People are leading increasingly stressful lives, which can have a big impact on their health. One of the biggest ways that stress can affect the body is by promoting adrenal fatigue, a condition that occurs when the body is under constant stress.
Read on to learn about how the adrenal glands work, what can cause them to become depleted, plus tips for adrenal fatigue recovery.
How Do the Adrenal Glands Work?
Before diving into tips for adrenal fatigue recovery, it’s important to understand how the adrenal glands work.
All humans have two adrenal glands. They are located at the top of each of your kidneys. The outer part of the gland, which is called the adrenal cortex, produces different compounds. Some of these compounds are hormones, and some are “pre-hormones.” Pre-hormones are substances that your body uses to make hormones. They include aldosterone, DHEA, and cortisol.
Aldosterone is a hormone that helps regulate your blood pressure by controlling the balance of water, sodium, and potassium in the body. Too much aldosterone can cause fluid to build up in body tissues, leading to high blood pressure.
DHEA is a pre-hormone made in the adrenal glands. It can help regulate blood sugar and blood fats and help support your health. Low levels of DHEA are associated with osteoporosis and heart disease.
The body uses DHEA to make androgens (like testosterone) and estrogens, which are the male and female sex hormones. DHEA levels are known to decrease after the age of 25.
Cortisol is considered a “primary hormone.” This means that if you don’t have any cortisol, you will die.
When the body experiences a stress response, cortisol is usually released into the blood. However, sometimes all three hormones (aldosterone, DHEA, and cortisol) are released at high levels.
It’s important to understand that when you’re under high levels of stress, the adrenal glands release high levels of cortisol. They continue to do this until the stressor goes away, until you learn to manage your stress better, or in some cases, until the adrenal glands are completely worn out. Complete exhaustion of your adrenal glands is called adrenal fatigue.
What Happens in Your Body with Adrenal Fatigue?
Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how long it will take to exhaust your adrenal glands. This depends on many factors, including the stress levels in your life and how well you take care of yourself.
When your adrenal glands are fatigued, the first thing that happens is a decrease in your levels of DHEA and testosterone.
Why is this a problem? Well, the biggest problem that arises when you have low DHEA and testosterone is that it can lead to low muscle mass and low bone density (which can increase your risk of osteoporosis). You might also notice changes in your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
When your levels of DHEA and testosterone drop, you may also experience severe exhaustion combined with inflammation in your joints or muscles. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and swelling, and is a problem for your immune system.
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue –
An important part of adrenal fatigue recovery is learning to identify the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are non-specific. They include:
· Aches in your joints and muscles
· Exhaustion and fatigue (this is the most common symptom of adrenal fatigue)
Another classic sign of adrenal fatigue is your energy pattern. If you wake up tired, feel best during the middle of the day, crash and need a nap in the later afternoon, and get a second wind at night, you have the classic pattern of tired adrenal glands.
Testing for Adrenal Fatigue –
While there are no specific tests for adrenal fatigue, low levels of DHEA in the blood are often the first sign that your adrenal glands may be starting to fail.
Tips for Adrenal Fatigue Recovery
Now that you understand how the adrenal glands work and what some of the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue are, it’s time to learn how to promote adrenal fatigue recovery.
Manage your stressful life
While it would be impossible to get rid of all the stress in your life, it’s important to learn to manage stress levels so that you’re not over-taxing your adrenal glands.
Start by thinking about what you need to change to make your life less stressful. A good way of identifying what’s making you stressed is to start journaling.
To start, make a list of the biggest stressors in your life. Next, identify which ones are bothering you the most and affecting your health. Once you’ve identified which ones are the biggest priority, make a list of all the possible solutions to the problem. Ask yourself whether there’s anything you could do differently and what you need to work on right now.
Focus on self-care
Self-care is extremely important, and there are many different aspects of self-care that you need to engage in for adrenal fatigue recovery. Here are a few of the most important self-care activities:
· Sleep – A good night’s sleep of at least seven hours each night is essential for adrenal fatigue recovery. Try to develop a sleep schedule and stick to it.
· Regular physical activity – Try to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. This can have a positive effect on both your immune system and your adrenal glands.
· Practice stress management daily – There are many ways of practicing stress management, including meditation, soft belly breathing, yoga, Tai-Chi, and spending time in nature. Whatever tool you choose for stress management, try to do it every day to see the difference in your stress levels.
· Eat a balanced diet – Keeping your blood sugars consistent throughout the day is an excellent way to promote adrenal fatigue recovery. One of the best ways to do this is by eliminating white sugar and white flour from your diet. You can also focus on adding whole grains and other fiber-rich foods to your diet, including good quality proteins with each meal, and including healthy fats like avocado, salmon, and walnuts with each meal.
Adrenal fatigue is becoming increasingly common in our high stress world, but luckily, there are several natural ways to promote adrenal fatigue recovery. They include getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, practicing stress management daily, and eating a balanced diet.
If you’re struggling with adrenal fatigue, a registered dietitian can help. Click here to schedule a 15 min complimentary call and learn how I can help you in your adrenal fatigue recovery journey.