity. This deficiency dulls cognitive function, energy levels and, of course, our ability to handle stress. It also slows the immune response and with it the ability to fight off infections and even possibly cancer. DHEA and cortisol interact in complex ways that affect many functions — deficiencies can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain, fatigue, allergies, infections, mood disorders and poor libido.
Am I suffering from Adrenal Fatigue?
Fatigue is just one adrenal fatigue symptom. If you are chronically tired and have any of the following, you may want to consider asking your doctor for a blood or saliva test to determine whether you have adrenal fatigue:
- Morning fatigue
- Mood swings
- Light-headedness after standing up
- Decreased sex drive
- Inability to focus
- Memory problems
- Body aches, including pain in the lower back
- Craving for salt and/or sugar
- Slower recovery from illness than is usual for you.
Since mainstream medical practitioners are slow or fail to recognize adrenal fatigue, it is suggested that those who think they may have it should seek out naturopathic physicians.
How to fix?
Once adrenal fatigue is diagnosed, treatment is multi-pronged, including a combination of nutrients and lifestyle changes:
- Stress reduction. Not surprisingly, your first task is to review what’s causing all the stress in your life so that you can determine what changes need to be made to reduce it.
- Get more sleep. You need plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep. For those who have trouble falling asleep or who find themselves waking up in the night, 0.5 mg to 3 mg of melatonin, the “sleep” hormone, or 100 mg of the amino acid 5-HTP an hour before bedtime, is prescribed to help the body prepare for sleep. Ask your doctor which you should take.
- Adjust your diet. People with adrenal fatigue often have blood sugar swings and cravings for sweets, so it’s very important to have breakfast every day and to eat small, healthy snacks between meals. He advises eating plenty of whole-grain foods and protein, including almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts, and avoiding processed foods and simple sugars, including refined grains, fruit juices and, of course, sugary sodas. Also stay away from caffeinated beverages and alcohol. And if you have low blood pressure, which often results from adrenal fatigue and further contributes to fatigue, do be sure you are getting enough salt, which helps maintain blood volume and proper circulation. However, don’t go overboard — 2,400 mg per day of sodium from all sources is usually about right.
- Exercise — in moderation. While exercise helps regulate stress hormones, too much will exhaust adrenal fatigue patients further. Patients are advised to start by walking 15 minutes a day, adding time as symptoms improve until reaching 45 minutes per day, but again, keeping it to a moderately intense level. Reduce the amount of exercise if afterward you find yourself feeling more tired rather than less — the goal is to increase overall energy.
To help speed recovery, the following nutritional supplements are advised:
- Vitamin B5 — (pantothenic acid) is especially important for stress-hormone production… 500 mg of B5, three times a day is often prescribed. A good multivitamin (or B-complex) will supply enough of the other B vitamins needed.
- Vitamin C — typically 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg twice daily is prescribed, but reduce this dose if loose stools develop.
- Adrenal glandular extract (AGE) — made from cow, pig or sheep adrenals, AGE contains growth factors that promote cell healing and also has nutrients to support gland function and repair. Take one to two tablets daily without food, and reduce the dosage if you become jittery or have trouble sleeping.
- Ashwagandha — this herb, popular in Ayurvedic medicine, helps normalize adrenal functioning. Very effective and my personal recommendation.
Hormone therapy consisting of DHEA, cortisol or other hormones and supplements, is used to treat severe adrenal fatigue, but such measures require the supervision of a physician who is well practiced in the therapy.
Effective adrenal fatigue treatment ends up being an intensive self-care regimen in which you ratchet back the unreasonable demands you’ve been making on your mind and body. Fortunately, given time to recover, the adrenals are able to regain their strength… and with it, your natural energy will return.