There is a syndrome that is estimated to affect up to 80% of the population at some point during their lifetime. The syndrome directly affects a pair of walnut sized glands that sit on top of your kidneys called the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands are incredibly important, vital in fact! The hormones they produce directly impact every tissue and system in you body. The hormones produced by the adrenal glands affect your mood, where you store fat, your energy, your motivation, your immune function, your blood sugar, your brain function, concentration and memory, your sleep...there really is little in the body these two small glands don't exert an affect on!
It makes sense then that we should understand a little more about these very important glands....such as what they do? What is their purpose?
The purpose of the adrenal glands is to help us cope with stress....ALL kinds of stress. Physical stress, emotional stress, nutritional stress.
Physical stress such as an injury, an infection, a chronic illness, major surgery, prolonged alcohol or drug abuse places a huge burden on our adrenal glands. Emotional stress such as an unhappy relationship, job dissatisfaction or pressure, financial pressures, a struggling business or a new business, raising young children and all work and no play can place a huge emotional toll on the adrenal glands.
Nutritional stress such as poor diet, lack of nutrients, foods that cause an inflammatory reaction in the body and nutrient-depleting foods such as sugar, deep fat fried foods and highly processed foods.
All stresses are cumulative, so if we don't have the necessary means to adapt to stress, it can quickly result in our adrenal glands becoming dyfunctional and fatigued.
Adrenal fatigue is really a name given to a collection of symptoms that results from too much stress. The stress can be cumulative and from multiple sources, so if you have a poor diet or lack in adequate nutrients, whilst at the same time struggling with financial pressures or an unhappy relationship and also struggling with an underlying infection or health problem...your adrenals suffer and then so does every aspect of your health.
The amount, frequency and duration of stress all contribute to the impact on your adrenal glands.
Lifestyle factors leading to adrenal fatigue:
Overuse of stimulants such as sugar, caffeine and nicotine
Staying up late when fatigued and poor sleep patterns
Poor self-image and relationship with self
All work and no play!
How do I know if I have adrenal fatigue?
With the current global pandemic, there are few people who aren't going to be affected by some degree of nutritional, emotional and physical stress. With some affected by the physical stress of the viral infection more severely than others. Our ability to cope with this stress depends on the health of our adrenal glands.
Of all of the glands in the endocrine (hormonal) system, the adrenal glands are the ones that are most susceptible to showing sign of fatigue first.
Classic symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
Exhaustion, low energy and tired all of the time
Unexplained feeling of 'unwell'
A need to use sugar, caffeine of food to 'get going'
Low blood sugars, a need to eat very regularly
increased tendency to allergies, arthritic pain and asthma
Altered body shape with weight gain around the mid-section
Poor concentration and memory
Difficulty maintaining or building muscle or toning.
Frequent respiratory infection, colds or infecitons
Adrenal fatigue is not recognised by modern medicine as a distinct syndrome. Severly low adrenal function is known as Addisons disease and is a rare autoimmune condition. However, adrenal fatigue is a result of our modern, stress-filled, high-pressure, poor diet lifestyles that is driving us further to ill health and making us increasingly vulnerable severe illnesses.
How can I combat adrenal fatigue?
Stress management is key in order to restore adrenal function. Whenever we experience emotional stress, it sets off a cascade of hormones that causes us to enter into a state of fear, anxiety and if not managed correctly, depression. Managing stress is a whole book in itself! However, finding perspective, seeing a situation for what it is and realising that it is our reaction to a situation that we can control and not always the situation. Falling in love with taking care of yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself. This changes the relationship you have with yourself, with how you speak to yourself and the positive feelings experienced on a delay basis.
Infections, prolonged illness, food allergies, excessive alcohol or drug use and excessive exercise place demands on the adrenal glands that can tip us into adrenal fatigue. In order to restore adrenal function, ensuring we are supporting all aspects of health is vital. Good sleep patterns, optimal nutrition to support the immune system and safeguard against recurrent infections and chronic illness, appropriate, mindful exercise that will release stress and improve wellbeing.
Avoiding poor quality foods and overly processed foods is key for adrenal recovery. Avoiding deep fat fried foods and foods made with trans fats and refined abbohydrates is also very important. Minimising or avoiding high sugar foods, including fruit juices and high glycemic index foods is important for stabilising blood sugars and supporting adrenal gland function.
Nutrients important for adrenal recovery:
This vitamin is very important for adrenal function. It The more stress we are under, any type of stress (including illness) the more vitamin C your body requires. Vitamin C is used to make the hormones produced by the adrenal glands as well as acting as an antioxidant in the adrenal cortex.
Vitamin C should be consumed as it is found in nature for most effective use in the body. Vitamin C is a complex, comprised of ascorbic acid, bioflavonoids and copper. The bioflavonoids aid the availably of ascorbic acid by the body.
Vitamin C is water soluble and therefore not stored well by the body. Vitamin C rich foods should be consumed daily to ensure adequate adrenal function, recovery and a healthy immune system.
Food Sources of vitamin C
This fat-soluble vitamin is not necessary for the production of hormones in the adrenals, however acts as an important antioxidant, neutralising free-radicals produced when adrenal hormones are generated. This vitamin therefore helps protect the adrenals from physical damage. Vitamin C recycles Vitamin E to allow it to further deactivate free-radicals.
A full range of B-vitamins is crucial for energy production, with certain key vitamins being important for the production of key hormones in the adrenal glands.
B-Vitmains are best obtained as food source and can be easily incorporated into the diet with Nutritional Yeast or Yeast Extract, both very rich sources of B-Vitamins.
Essential for the production of adrenal hormones, for energy production and relaxing the nervous system, magnesium is a key nutrient for wellbeing! Magnesium is best taken at night due to increased absorption, Magnesium potassium citrate is an ideal way of increasing important minerals needed for good sleep, adrenal function and mental wellbeing.
This mineral is one of the most abundant in the body and help to relax the nervous system along with many other important functions!
Dairy, sesame, kale and broccoli are good sources of calcium.
Bone broth is a good source of all trace minerals, amino acids and trace minerals.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that can aid relaxation and has beneficial effects on adrenal tissue and function.
Essential Fatty Acids
The correct balance of good fats contributes enormously to good health, a well functioning immune system and adrenal gland recovery and health.
A high quality fish oil supplement can reduce inflammation, provide crucial fats required by the Brian for mental wellbeing as well as supporting the immune system and adrenal function.