Fatigue and Adrenal Stress
Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Get tired mid-morning or after lunch, while at work? Perhaps you need many of your “cuppa Joes” to get through the day? If these symptoms seem familiar, you may be suffering from HPA-axis dysfunction more commonly known as adrenal burnout or adrenal fatigue. While most of us suffer from fatigue as a result of a hectic lifestyle, most of this more common type of fatigue can be managed with balanced nutrition and a good night’s sleep.
However, adrenal fatigue is a very different story. Adrenal burnout or adrenal fatigue occurs as a result of chronic stressors on the body. Specific adrenal fatigue causes include: refined and high sugar diets, chronic emotional stress and insufficient and poor sleep, among others. When the body is under these types of stress, it secretes cortisol to re-route cellular processes away from long-term metabolic processes, and toward ones that work mostly on immediate survival and homeostasis.
While this may have been good for fleeing enemies throughout our history, in modern times, the long-term over-secretion of cortisol leads to a depletion of this hormone long term. Eventually, this reduces the ability of the adrenal glands to produce sufficient quantities of other important hormones such as DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, since the body is forced to stop their production to manage a constant state of stress. Some of the conditions associated with adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout include: depression, anxiety, PMS, hypoglycemia, insomnia, exhaustion and many more.
Treatment for adrenal fatigue
Though proper assessment is required to determine which stage of adrenal fatigue one is experiencing (salivary profiles are often used to assess this), for any stage, adrenal fatigue treatment includes 3 important prongs: diet/ supplements, rest and stress management. When it comes to diet, all stages of adrenal fatigue require a balanced diet that helps keep blood sugar stable in order to avoid spikes in cortisol. A modified carbohydrate, Mediterranean diet has been shown in numerous studies to be the best diet for blood sugar management as well as reducing inflammation (another condition which causes the overproduction and depletion of cortisol). Dietary supplements such as pregnenolone, DHEA, licorice and phosphatidylserine are often used to help the body modulate adrenal burnout.
Finally, adrenal support would not be complete without plenty of sleep and stress management. Exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi, as well as meditation and deep breathing can play a key role in managing stress. Changing the way we perceive and respond to stressful situations are also essential in avoiding overstimulation of the HPA axis.