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What is Adrenal Fatigue? + 8 Tips to Combat It!

Do you regularly suffer from nagging symptoms such as fatigue, trouble falling/staying sleep, weight gain, or constantly feeling STRESSED no matter what you do...

...but have never been able to figure out WHY?

If so, it may be time to talk about ADRENAL FATIGUE.

But first, what are the Adrenal Glands?

The adrenals are two small, triangular-shaped glands which rest atop each kidney and are part of the endocrine system. Together with the hypothalamus, pituitary & thyroid glands, the adrenal glands directly regulate the body's stress response by producing hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

Through these important "stress" hormones, the adrenal glands play a pivotal role in the regulation of stress, metabolism, blood sugar, energy levels, libido, blood pressure, immunity and more essential bodily processes.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

The stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) produced by our adrenal glands are crucial in the right type of situations such as emergencies, life threatening or survival situations, allergic reactions, and more.

However, when the body is consistently exposed to high levels of stress (such as those who are chronically stressed), these hormones become over-produced and the adrenal glands become over-worked.

This not only leaves us in a sympathetic "flight-or-flight" state and further inhibits the body from returning to its desired parasympathetic “rest and digest” state...but it also, when left unmanaged, can also affect the function and efficiency of our adrenal glands.

In time, adrenal fatigue can occur, in which the adrenals are no longer able to produce optimal amounts of these important stress hormones.

Other Causes + Signs & Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Oftentimes, the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue are similar to that of other hormonal imbalances which can make it difficult to pinpoint. Further, this common condition is also not formally diagnosed in most conventional medical practices.

However, because it's clear the health and function of our body systems (especially the endocrine system) can become compromised when the body is under enough stress, it's important to identify this condition and understand it's underlying root cause(s).

To try and help you identify if this is something you may be dealing with, below is a list of signs & symptoms commonly associated with adrenal fatigue:

  • insomnia

  • feeling tired upon waking

  • intense unexplained fatigue

  • feeling easily agitated

  • poor stress response

  • brain fog

  • lightheadedness

  • weakened immune system

  • weight gain

  • hair loss

  • mood disorders

  • skin breakouts

  • persistent caffeine cravings

  • salt & sugar cravings

Aside from stress, other causes of adrenal fatigue include:

  • poor diet

  • poor sleeping habits

  • liver toxin overload (from endocrine disrupting chemicals found in things such as processed foods, conventional makeup & hygiene products, synthetic fragrances, household cleaners, etc.)

  • thyroid imbalances

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • chronic disorders (e.g. diabetes)

  • unresolved past trauma

  • chronic anxiety or depression

Diagnostic salivary testing of the Adrenal Stress Index can also be used to measure and assess individual stress responses, cortisol levels, DHEA levels.

8 Tips to Combat Adrenal Fatigue

Following the steps below as best as possible (without giving yourself extra stress) can not only help give your adrenals some extra TLC, but also support whole-body health!

1. Getting adequate amounts of sleep

Because lack of sleep leads to an elevated rise in cortisol levels, not getting enough Z's every night puts extra work on your adrenals. Aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night can help reduce cortisol spikes, stabilize adrenal hormones, and ensure lack of sleep is not an additional stressor on your body.

2. Regularly practicing relaxation techniques

Using relaxation techniques, especially when stressed, is one of the best methods to trigger your autonomic nervous system's parasympathetic rest & digest state. By finding your way into this relaxed state, your body is able to turn off the production of stress hormones and provide your adrenals with much needed rest.

Try experimenting with practices such as deep breathing, meditation, binaural beats, Yin yoga, EFT Trapping, ASMR, grounding/earthing, and listening to 528 Hz music to see if any of these relaxation methods work for you.

3. Staying sufficiently hydrated with filtered water

Individuals suffering from adrenal fatigue also often suffer from low levels of a hormone known as aldosterone, which regulates fluids and minerals in the body. Those with low aldosterone levels may need to urinate more frequently and could be at greater risk for becoming dehydrated.

Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of filtered water per day + an additional 20 oz. for every hour of exercise & for every 8 oz. caffeinated beverage.

4. Consuming an adequate intake of sodium + potassium

Both sodium and potassium are some of the first minerals depleted by stress, so it's imperative to replace lost stores to ensure deficiencies don't take place.

For sodium, using a high-quality mineral sea salt (such as Redmond Real Salt) on meals makes it easy to consume beneficial mineral salts for extra adrenal support.

For potassium, supplementation is often not necessary as you can get your needs from food sources alone. To get yours, regularly consume foods & beverages such as: potatoes, legumes, bananas, coconut water, aloe vera juice, seafood, leafy greens, cream of tartar, dairy, tomatoes, avocadoes, and dried peaches or apricots.

For both, try incorporating 1-2 Adrenal Mocktails into your day.

5. Limiting high intakes of processed sugar

Eating large amounts of sugar signals the adrenal glands to produce large amounts of cortisol. This not only creates extra work for the adrenals, but cortisol also suppresses insulin (the hormone which lowers blood sugar) which can lead to elevated blood sugar levels + poor blood sugar regulation.

When eating foods with ADDED SUGAR*, aim for no more than 10 grams per serving and no more than 25 grams per day.

*Added Sugar is the sugar ADDED to processed foods such as juices, sauces, sodas, etc. but does NOT include the naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, dairy, etc.)

6. Keeping blood sugar balanced by eating well-round meals + snacks

Eating sugary foods (including carbs from breads, pastas, and other starchy foods) alone spikes blood sugar and causes the adrenals to release cortisol. But simply balancing meals & snacks by adding a source of protein and/or healthy fats and fiber significantly decreases this spike + spares the adrenals from producing excess cortisol.

For many, an optimally balanced meal is comprised of:

~45% carbohydrates | ~30% protein | ~ 25% healthy fats | + ~5 grams of fiber

7. Limiting excessive caffeine intake

While a moderate caffeine intake isn't directly shown to necessarily cause adrenal fatigue, it's likely to become more of an issue if used in excessive amounts or at the wrong times of day. With this, those believed to be suffering from fatigued adrenals may find it useful to limit caffeine consumption to no more than 400mg per day + consuming caffeiene no later than 3:00pm to prevent sleep disturbances.

8. Limiting or refraining from extreme or high-intensity exercises

It's no secret exercise is great for whole-body health and can even help in reducing stress and supporting a stressed body. However, because extreme or high-intensity workouts are shown to cause an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol, it's important to use forms of exercise which work with your body at this time, not against it.

Instead, opting for gentle movement such as walks, slow-paced jogs, yoga, swimming, biking, and even moderate strength-training can be beneficial forms of exercise while still supporting fatigued adrenals.

As with most forms of healing, supporting body function and balance most always involves taking care of your body through holistic care – and adrenal fatigue is no different.

While each individual's body and history is unique, when it doubt, remember that core health is often achieved through quality food, sleep, water, movement & mental wellbeing.

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