The rush and bustle of the holidays and setting resolutions for your health and well-being at the start of the new year can leave us feeling overwhelmed. However, if you’re constantly tired and run down even after adequate resting and feel like you’re always running on empty, you might be experiencing adrenal fatigue.
Let’s look at some common signs, simple steps you can implement starting today, and natural strategies you can consider for supporting your adrenals and your overall energy levels.
What are the adrenal glands?
The adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped organs that sit above the kidneys and are responsible for producing hormones that regulate your sleep patterns, boost energy levels and help you respond to stress, such as when you are feeling anxious or scared. They produce several important hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androgenic steroids, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. These hormones help regulate our metabolism, immune system, stress response, blood pressure, and the balance of electrolytes in our bodies.
Adrenal fatigue: what does it mean?
Integrative healthcare providers use the term adrenal fatigue to describe chronic symptoms caused by chronic stress, and it is not considered a medical condition. Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal dysfunction (HPA) is also a term that is sometimes used to describe adrenal fatigue.
The HPA axis is a complex system involving the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands that work together to help regulate our stress response. When the body is under prolonged periods of physical or mental stress, it can affect the HPA axis, causing fatigue and other symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue.
What contributes to chronic stress?
Chronic stress can be caused by many types of stressors, including emotional, work, financial, and relationship stress. The Covid pandemic has also contributed to global stress levels increasing, so it’s not surprising more stress-related illnesses are popping up.
Because chronic stress constantly activates the HPA axis, the HPA axis becomes less sensitive to activation signals. As a result, the HPA axis down-regulates, and the adrenal glands stop making enough stress hormones, specifically cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones are important for overall energy regulation, so when they are not produced, the body is left feeling drained and exhausted.
Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- Feeling excessively tired or exhausted upon waking in the morning, even if you’ve had a good night’s sleep
- Inability to handle stress
- Feelings of depression, anxiety, or irritability
- Low libido
- Cravings for sugar and processed foods
- Weight gain, especially around the midsection
- Digestive issues, such as constipation or bloating
- Frequent infections
- Muscle aches and pains
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Lack of concentration or focus
- Poor blood sugar regulation
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Energy crashes in the afternoon, usually between 3-5 pm
- Feeling run-down or fatigued after working out
5 natural strategies for Adrenal Fatigue
1. Eat nutritious foods
To reduce stress on the body and nourish depleted adrenals, it’s important to eat a balanced diet of whole foods, minimize processed food intake and increase the intake of healthy carbohydrates such as vegetables. Eating every few hours (snacks included) helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce adrenal fatigue symptoms. Studies show that the Mediterranean diet is one of the most beneficial for overall health. This is because it focuses on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, fish, dairy products, moderate amounts of meat and poultry, and moderate amounts of carbohydrates. Limiting coffee and other caffeinated drinks is also best because they can activate the HPA axis and increase cortisol secretion.
2. Consider adaptogens and herbal supplementation
Herbs with adaptogenic properties can support the body’s function in the face of stress, enhance overall health, and provide calming and energizing properties for tired adrenal glands. Several herbs are commonly used to support adrenal health, including ginseng, astragalus, licorice root, ashwagandha, and Rhodiola. It has been shown that these herbs are beneficial in balancing hormone levels, decreasing inflammation, aiding digestion, boosting immunity, and increasing energy production in the body.
3. Use the power of acupuncture
Acupuncture activates the body’s innate healing processes, boosting circulation and helping to release hormones that regulate mood and energy. Acupuncture functions by stimulating nerve pathways that activate blood flow in the tissue surrounding the needle triggering various reflexes in the body, prompting it to produce pain-relieving opioids, anti-inflammatory cytokines, serotonin, and more hormones that aid in tissue repair.
Acupuncture is beneficial for adrenal fatigue as it can reduce inflammation, improve circulation and boost hormone levels. It helps the nervous system relax to manage stress better and regulate cortisol production, helping the body recover from adrenal fatigue more quickly. Additionally, acupuncture may help balance hormone levels by activating various neurotransmitters, which aid in reducing anxiety and relaxing tense muscles while restoring depleted energy reserves in the body.
4. Lifestyle choices for reducing stress
Sleep is a key recovery piece for recovering from adrenal fatigue. Ensure you get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, and avoid late nights or sleeping in on the weekends to help your body’s circadian rhythm stay regulated For our bodies to recover from adrenal fatigue more quickly, it is imperative to reduce stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or walking in nature to calm down an overactive nervous system. It is essential for your recovery to spend some time each day doing activities that relax you, taking advantage of nature when you can, and engaging in stress-relieving activities that you enjoy.
5. Incorporate essential oils into your daily routine.
Adding essential oils to your daily routine can be a great way to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Depending on the oil’s properties, you can customize which oil works best for different needs. For instance, if you are feeling fatigued and stressed during the day, try using uplifting floral scents like jasmine or geranium rose oil which have been known to reduce stress levels while providing energy and mental clarity. Alternatively, lavender is a great choice for calming the mind and body during periods of restlessness or before bedtime. The benefits of aromatherapy are numerous—it can help improve immunity, reduce pain, and even alleviate depression in some cases. Essential oils also provide additional therapeutic benefits outside of aromatherapy such as when used topically in massage treatments or skin care routines. With the power of natural healing available through their use, incorporating essential oils into your daily routine is an easy and effective way to support your recovery after adrenal fatigue and to prevent it in the first place.
Take the first step toward your recovery and increased energy.
Whether you are looking for increased energy and joy in the new year or need more support for your adrenals, the Calm team will create a customized plan to help you reach your recovery goals for more energy and joy in the new year.
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