Do you feel overwhelmed by life ? By the seemingly endless number of things you need to get done each day ? Do you need to start your day with caffeine and by 3pm find yourself desperate for refined sugar? Once home, you’re probably too tired to even watch your favourite TV show or read a book, but go to bed, and find you can’t sleep! It seems like a vicious circle. Many of my clients report these feelings, but look at me blankly when I suggest adrenal fatigue. So I thought I would take this opportunity to explain this phenomenon to you.
Please note – there is no conclusive blood test you can take to show you have adrenal fatigue – the diagnosis requires a deeper understanding of your own body, knowing how you generally feel and the mechanics of the stress response.
I have talked about stress before on this blog, but the subject is so important, I will continue to explore it. When you are under stress you activate the HPA-axis, our stress response. This means you are producing stress hormones from your adrenal glands whilst also activating the thyroid to monitor and control this release. This is a perfectly normal response to a stressful situation. This response has evolved so, should a sabre toothed tiger wander by the mouth of the cave, it triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response to save ourselves. However, these days our stresses are less toothy but more regular and consistent. This means your stress response is turned on for longer and longer periods of time – resulting in a reduced capacity to cope, and eventually exhausting both adrenals and thyroid. This can leave you feeling ;
- Flat, tired and exhausted both physically and emotionally or “wired but tired”
- unable to sleep (or with disrupted sleep patterns)
- unable to handle a stressful situation
- and a tendency to react emotionally or too aggressively at the slightest provocation
- If this is sounding like you (or someone you are sharing house space with) then the first step towards recovery is recognising it !
Rest, rest and more rest is the big key to a quick recovery. If you cannot, or will not rest, your body will not recover adequately and you will set yourself up for health problems when your body does not have the resilience it requires to handle stress in the future.
Acupuncture is a great way to help re-establish balance in the body especially the HPA-Axis.
Magnesium is important to help calm the adrenals and reduce the output of stress hormones while you are recovering. Whilst we can obtain magnesium from foods in our diet (think nuts, seeds, whole grains and red meat) recovery requires fairly high levels and I would suggest you use a supplement until you recover. I recommend using Magnesium diglycinate.
Zinc is also vital for adrenal support and care. Zinc can be found in plentiful supply in oysters and seafood but also in beef, lamb, green leafy veggies and nuts and seeds.
Herbs can also play an important role in helping adrenal glands to recover. Withania, licorice, rhemmania, shatavari are all well researched and documented to nourish adrenals, but get some professional advice from your health care guide, myself or a naturopath, before putting yourself on any herbs. They can have an occasional interaction with medications, so best to check first.
Learning how to relax sounds crazy, but sadly, most of us have become so used to micro managing our lives and doing way too much. Putting blocks of time into your day focused on rest and relaxation can be quite a challenge but exactly what your adrenals and thyroid are screaming for you to do. Write meetings with yourself in your diary and during this time practise deep breathing, a yoga class, simple stretching, meditation or a mindfulness session. These are all great ways for your body to unwind.
Learn to listen to your body signals and take the night off when you need to. Ensure you get to bed by 9.30pm most nights (then the occasional late one will not impact you so much). Avoid an excess of those stimulants which are only propping up your energy levels superficially; caffeine and refined sugar are the major culprits here. Enjoy a diet of wholefoods with plenty of mineral dense choices – nuts, seeds, leafy green veggies, basmati rice, quinoa, beans, small amounts of good quality red meat. If you look after your adrenals, they will reward you with boundless energy and vitality.