IS ADRENAL FATIGUE A REAL CONDITION?
The term "adrenal fatigue" was first coined in 1998 by Dr James Wilson in his book of the same name. Although not yet officially regarded as an existing medical condition, many experts maintain adrenal fatigue is a real and very common problem today.
Here is, for instance, what Dr. Josh Axe wrote about reality of this condition from his own experience, “All I can say is that adrenal fatigue is something I’ve seen personally. It is my opinion, through years of healthcare practice and supporting scientific evidence, that hypoadrenia is very real and associated with a number of complications. In addition, adrenal fatigue treatment is relatively non-invasive and is beneficial to your health, no matter the diagnosis.”
WHAT IS ADRENAL FATIGUE?
Adrenal fatigue is the result of our inability to cope with stressful situations we experience on a daily basis. Every time we getirritated, stressed, afraid, and worried, or whenever we experience a physical trauma (fighting, heavyweight lifting, accidents, etc.) our walnut-sized adrenal glands (found on top of the kidneys) start making stress hormones (Cortisol, Adrenaline and Noradrenaline).
Cortisol (known as Hydrocortisone) reacts to stress by boosting conversion of fats, proteins, and especially carbohydrates (sugar) to energy, thus increasing appetite and sugar craving after stress.
Adrenaline (also known as Epinephrine) rapidly responds to stress by increasing heart rate and rushing blood to the brain and muscles. It also spikes your blood sugar level by helping convert glycogen to glucose in the liver.
Noradrenaline (Also known as Norepinephrine) responds to stress by causing vasoconstriction (narrowing blood vessels), thus increasing blood pressure.
The problem is that since our adrenal glands have to make stress hormones so often they finally get exhausted and are unable to produce enough of these hormones during stressful situations and also in between them, thus triggering various unpleasant symptoms (listed below).
In addition, to this overload and deficiency of cortisol and adrenaline, individuals with adrenal fatigue often experience low levels ofDHEA, a hormonal substance required for the production of many hormones in human body.
It is believed that adrenal fatigue is closely linked to Addison's disease, known as primary adrenal insufficiency, which is a common and long-term endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones.
The following symptom may be associated with adrenal fatigue:
Chronic fatigue, struggling to get out of bed in the mornings, lack of motivation and enthusiasm, poor memory, problems with concentration, insomnia, feelings of apathy, irritability, anxiety, depression, low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia) especially in the morning, hair loss, sugar craving, weight gain, decreased sex drive (libido), insulin resistance, etc.
In addition, lower cortisol levels make the immune system to become oversensitive and over-reacting leading to chronic inflammation and contributing to allergies and even auto-immune diseases.
Also, if you experience craving for salty foods, it can be one of the symptoms of Adrenal fatigue as it leads to sodium imbalance.
- The following factors may cause or contribute to adrenal fatigue: Stress, any B vitamin deficiency (especially vitamin B12 andfolate), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level, which is a very common problem today), iron deficiency (often caused by refined diet and heavy menstruation), Candida overgrowth, depression, IBS, allergy, anaemia, poor blood circulation, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, Epstein Barr virus, cancer, diabetes, etc.
- Consuming foods and beverages containing or high glucose / fructose syrup and eating refined carbohydrates (white flour products, white rice, etc.) or any products containing empty calories also put stress on the adrenals and pancreas triggering production of extra cortisol and insulin, thus contributing to adrenal fatigue.
- Any chronic disease including cancer, asthma, arthritis or diabetes, and other conditions place increased demands on adrenal glands making them overwork and fatigued. You should also know that the treatments for these chronic diseases are often stressful to the body too.
- Adrenal fatigue is also linked to inadequate sleep, sedentary lifestyle, chronic inflammation, high-fat diet, malnutrition or malabsorption of nutrients, prescribed medication, and use of stimulants such as caffeine products (coffee, black tea, cola drinks, etc.), chocolate (high in theobromine), drugs, or alcohol.
- Use of stimulants such as caffeine products (coffee, black tea, cola drinks, etc.), chocolate (lower in caffeine but high in another harmful stimulant - theobromine). There is no doubt that the state of fight or flight is also fuelled by caffeine, theobromine, sugar, alcohol, drugs or other substances that stimulate us to keep going when in reality we need rest.
According to Dr. Agatha Thrash, "Since caffeine first stimulates the nerves than causes depression, presence of fatigue in those who use caffeinated drinks is common. It is a fact that the commonest complaint in physicians' offices today is that of fatigue. Yet, many people mistakenly believe that coffee helps them get through a difficult day. In addition to fatigue, mental confusion and depression also result from the use of caffeinated drinks. While caffeine drinks cause an immediate increase in the learning ability, the overall result is a decrease in learning; the physical fatigue resulting from pharinacologic depression of the nervous system produces emotional depression, leading to a reduction of interest in and retention of new material. Headaches are common among caffeine users, and often clear up after only a short period of caffeine abstinence--a week or two. Headaches may occur as a caffeine-withdrawal symptom; some people are so sensitive that they get a headache soon after drinking their last cup."
