Adrenal chronic fatigue is at the root of much illness. The adrenal glands manufacture many hormones, including the fast acting stress hormones, adrenalin and noradrenalin,and the slower acting cortisol and DHEA. These hormones provide us the energy we need to feel energetic and experience a sense of wellbeing. They also help us to deal with motivated and enable us to deal with the stress we face in our lives.
When we are stressed, the body releases adrenalin and nor-adrenalin to deal with the physical danger. This is called the ‘fight or flight’ response. Once the danger is over, the body should naturally go back to a relaxed state and the adrenal gland returns hormone levels back to normal.
However, our modern way of living can create continuous levels of stress for extended periods of time, causing adrenal chronic fatigue. This means that the adrenal glands are constantly pumping out stress hormones. In the initial stages they will produce abnormally high levels of adrenaline, nor-adrenalin, cortisol and DHEA.
Eventually, the adrenals become so overworked that they become fatigued. The body is no longer able to produce enough hormones to deal with the stress, and so we experience tiredness, anxiety, and often the extreme exhaustion associated with adrenal chronic fatigue.
The adrenal glands are also intimately linked with our blood sugar levels. Our body must maintain fairly consistent blood sugar levels. When we are stressed, our adrenalin causes stored glucose in our liver and muscles to be released, raising blood sugar levels, in order to feed cells, so they can respond with either ‘flight or fight.’ If the glucose is not used up by cells, the body will have to release insulin to reduce blood sugar levels again. This in turn can cause them too fall too low. Low blood sugar can then stress the adrenals again, forcing them to release adrenalin which raises blood sugar levels back to normal again.
This vicious cycle can cause energy dips during the day, low energy, dizziness and irritability, symptoms that are generally linked to adrenal chronic fatigue.
How does this imbalance affect your health?
Common symptoms of low cortisol:
- Blood sugar imbalances such as continual hunger, craving, jitters, and a light headed feeling.
- Digestive problems
- Poor immune system, which leads to illness and chronic pain
- Hormonal problems such as PMS, lack of sex drive, prostate problems.
- Mental and physical fatigue
- Sleep disturbances such as insomnia
- Low blood pressure
- Waking too early in the morning
Symptoms of DHEA deficiency include:
- Persisting fatigue
- Hypersensitivity to noise
- Loss of libido
- Dry eyes
- Dry skin and hair
- Loss of head hair, axial (armpit) hair, and pubic hair.
The following dietary guidelines are recommended for Adrenal Chronic Fatigue:
- Sugar and all refined carbohydrates in food and drinks
- Processed and refined foods as they can contain chemicals which can deplete the body of nutrients.
- Cut down or cut out alcohol and caffeine as both can stimulate and stress the adrenals
- Vegetables, beans and pulses for fibre, as they are full of nutrients and can help balance blood sugar.
- Low Glycemic foods
- Eat protein such as meat, fish, dairy,nuts and seeds, eggs and grains and legumes and quinoa grains. Protein helps slow the blood sugar release and balance blood sugar levels and protein is required to produce adrenalin.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables as they contain bioflavonoids which are anti-inflammatory and boost the immune system and promote adrenal health.
- Eat plenty of the essential fatty acids as they support blood sugar balance and are anti-inflammatory. These foods include oily fish like tuna, salmon, herring mackerel, sardines, anchovies and trout. Other foods include nuts and seeds like brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds and linseeds.
Lifestyle changes for those with Adrenal Chronic Fatigue Include:
- Eat regularly to keep the blood sugar levels stable.
- Identify the stresses in your life and work towards reducing these. These stresses could be mental, physical, emotional or environmental.
- Take sufficient rest.
- Sit down to eat and view this as a relaxation time, eat food you enjoy and chew well.
- Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage and walking in the fresh air are very important
- Exercise is good for releasing tension. However, if your adrenals are exhausted, make sure the exercise is gentle to avoid further stress.
- Massage, shiatsu, cranial sacral, reflexology, and other bodywork can help balance the adrenals glands and promote relaxation.
- Don’t take life too seriously, enjoy yourself and learn to laugh as often as possible!