Beach Metro Community News
In today’s society, one of the most common health risk factors is chronic stress. In my practice, I see many patients who are undergoing long-term or intense stress (either physical, mental, emotional or chemical). This stress can come from having high-pressure jobs, family/relationship difficulties, financial pressures, chronic infections/allergies or sensitivities to the environment. Stress can come in many different forms and every person has their own way of coping with it. However, the effects of these long-term stresses can often lead to a condition called adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands (glands which sit on top of our kidneys) do not function at their optimal level. Normally, they are responsible for producing over 50 different hormones and when they are underfunctioning, their ability to produce these hormones is hindered. If you are experiencing symptoms such as cravings for salt, extreme fatigue, burnt-out feeling, difficulty waking up, mild depression, decreased libido, PMS symptoms, or difficulty coping with stress, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Approximately 80% of us have experienced adrenal fatigue at some point in our lives but it is often overlooked/undiagnosed.
What are the Causes of Adrenal Fatigue?
One of the major causes of adrenal fatigue is chronic stress. However, factors such as: poor dietary habits, exposure to toxins, allergies, infections, pharmaceutical drugs, lack of sleep, smoking, and lack of exercise or coping techniques can exacerbate the problem. Since these things tend to add even more stress on the body, it is important that we try to avoid these things when we are trying to heal the adrenal glands.
How Can We Assess Adrenal Function?
Although signs and symptoms can give a good indication as to whether or not someone may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, there are objective tests that can also be used to diagnosis this problem. The most common and reliable naturopathic tests to assess adrenal function are: saliva hormone testing (specifically testing for cortisol and DHEA-S levels), the Koenisburg urinary test, the pupillary constriction test, and the orthostatic hypotension test.
How Can We Heal Adrenal Fatigue?
Once adrenal fatigue is established, implementing lifestyle and nutritional changes can help to support and heal the adrenal glands. The first and most important step is to remove as many stressors as possible from your life. However, since it may be difficult or even impossible to remove some of the stressors in our life, we need to take steps to teach our bodies how to cope with stress better. It is very important to organize a list of priorities and try not to put too much on your plate. Relieve stress with gentle (not strenuous) exercise, meditation, yoga, deep breathing and doing things you enjoy. Take breaks when needed and laugh as often as possible, as this can be very healing. It is also essential to establish a regular pattern for sleeping (going to bed and waking up at the same time every day). Sleep before midnight and get at least eight hours of sleep a night.
When you have adrenal fatigue, it is also crucial to eat regularly and to eat healthy meals (at least five servings of vegetables/day). Do not skip meals and do not give in to the temptation to consume junk food (e.g. foods containing sugar or white flour) or drink excessive alcohol. These can all have a negative impact on blood sugar levels, which are usually regulated by the adrenal glands. Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee) as this can add more stress to the adrenal glands and make it more difficult to recover from adrenal fatigue. Ensure adequate protein and essential fatty acids (e.g. fish oil) in the diet for nervous system and immune system support.
Nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C, B Complex (especially vitamin B5), and magnesium can help the body replenish vitamins and minerals depleted during times of stress. Herbs such as Rhodiola, Ashwaganda and Siberian ginseng are wonderful adaptogens which help the body to cope with stress. Rescue Remedy (a specific type of Bach Flower Remedy) can also be very beneficial for dealing with acute anxiety or emotionally stressful situations. Because everyone is different, dosages of these supplements should to be individualized to the specific person.
In conclusion, adrenal fatigue can be a serious condition that should not be overlooked. However, once it is diagnosed, lifestyle and dietary changes can be very useful to return them back to their optimal state.
Note: This article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace proper diagnosis and treatment by a qualified healthcare professional.