Adrenal Fatigue – Is It Part Of Your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
How do you identify adrenal fatigue causes and symptoms? It is important to know because in many cases of chronic fatigue syndrome there is an adrenal fatigue component to the illness.
My health issues started with adrenal fatigue. From time to time with the help of natural supplements, adequate rest and a healthy diet, I managed to recover from it temporarily. Each time I recovered, I thought I had made a full recovery.
However, because I didn’t make the necessary changes to my lifestyle, I wasn’t able to recover fully. I ended up with chronic fatigue syndrome as chronic stress took its toll on other body systems causing a cascade effect on my overall health.
Adrenal fatigue causes and symptoms are quite easy to recognize once you know what to look for. Nowadays it is an illness that is increasingly well-known among alternative health practitioners due to the fast paced lifestyle many of us have.
However, help can be found, and recovery is possible in the early stages of the illness if you take action. With adequate rest, nutritional supplements, a healthy diet, gentle restorative exercise, and perhaps most importantly, changes to your lifestyle – you can regain your health.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?
In basic terms adrenal fatigue is caused by stress on the adrenal glands. Stress can take many forms and both an acute episode of stress or long term chronic stress can cause your adrenal glands to become overworked.
Over time they become depleted and finally, ineffective in carrying out their normal function as they become completely worn out.
Located just above your kidneys, the adrenal glands play a big role in the body’s stress response. When you register any threat, physical, emotional, or mental, the adrenals release cortisol and adrenaline to help you react to that threat.
Your adrenals don’t know if you’re being chased by a tiger, pressured by your horrible boss, if you’re dealing with surgery or going through a nasty divorce.
The threat is all the same to them and they react, doing what they are meant to do, producing stress hormones to help you deal with the threat. When this happens your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode.
Unfortunately nowadays we all lead fast paced lives and our bodies go into fight or flight mode numerous times during a normal day. Rushing to catch the train to work, feeling pressured to finish that important report for a meeting, dealing with crazy traffic. These are just a few examples of stress that you can be dealing with everyday.
When you are healthy, throughout the day and according to your body’s diurnal rhythm the adrenal glands release cortisol. In the morning, levels rise to wake you up and then levels fall back down again at night allowing you to have a restful and full night’s sleep.
However, when you are dealing with ongoing stress your adrenals are being forced to work constantly, pumping out cortisol and adrenaline.
Over time the adrenals become worn out and are no longer able to work effectively leading to disruption in your body’s cortisol levels. At this stage you will start to experience the symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome.
Which Type Of Stress Is Affecting You?
- Ongoing stressful situations such as bad relationships both personal and professional, financial hardship and feelings of being overwhelmed in your life.
- Acute stressful situations like surgery, death of a loved one, divorce or re-locating to a new home.
- Ongoing unhealthy diet consisting of low nutrient foods and lack of exercise, or exercising at too high intensity.
- Food sensitivities.
- Ongoing low grade infection.
- Using stimulants such as smoking, caffeine and energy drinks.
- Dealing with ongoing body pain.
- Working too hard with insufficient rest and relaxation.
- Not enough sleep, or poor sleep quality.
How To Recognize Adrenal Fatigue
4 Main Symptoms
- Overwhelming Feeling Of Fatigue – The main symptom, is overwhelming fatigue. The fatigue can be worse at certain times of the day as your body’s diurnal rhythm is disrupted. You feel as if you are dragging all the time and do not have energy. You will be feeling extremely tired all the time without energy to carry out normal daily tasks.
- Wide Awake At 3am – Usually you have an interrupted sleep pattern with cortisol peaking at the wrong times waking you up around 3am every morning. If you do manage to fall asleep again, when the alarm goes off you struggle to wake up and coffee is needed to help you feel fully awake and get going for the day.
- Energy Slump Mid-Afternoon – You may feel almost normal during the earlier part of the day but experience a crash around 3pm. Many people then recover some energy again around dinner time/6pm.
- Feeling Wired And Tired – Feeling fatigued but strangely alert and nervy or anxious at the same time is another sign of adrenal fatigue.
As the adrenals are also responsible for balancing hormones, you may feel as if your body is out of control as you experience some other baffling symptoms. These include uncontrollable cravings for salty and sugary foods, weight gain around the belly that didn’t exist before, and hair loss.
You may also feel light-headed when rising from lying down to standing fully upright. Feelings of brain fog can also be evident as you struggle to find a word you should know or forget where you left your keys.
How Is Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosed?
If you think that adrenal fatigue could be an issue for you, some testing will be required to confirm your current adrenal function. Unfortunately adrenal fatigue cannot be diagnosed accurately using traditional blood tests.
A saliva test is used to measure levels of DHEA and cortisol from saliva specimens taken throughout the day. This shows the different levels of hormones produced at various times to check the fluctuations in your adrenal hormones. The test results can then be discussed with your practitioner to find out the best course of action to take to improve your adrenal status.
If you confirm that adrenal fatigue is present you need to make changes to remove the various stresses in your life. This is a very important part of adrenal fatigue treatment. Adequate relaxation and appropriate exercise for your current condition are also necessary in order to recover.
Without adequately addressing the various stressors in your life, you will struggle to get well. Getting enough good quality sleep is also extremely important to help heal your adrenals.
The removal of stimulants such as caffeine and sugar is crucial to rest the adrenals and support healing.
Eating a healthy diet at regular intervals helps keep blood sugar under control and lets the adrenals know you are not in starvation mode.
You will need to pay careful attention to the type of food you eat too. Some will find eating their normal breakfast of fruit or fruit juice causes them to crash. Particularly avoid high sugar fruits like mangoes, bananas, figs etc.
Keeping a regular bedtime and being asleep by 10pm every night supports normal adrenal patterns.
Keeping stress in your life to a minimum and using meditation and deep breathing takes the strain off your overworked adrenal glands. Both activities let your adrenal glands know you are not in any danger.
Working regular hours and not burning the midnight oil helps support your overall health as well as your adrenals.
Gentle exercise like walking or slow swimming is good, but over exercising can cause additional strain to you adrenal system.
Taking regular breaks and holidays away from work allows your adrenals to re-charge.
Helpful Adrenal Fatigue Supplements
When under stress your adrenals use your stores of Vitamin C very quickly. It’s important to supplement this vitamin as you need pretty high doses which are impossible to get from food alone. Click here for information on the importance of vitamin C on the adrenal cortex.
Helpful herbs used for healing the adrenals include schisandra, holy basil, ashwaganda and rhodiola rosea. These herbs help the adrenals adapt to stress responses within the body.
Putting It All Together
Carry out saliva testing to understand if your issue is adrenal fatigue syndrome. Work with your natural health practitioner to create a program of nutritional supplementation to support your adrenal function.
Identify stressors in your life and work to remove them. Cut out caffeine and sugar completely to allow your adrenal glands to rest.
Eat at regular intervals during the day and include a couple of healthy snacks so that your adrenals don’t think you are starving.
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Learn more about adrenal fatigue from this book. It provides very comprehensive information and was recommended to me by my naturopath. This book helped me understand adrenal fatigue in detail when I was struggling to get to grips with exactly what was happening with my body.
Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have below.