Feeling rundown can be tough (ya with me?)
Thus far we’ve all had to modify our schedules and adapt to ever-changing routines as well as deal with stressors from news in the media, not to mention whatever else is going on in our normal lives.
All of these things can create a recipe for adrenal fatigue, which is also referred to as “burnout”. This is something that I get asked about a lot and see happening in so many people’s lives, so I want to help shed some light on this important topic. Read on to learn more about what adrenal fatigue is, things you can do to help manage it, and what you can do to help prevent it from happening.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Basically, adrenal fatigue is a set of symptoms that occurs as a result of mental, emotional, and/or physical exhaustion caused by an excessive amount of stressors in our lives. Our adrenal glands, which are small organs located above the kidneys, usually deal with stress by producing hormones like cortisol. However, when individuals are exposed to chronic stress, the adrenal glands can get into a state where they cannot keep up with the body’s need for these hormones, and “adrenal fatigue” can occur. While adrenal fatigue hasn’t been found to be a scientific medical condition, the state it puts the body in can lead to real health complications that warrant intervention.
Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue involves much more than just having an extra busy week. It often becomes a whole state of being that can negatively impact your ability to function properly in things like career, relationships, and even in things that usually bring you joy. People with adrenal fatigue usually find it challenging to cope with stress and handle day-to-day responsibilities.
Signs of adrenal fatigue may include:
- Repeated exhaustion, both physical and mental
- Decrease in performance, either at work, school, home life, or a combination of all
- Sleep issues, including insomnia
- Frequent illnesses, since stress weakens the immune system
- Signs of hormonal imbalances, which may look like skin issues, lost menstrual cycle, digestive distress, etc
The negative effects of adrenal fatigue can easily spill over into every area of life—including home, work, and social life. While anyone can experience adrenal fatigue, some people are more prone than others due to things like their career field, personality, and daily responsibilities.
If left untreated, adrenal fatigue can lead to serious health issues like depression, hormone imbalances, gut disorders, and more. But there is hope! With some awareness and modifications, the condition can be managed and even prevented.
Tips for Managing Adrenal Fatigue
While there will always be things in life that are beyond your control, there ARE steps you can take to help treat and prevent adrenal fatigue.
Here are some things to focus on:
- Diet. Our bodies burn through more nutrients during times of stress, so this is a crucial time to pay extra attention to feeding yourself well. Focus on consuming a variety of minimally processed, nutrient rich foods every day such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, eggs, fish, poultry, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds. As tempting as it may be to load up on sugar and caffeine during this time, neither is going to help with stress and both can lead to even further hormonal imbalances, crazy blood sugar levels, sleep disturbances, and more. So while sugar and caffeine are still okay in moderation, be sure to not let either be the bulk of your diet
- Exercise. You’ve probably heard that exercise is good for stress management, which does hold truth. We all need to move our bodies daily, but when you’re in a state of adrenal fatigue it’s important to be careful with the types and frequency of exercise you choose. Stick with light exercises like walking and yoga, since these will provide the benefits of getting your blood flowing and help clear your mind, but without the risk of overdoing it and potentially putting more stress on your body (since exercise can be a form of physical stress)
- Supplements. Your body requires more nutrients to power your brain during adrenal fatigue. In addition to eating a balanced diet, it may be helpful to supplement with the following nutrients:
- Vitamin C-supports the adrenal glands and stress response. Since it is used up more rapidly during times of stress, extra is needed to support the body. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and can protect our bodies and brains from damage associated with stress. Consider supplementing with an extra 500-1000mg/day.
- B vitamins– These are also key nutrients for the adrenal glands and needs are increased during stress. These can be taken as part of a combo multivitamin, or separately as a B complex.
- Resveratrol-This plant compound has many health benefits, including anti-stress properties.
- Anti-inflammatories like omega-3 fatty acids and turmeric-These are crucial for brain health and reducing inflammation in the whole body, which often happens as a result of chronic stress. Studies show that they also may help treat and/or prevent depression in people who don’t get enough.
- Adaptogens like cordyceps, ashwagandha, eleuthero – are supportive for the adrenal system
- Prioritize sleep. Sleep often goes to the wayside when there is so much to do and you feel like you can’t turn your brain off. Yet sleep deprivation will only make adrenal fatigue worse, so it’s super important to do what you can to get at least 7-8 hours/night a priority.
- Set boundaries. This includes the things you commit to as well as the people you choose to interact with. It also involves possibly changing your routine to better support your lifestyle. Think about what you can say “no” to, and work on rearranging your priorities as needed to reduce stress.
- Engage in self-care. There is a saying that says “You can’t pour from an empty cup”, which holds so much truth. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s essential. Think about what activities you enjoy but might no longer be doing, and make time for a variety of them daily. Ideas include a bath, exercise, cooking a nourishing meal, journaling, reading for pleasure, watching a good movie or show, or being out in nature.
- Ask for help. You can’t do it all, no matter how much you may want to or feel like you need to. Seek support from loved ones in whatever ways they can provide, even if it’s just a conversation that allows you to share your thoughts or seek advice.
Sample Menu for Adrenal Fatigue
Breakfast – Yogurt bowl made with organic low or full-fat plain greek yogurt or icelandic yogurt topped with a sprinkle of chia seeds, walnuts, and sliced strawberries. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired!
Lunch – Vegetarian soup made with bone broth, choice of beans, favorite veggies such as diced tomatoes, carrots, onions, and squash, and seasoned with herbs and spices and topped with organic freshly shredded parmesan as desired.
Dinner – Baked salmon filets topped with pesto sauce and a side of roasted sweet potatoes and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, seasoned as desired.
Snacks – Orange paired with a hard-boiled egg or organic string cheese, or a fruit like apple or banana topped with nut butter.
Adrenal fatigue is an unpleasant condition that should be taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible. As difficult as stress can be, remember that the sense of being overwhelmed is a signal to take action, and not a long-term sentence. By understanding the symptoms and causes of adrenal fatigue and implementing these steps to help overcome it, you can recover and build a road map for prevention. Your experience can serve as a turning point that launches you into a happier, healthier and more sustainable life.