You feel tired every day, your memory is not so sharp, and you have even become a little depressed. Diet may play a part in those symptoms, you may be low in iron, your thyroid may be a little sluggish, or your blood sugar may go up and down.
The GP does some blood tests, they are all normal so he wants to give you anti-depressants and will probably put it down to stress but never mentions that your adrenal gland could be causing your symptoms.
Stress may well be the trigger but the result is adrenal fatigue and the good thing is that you can have them checked out. There is a simple saliva test that you can do to find out exactly what your stress hormones are doing during the day and whether they are struggling to cope with your lifestyle.
The typical symptoms of adrenal fatigue are constant tiredness, brain fog, headaches allergies, depression, food cravings, lethargy and difficulty bouncing back from stress.
Your adrenal glands are triangular glands that sit right on top of kidneys. They are very important glands and produce more than 50 different hormones many of which are essential for energy and stamina, a sharp mind, a healthy immune system and a healthy libido.
Their main function however, is to help your body deal with stress.
In the old days, when our ancestors came face to face with a cave bear, their bodies went into the ‘fight or flight’ mode. A flood of hormones were released which triggered them to either attack the bear or run away. These encounters did not last long, and the flow of hormones soon shut off, so that 2 hours later everything was back to normal and they felt wonderful!
Nowadays, with the pace of life so much faster it comes with a huge price tag – stress. When your body faces any stress your defences still automatically kick into the ‘fight or flight’ reaction. The adrenals respond by pumping out 3 hormones, adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your digestion slows and your body gets ready to face a potential challenge. This helps you stay focused, and alert so that you can handle the situation. Once the stress has gone however, your adrenaline levels drop quickly back to normal and the other stress hormones refuel your body and bring it back to balance.
This process is fine if the stress is short-lived, such as taking a test or giving a speech. However the main problem is modern life, it is devastating to your adrenal health. Today you are faced with stress 24/7. The demands of your job and family pull you in a million different directions. You worry about your children, maybe struggle to make ends meet, and are anxious about the future, Simple things like traffic jams, long checkout queues and difficult commutes all affect your adrenal glands.
Add to that all the environmental toxins, processed foods, infections, pain, insomnia, allergies, it is really not surprising your adrenals are crying out for help.
The more stress you experience the harder your adrenals have to work to protect you.
How do your adrenals cope month after month year after year? Well, they don’t always, they run out of juice and then you are running on empty.
When your adrenals stop working the first thing you notice is that your symptoms start to intensify. You can’t sleep so well at night, you become forgetful and feel irritable and depressed for no known reason.
Other signs that you may have are headaches especially in the afternoon, increased blood sugar, weight gain and slow recovery from colds or flu. More than anything adrenal failure makes you feel exhausted. You feel completely drained, usually at about 2-3 in the afternoon. You are too tired to do anything.
So many people tell me that they need a coffee to give them a boost especially in the morning to wake them up, and then later in the day an energy drink or more coffee keeps them awake! The scale of the problem is huge, and 80% of us experience adrenal fatigue at some point in our lives!
The good thing is that it is not permanent and can be restored in a few months. You need to nourish and strengthen the adrenals and allow them to rest and rebuild.
So how do you do that?
Certain nutrients are vital for the good health of the adrenals, such as:
Pantothenic acid – B5, this is known as the anti stress hormone. People with adrenal fatigue are deficient in this vitamin which helps to increase the stress hormones such as cortisol and progesterone. It helps boost dopamine levels in the brain which is the feel good hormone that improves your state of mind. It increases cellular energy production so helps your heart and brain get the fuel they need to do their job every day and keep you energised.
B vitamins, especially B6 plus magnesium, zinc and chromium are critical for optimal blood sugar balance. The pancreas and the adrenals work very closely, so balanced sugar levels are crucial for optimal adrenal function.
Vitamin C is found in very high concentrations in adrenal tissues and so helps to support optimal adrenal health.
Chamomile, lime blossom, hops and passion flower have a long history of use for their soothing properties so will help to calm you down.
5-HTP is the essential nutritional precursor for the neurotransmitter, serotonin, the hormone that contributes to your well being and happiness.
According to Dr Frank Shallenberger MD Licorice root can help the health of the adrenals. It helps to slow down the body’s breakdown of cortisol giving your adrenals extra support. It also balances the levels of aldosterone an adrenal hormone that keeps your blood pressure, fluid levels, and electrolytes in balance. An imbalance can cause muscle aches and numbness in your hands and feet. When aldesterone is low your blood pressure plummets leading to palpitations, dizziness when you stand up and overall fatigue.
Glandular therapy goes back to the ancient Greeks to help jump start the function and health of certain body organs. The adrenal glandulars contain trace amounts of the same hormones that human adrenals contain, plus trace minerals proteins and vitamins. It is a good idea to take adrenal cortex extract to restore your adrenals to optimal health.
It is important to help your adrenals cope with everyday stresses so you must eat a healthy diet with no sugar or stimulants, get enough sleep, reduce any pain you may have, and do some exercise.
There are adaptogens, these are herbs or compounds that have a normalising effect. They help your body to cope with the everyday stresses and function according to what your body requires at the time.
1. Cordyceps – this increases energy, stamina, and physical performance. It increases ATP the molecule that stores energy in your body and improves the way that your body uses oxygen. It can help to increase oxygen absorption by 40%
Cordyceps strengthens the immune system by .increasing the amount of the body’s natural killer cells.
2. Siberian ginseng – this protects against stress by helping your adrenal glands produce stress hormones more effectively. There is a slower more efficient release which inturn will increase alertness, improves immunity and athletic performance.
3. Ashwaganda is an East Indian herb that helps to ease tension and fatigue, increase concentration and boost overall indurance by increasing DHEA, the feel good hormone. This hormone makes you sleep better, gives you a feeling of wellbeing, decreases blood sugar and cortisol.
Over worked adrenals can affect liver function as well and what with constant exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, food chemicals, and air pollution, it means that your liver and adrenals are constantly fighting off toxins. So taking a good liver supplement is a useful tool.
Adrenal fatigue can be the root cause of fatigue, memory loss, weight gain and blood sugar problems, so don’t let them bring you down, make sure you give them all the nutrients and help that they need.