Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’re constantly fatigued, feel like you’re dragging, and even minor stressors leave you majorly overwhelmed. You depend on caffeinated beverages, sodas, and salty foods to get you through the day and maintain a stable mood or energy level. And at the end of the day, no matter how tired you’ve been, you find yourself with a “second wind” of energy around 11 pm that keeps you up at night. If this description fits, you may be part of 80% of the population who experience adrenal fatigue at some point in their life.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue & What Causes It?
Your adrenals are two glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They help regulate nearly every hormone in your body, one of which is cortisol, the stress hormone. When you undergo a period of heightened stress, your adrenals can potentially become too overwhelmed to properly regulate your hormones, including cortisol. This causes what is known as adrenal fatigue.
The Mayo Clinic reports that chronic, long-term stress is the most likely cause of adrenal fatigue. Other potential causes of adrenal fatigue may include:
- Chronic stress – the most likely cause
- Surgery, trauma, or injury
- Chronic inflammation, infection, illness or pain
- Overwork, including physical or mental strain
- Long-term sleep deprivation
What Are the Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?
When your body isn’t properly regulating stress, you’ll notice it. Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Chronic fatigue, feeling tired all day but you get a “second wind” around 11 pm
- Shakiness or elevated heart rate as an overactive response to minor stressors
- Frequent insomnia
- Reduced libido
- Difficulty losing weight, especially around your abdomen
- Excessive thirst
- Chronic pain or body aches
- Constant cravings of salty foods
- Hair loss
- Muscle weakness
- Suppressed immune system, noticing you get sick more often
Note: Some people don’t medically recognize adrenal fatigue, but they do recognize adrenal insufficiency, or Addison’s Disease. Addison’s Disease is a long-term endocrine disorder where your adrenals don’t produce enough hormones. Some medical professionals view adrenal fatigue as a milder, more temporary form of Addison’s Disease.
Adrenal insufficiency can be diagnosed with something called an ACTH stimulation test, which measures changes in cortisol levels in the blood. If you suspect adrenal fatigue and not true Addison’s disease, one option is to ask for a cortisol test to identify if your body’s level of this hormone are normal. But more importantly, you can also be your own best advocate. You can start by identifying your symptoms. If you’re experiencing multiple symptoms listed above, you can start to treat your adrenal fatigue naturally.
7 Steps To Healing Adrenal Fatigue Naturally
It takes time to wear out your adrenal glands, and because of this, it also takes time to heal them. It can take six to nine months to heal from minor adrenal fatigue, and up to 24 months for more severe adrenal fatigue. Recovering from adrenal fatigue includes taking stock of your physical and mental well-being and making significant lifestyle changes that reduce stimulus from stressful situations.
Here are seven natural ways to begin your journey recovering from adrenal fatigue:
1. Go on a caffeine detox
Eliminate all caffeine from your diet until your adrenals are normal. We know this might not be easy, but this will help reset your cortisol levels.
2. Revamp your diet
Eliminate any foods that you have sensitivities to, particularly excess sugar from your diet. Eating too much sugar creates blood sugar spikes that cause the adrenals to work harder.
Instead of sugar, processed foods, eat lots of brightly colored vegetables, lean clean protein, and whole grains. Also be sure to eat regular meals so your blood sugar doesn’t dip too low. No more skipping breakfast!
3. Create a regular, early bedtime
Go to bed early, before you get a second cortisol surge after 11 pm. Aim to get to bed at 10 pm or before. Practicing “proper sleep hygiene” is an idea that’s become increasingly important in our fast-paced world, and part of that means keeping a regular bedtime so you train your body to sleep better.
Aim to manage stress in a more proactive way. Instead of waiting until something upsets you to try and calm down in the moment, begin every day with a 10-minute meditation. This will regulate your breathing, calm your mind and body, and help you better manage any stress that comes your way before it overwhelms your adrenals.
5. Try Himalayan sea salt
Adrenal fatigue affects a hormone called aldosterone, which is partly responsible for regulating salt in the body. Because of this, consuming more natural salts like Himalayan sea salt, which are full of trace minerals that support your adrenal function, can actually help heal your adrenals.
6. Avoid Over-Exercising
Too much cardio or excessive exercise is hard on the adrenals. If you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue, consider switching to a more moderate exercise routine, including de-stressing practices like gentle yoga or walking.
Tip: Exercising outside in the sun can provide added benefits like boosting your levels of vitamin D. The benefits of vitamin D include the repair and maintenance of every cell, as well as serving multiple gene-regulatory functions in your body. Scientists have found over 3,000 genes which are regulated by vitamin D. Nearly every single cell in your body contains receptors which respond to Vitamin D. You get the picture: this vitamin is important.
7. Try Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogens are herbs that help your body deal with stress better. Consider taking an herb that supports adrenal health, like ashwagandha or rhodiola.
If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue, give some of these natural treatments a try and be your own advocate with your doctor. If anything, adrenal fatigue shows us that how we take care of both our bodies and our minds can have major consequences on our health. Use our seven tips to reset your adrenals and heal from adrenal fatigue naturally!