- Dr Lawrence Wilson blames artificial sweeteners, MSG, caffeine, and other dangerous chemicals for causing adrenal fatigue: "Nutrasweet (also labeled as Equal, Canderel, Spoonful, aspartame, aspartic acid, neotame or phenylalanine) is notorious for causing brain fog, fatigue, dizziness, depression and panic attacks, to name just a few of its symptoms. It is found in over 5000 products and affects some 25% of Americans who use it. It is often hidden in prescription medication, vitamins, toothpaste, breath mints and all types of diet products. Everyone should avoid this food chemical. Other food chemicals that affect sensitive people include excitotoxins such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), caffeine, pesticide residues, bacterial and fungal toxins, fluoride, chlorine and hundreds of other substances that either contaminate or are added to drinking water and food. Caffeine and other stimulants can give one a boost, but eventually contribute to adrenal exhaustion."
HOW TO COPE WITH ADRENAL FATIGUE?
Effective coping with Adrenal Fatigue requires lifestyle changes, increased consumption of plant-based unrefined foods, regular energetic exercise, vitamin and mineral supplementation, herbs, natural adaptogens, and emotional counselling.
In order to be more effective you also need to address any possible underlying health conditions such as hypoglycaemia, depression, Candida overgrowth, IBS, allergy, anaemia, poor blood circulation, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, Epstein Barr virus, cancer, diabetes, etc. that may magnify the symptoms of AF.
LIFESTYLE AND DIET
- Exercise every day for at least one hour, trying to induce some perspiration. Fast walk outside is the best type of exercise. One of the key causes of fatigue is insufficient amount of mitochondria (energy producing power stations) in your cells. And the key cause of this shortage is lack of physical activity. Regular energetic exercise,
therefore, is the best way to stimulate the body to make more mitochondria. No wonder marathon runners have the highest number of mitochondria in their cells!
- If possible, switch to a well-balanced plant-based and unrefined diet.
- Go to sleep as early as possible. Try to sleep at least seven or eight hours.
- Avoid eating foods rich in refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates such as white flour products (body turns white flour into sugar).
- Don’t use stimulants such as caffeine products or alcohol.
- Liquorice and soy sauce has been reported a life-saving concoction in a patient with Addison's disease > http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/liquorice-and-soy-sauce-has-been-reported-life-saving-concoction-patient
- Avoid oils (especially soya oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and vegetable oil), margarines or animal fats, and foods containing them. Use only raw organic Coconut oil as it helps sustain energy levels. For salad dressing use cold-pressed flax oil.
- Replace refined salt with Celtic salt, pink salt or unrefined sea salt, especially if you experience cravings for salty foods. This craving is often caused also by Adrenal Fatigue which leads to inability to balance sodium in the blood. This, in turn, triggers cravings for foods which can replace the lost sodium.
- If you are on a prescribed medication check whether fatigue is one of its side effects and discuss it with your doctor.
- Alternative hot and cold showers will improve circulation, elimination of toxins and will stimulate the nervous and immune system. Start with hot shower, and after about 5 minutes when your body is warm enough take a short (3 min) cold shower slowly reducing the temperature. Then alternate the flow of water from hot to cold, back and forth at least 3 times in a row.
WARNING: Before using this water treatment consult your physician first if you have any chronic health conditions especially if they are associated with heart.
- Address the excess stress that wore out your adrenals. Learn to control stress by regular exercise, plant-based unrefined diet (mostly raw), good quality nutritional supplements (especially, B vitamins, Magnesium, and Zinc), morning and evening meditation (prayer) and reading good spiritual literature such as the Bible (starting from the Gospel of John).
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AND HERBS
In case of Adrenal Fatigue there are many natural adaptogens in the form of herbal remedies, supplements and super foods which give excellent results.
- Very common today zinc deficiency (caused by food low in zinc due to soil depletion and refined diet) exacerbates hormone imbalances and greatly contributes to adrenal fatigue. Some specialist maintain that zinc supplementation is the most important element in treating AF as zinc aids in the production of many vital hormones including the thyroid hormones, progesterone, cortisol and aldosterone. One of the main functions of cortisol produced by the adrenal glands is to fight inflammation, Zinc deficiency, therefore, not only directly contributes AF but also indirectly by inhibiting body’s ability to fight inflammation. Supplementing zinc and eating zinc rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds, can be powerful tool in coping with AF. My favourite zinc supplement is zinc citrate as it is well absorbed and the only one after which I don’t feel nausea even if I take 100mg. Take 30 - 50 mg of zinc always after meals one or two times a day. ZINC most important!
