I’m not the type of person who aims to inspire people to think they have a certain disease or disorder. However, there are some “conditions” that are rampant in our society due to the lifestyle we tend to lead. Vitamin D deficiency is one of them but so is Adrenal Fatigue. Since so many of my clients complain about their lack of energy, I thought I would provide some information about this (very reversible) condition.
First of all: What are adrenal glands? Adrenal glands are two, endocrine (hormone secreting) glands that sit atop the kidneys. They secrete a variety of hormones including epinephrine and adrenaline – the fight or flight hormone. They also secrete cortisol (involved in metabolism), aldosterone (which is involved in salt/electrolyte regulation and blood pressure) and glucagon (to elevate blood sugar) among others.
Stress and/or simulated stress cause a rise in glucagon and adrenaline which results in increased blood sugar and more energy. From an evolutionary perspective, this is because if we felt the stress of having to survive a confrontation with a predator, we would need our biochemistry to help out so that we can have the strength, endurance, and energy to combat or outrun the predator. This works great in a bear attack but not so well in an “I need to get this presentation done by 5:00” attack – day, after day, after day. Beyond the high-stress world or work, if you are a person who tends to be nervous, worrisome, or lacking in confidence, you are also operating with a high level of stress hormones which can also lead to adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue? I’m glad you asked! Your physiology wasn’t designed for repetitive confrontations and your adrenal glands become exhausted, or “fatigued”. Think of it like a skunk. A skunk can spray a predator during an attack so that it can run away and survive the attack. But this leaves the skunk unarmed for a while. It wasn’t designed to spray, spray, spray to deal with repeated attacks. Neither were you. From an evolutionary perspective, you should only have to call on adrenaline and other stress hormones on rare occasions. However, in our high-pressure, high-pace society, this is exactly what we are simulating. Stress, caffeine, and nicotine all stimulate the adrenal glands and can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Coffee could be the culprit – When you consume caffeine, it causes your adrenals to secrete glucagon which results in a rise in blood sugar. This stimulant also results in increased adrenaline production which will raise your heart rate, focus, and blood supply to your arms and legs (so you can run or fight). By doing this, it diverts blood from your other organs like those of digestion and reproduction. It also interferes with the production of sleep hormones so that when it is time to sleep, you can’t. This typically leads to another day filled with coffee and thus perpetuating the energy rollercoaster.
Some signs that you might have adrenal fatigue:
*Lack of energy
*Trouble getting up in the morning
*Trouble getting things done in the afternoon
*Craving caffeine and sugar to keep you going
*Feeling stressed, worried, tense, or anxious
How can I NATURALLY improve my adrenal health?
*NUTRITION: WHOLE FOOD lifestyle. “Whole” foods are foods that come directly from nature. They do not need a label because they are 100% food (example: apple). Processed, packaged food is no longer in its natural state and often has numerous chemical additives and a load of sodium. Replacing processed, packaged foods with whole foods including whole grains, fresh or lightly cooked vegetables and fruits may be beneficial to your blood pressure and your total health. Eliminating animal protein (meat, dairy, cheese etc.) is another option but if you continue eating these products, consider reducing serving size and frequency as much as possible.
*REDUCE CAFFEINE AND SUGAR: Caffeine simulates stress and stimulates stress hormones. However, your body may be addicted and you will need to wean yourself off of caffeine. Start by reducing your coffee (or other source of caffeine) by ¼ either by not filling your cup all the way, pouring out a bit, or mixing ¼ decaf with ¾ regular coffee. After two days, progress to half and half. Then 75% decaf etc. Eliminating or replacing coffee with decaf or a low caffeine beverage such as green tea (which has tons of health benefits) should be the goal. One, small (6-8 oz) cup of coffee on occasion won’t kill you but if you’re trying to restore your adrenals, it might be best to be coffee-free for a minimum of 3-4 months.
*HYDRATION: monitor water intake. Many people feel a lack of energy because they are mildly dehydrated. Coffee actually leads to dehydration because it is a diuretic (makes you pee) so if you are using coffee as your “drink” you’re not really quenching your thirst. Experts recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day. So if you weigh 200 lbs you the recommendation would be to drink 100 ounces of water per day. Herbal tea counts as water but regular tea or coffee does not. Your body is approximately 80% water and your blood is fluid and requires hydration to be healthy.
*RELAXATION: reduce stress. Stress causes a release of chemicals in the body that cause the blood pressure to increase. This is why many heart attacks take place on Monday mornings when stressed-out people are beginning their work week. Deep breathing, meditation, and recreational activities can all help to reduce blood pressure. Read a book or a magazine. Do something artistic or creative.
*SUPPLEMENTS: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, B-12, and Niacin
* SPEND TIME IN NATURE! Get some sunshine and vitamin D. Breathe fresh air. Go for a walk in the woods, the park, or on the beach. Listen to the birds. Work in the garden. Take the dog for a walk. Go for a trail ride. Put some flowers in your space. Nature is calming and spending time there is a great stress reducer.
Take 20 minutes and watch these videos on Adrenal Fatigue:
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