You are not alone. According to the CDC, an estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder. Chances are you have heard of adrenal fatigue, but you may not be quite sure what it is. Understanding this condition is important however, because some experts suggest that 80% of the Western world will be affected by adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives.
The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and are responsible for secreting more than 50 different hormones that are essential for life. Among these are adrenaline, cortisol, progesterone and testosterone. Because they regulate so many important hormones, their proper function is critical for many functions essential to life such as producing energy, balancing electrolytes and storing (or burning) fat.
These glands have a critical role in helping you deal with stress. When you are under stress, the adrenal glands engage many different responses in your body to make it easier for you to handle that stress.
But during periods of intense, prolonged stress or chronic illness, the adrenal glands begin functioning below the level needed to maintain health and well-being in the body. They still function but at less than optimal levels. The result is adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
There are some symptoms that are common among people who are suffering from adrenal fatigue. These include:
- Feeling tired for no reason
- Craving salty or sweet snacks
- Morning fatigue
- Mid-afternoon sleepiness
- Increased energy in the late afternoon
- Decreased sex drive
- Mild Depression
- Weight gain, especially around the waist
- Low body temperature
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
How do you diagnose adrenal fatigue?
Other reasons for fatigue should be thoroughly explored and excluded, and specific testing, or an adrenal stress index, can be obtained to better understand the severity of the problem and how to correct it.
How do you treat adrenal fatigue?
My treatment for adrenal fatigue focuses on 5 key areas:
Stress: Find a productive outlet for your stress. This may mean clearing your schedule, reworking some relationships or learning better time management skills. In order for your adrenal glands to heal, the persistent demand placed on them must be lessened.
Sleep: High quality sleep is critical for recovery. The main repair work on your adrenal glands takes place between 10 pm and 1 am. If you are prone to late nights, consider training your body to go to bed earlier. It is also a good idea to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet after 1pm in order to help you sleep more soundly.
Exercise: Recovery from adrenal fatigue can also be helped by exercise. Regular moderate intensity exercise helps regulate cortisol, relieves depression and increases blood flow. The goal is 20 to 30 minutes each day.
Nutrition: Have a heavy plant slant to your diet with plenty of vitamin C rich fresh fruits and vegetables. The adrenal glands are the most vitamin C rich organ in your body, so bolstering some extra C is helpful for recovery.
Supplements: Additional supplementation may help with recover from adrenal fatigue. Magnesium, vitamin C, E, and B complex are recommended. Talk to your Functional Medicine provider about what type and how much your body requires. Testing for vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies is essential to dial in your nutrition and supplementation to hasten recovery.
How long does it take to treat or recover from adrenal fatigue?
If you have minor adrenal fatigue, you can expect to be better within 6-9 months. Moderate to severe adrenal fatigue can take between 12-24 months to recover, and severe cases may take even longer.
If you suspect you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, do not be discouraged. You can start the recovery process by making the above changes to your diet and lifestyle. If the recovery does not come fast enough, than seek professional help by a Functional Medicine provider, ahem, me.
Committed to your health and boosting your energy,
- Institute of Medicine.Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2006.