- Maca is known to help regulate and utilize hormones including cortisol and adrenalin. Take 1 tablespoon of ground Maca or about five - 500 mg capsules of Maca root
powder every day before meals for a month or so. After that, take Ashwaganda or Ginseng (both powerful adaptogens beneficial in balancing cortisol) for a similar period of time. You can continue using them alternatively for about 6 months. After that, take a break for about one month.
- Rhodiola, Liquorice root, Cordyceps, or Gotu Kola are other powerful adaptogens. You can use them alternatively with Chlorella,Maca, Ashwaganda or Ginseng.
WARNING: Ginsengs (except Siberian) and Liquorice should be probably avoided by those who suffer from hypertension as both herbs may increase blood pressure.
WARNING: Ginsengs (except Siberian) and Liquorice should be probably avoided by those who suffer from hypertension as both herbs may increase blood pressure.
- I know from experience that the combination of Chlorella, sublingual Methylcobalamin (B12) and good quality multivitamin-mineral formula (such as Healthy Mega) almost always gives excellent results in coping with any type of fatigue including AF. I have recommended it to many people suffering from AF due to different causes and
it effectively increased their energy and ability to control stress, detoxified their bodies, improved memory, concentration and quality of sleep.
- Chlorella is one of the best natural adaptogens and energy boosters I know. It is regarded as a very important remedy for healing adrenal challenges. Please read the article about this amazing super food to find strong motivation to use it on a regular basis. >
- Methylcobalamin (form of vitamin B12) is another very important remedy which helped many people to get rid of chronic fatigue as deficiency of this vitamin is regarded as "rampant" today. > Take 1,000 - 2,000 mcg of Methylcobalamin (must be sublingual) a day under the tongue (only with breakfast). Read a very important and fascinating article on VITAMIN B12 >
- DHEA supplements might be helpful as it is a natural steroid and precursor hormone produced also by the adrenal glands. Its deficiency is also believed to be common today and contribute to AF.
- Make sure you provide your body with sufficient amounts of all vitamins and minerals as Adrenal Fatigue can be caused by deficiency of almost any vitamin or mineral deficiency especially the following ones: Vitamin B complex, vitamin A (beta-carotene), C, D, and E, pantothenic acid, folic acid, iron, calcium, and magnesium. All of them are included in multivitamin-mineral formulas, but B12, D3, Folic acid, and Magnesium should be taken additionally as they require higher doses (especially B12 and D3).
- Good quality Multivitamin-mineral formula or Vitamin B-complex: 1 tablet after breakfast. Please do not buy cheap formulas as their potency is very low and they contain only short list of inorganic ingredients. It must be a good quality formula such as Healthy Mega which is an excellent multi-vitamin and mineral formulas fortified with alfalfa powder, rutin, citrus bioflavonoids, bromelain, herbs, digestive enzymes and many other super nutrients. If your diet is very healthy and you stay away from refined foods, sugar and stimulants then take only 1/2 tablet after breakfast. Since Healthy Mega is high in B vitamins you don’t need additional B complex.
- Since Vitamin B complex (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, Folate) play very important role in dealing with AF I recommend getting B complex with a good quality multivitamin-mineral formula which is high in B vitamins. One of my favourite ones is Healthy Mega as it is not only high in B vitamins and at the same time it contains zinc, selenium, herbs, digestive enzymes, micronutrients, and few super grasses. Compared with other popular formulas Healthy mega may contain even up to 60 times more vitamins per tablet! Adults may take 1 tablet of Healthy Mega after breakfast, children 1/2 tablet (or less) crushed and mixed with juice after breakfast.
- Panthothenic acid (B5) stimulates the adrenal cells in male rats to secrete corticosterone and progesterone. >
- Vitamin C also helps with adrenal fatigue. Read a very interesting article about vitamin C to know which supplement is most effective.
- Beneficial herbs: Tulsi (Holy Basil), Lemon balm (Melissa), Turmeric, Chamomile.
- Chia seeds are very helpful too as it is regarded as the best source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Mix 1-2 tablespoons with fruit juice or plant-based milk every morning and eat it after at least 30 minutes with your breakfast.
– Vitamin D3: 5,000 IU a day with meal. Try to increase the blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D to at least 50 or more ng/ml.
– Magnesium citrate or another well absorbed magnesium: 2 times a day 200-400 mg between meals. The more vitamin D3 is used the more magnesium must be taken as D3 leads to magnesium deficiency.
- Schisandra can reduce levels of cortisol and glucose and protect the structure of the adrenal cortex >
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
Any information or product suggested on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Consult your primary healthcare physician before using any supplements or making any changes to your regime.