How To Recover From Adrenal Fatigue

 

Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your body and adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience. Sometimes misunderstood as an autoimmune disorder, adrenal fatigue can mimic some precursors to other common illnesses and disease.

Chronic stress is a major culprit in people’s lives, contributing to ongoing cycles of fatigue, poor nutrition, waves of exhaustion, mood swings, and hormonal imbalance.

It’s hard to believe, but adrenal fatigue is estimated to affect around 80 percent of people in the world.

In fact, whether for a short time or a chronic condition, most people struggle with adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives.

The key to keeping your body ready to respond to and recover from stress is optimizing the health of your adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands are located near your kidneys, and their job is to make the main hormones that control our response to stress: cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (adrenaline). If we don’t give the adrenal glands a chance to rest and recover by giving them a break from the stressful situations that stimulate them, we are highly likely to start feeling not so well.

Research shows that when we experience chronic stress, our adrenal glands, or the tiny glands that moderate the stress response as well as regulate other hormones, will suffer. The adrenals, which are the size of walnuts, have an enormous job. They produce many hormones that regulate our body’s functioning, including cortisol, a hormone activated when our stress levels rise, signaling our body to enter a heightened state of emergency.

When the adrenal glands continue to be compromised long term, they have a decreased ability to produce cortisol, and instead produce extra adrenaline, causing us to feel irritable, shaky, lightheaded, and anxious. Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome that can, over time, cause low blood pressure, allergies, and pure exhaustion.

Your adrenal glands are two thumb-sized organs that sit above your kidneys and are part of the endocrine system. Also known as the supra-renal glands, they’re involved in producing over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function, many of which are essential for life.

Hormones affect every function, organ and tissue in the body directly or indirectly. They react to each other as well as respond to conditions in the body in an intricate and highly sensitive balancing act. The adrenal glands work closely with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in a system known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis)

Your adrenal glands are responsible for balancing hormones, such as:

Glucocortoidics – hormones that balance your body’s blood sugar, help with energy and food metabolism, help your body bust stress, and manage your immune response (e.g., cortisol).

Mineralocorticoids – hormones that maintain healthy blood pressure, manage your blood hydration level, and keep your blood healthy by keeping salt and water in balance (e.g., aldosterone).

Sex hormones – estrogen and testosterone.

Adrenaline – hormones that affect your heart health, make sure that all parts of the body are getting blood and convert glycogen into glucose in your liver.

Here are some ways to give your adrenals a boost:

 Take a deep breath…and then, take a few more. Research shows that even a few minutes of deep breathing can have an impact on the adrenal glands by reducing the stress hormones they secrete.  Instead of jumping out of your seat during a traffic jam or other stressful spot, start breathing deeply.

Eat plentiful amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Chronic stress depletes nutrients.  By eating a diet that is rich in nutrients from fresh fruit and vegetables, you’ll give your body the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that help it recover.

Try to get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep at night. And if possible, don’t wake to a blaring alarm clock since the noise causes a flood of stress hormones to be released.

Practice the yoga posture Viparita Karani. For those of you who don’t speak Sanskrit (myself included) that means “legs up the wall.”  This pose stimulates baroreceptors (blood pressure sensors) in the neck and upper chest, triggering reflexes that reduce nerve input into the adrenal glands, slow the heart rate, slow the brain waves, relax blood vessels, and reduce the amount of norepinephrine circulating in the bloodstream

Give the fast food a break Usually loaded with neurotoxins like monosodium glutamate (MSG), fast food can cause your body to be in a constant state of stress after eating it and until the chemicals are detoxified from your system.  Depending on the strength of your liver’s detoxification systems that can be anywhere from a few hours to several days.

Reduce your caffeine intake.Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands only to cause an energy crash later on.  Try herbal teas instead.  Peppermint tea is a natural pick-me-up that doesn’t stimulate the adrenal glands.

Take some vitamin C,The adrenal glands use more vitamin C than any other organ or gland in the body.  Vitamin C is essential to manufacture adrenal gland hormones.  So, when you’ve been chronically stressed, your adrenals may have depleted your vitamin C stores.  A typical dose to assist with adrenal stress is 500 to 2000 mg or higher– higher doses may be necessary in extreme cases.  Of course, a qualified health professional should be consulted when using higher doses or before beginning any new supplements.

Take some extra vitamin B-5, or pantothenic acid, as its also known.  Pantothenic acid is necessary for adrenal gland health.  While it is naturally present in the adrenal glands, it can become depleted as hormones are manufactured in response to stress.  A common dose for adrenal fatigue is 1500 mg but should always accompany a B-complex vitamin since these nutrients work synergistically.

Avoid sugar and refined wheat products.They cause your blood sugar to fluctuate rapidly, which in turn causes your adrenals to overreact.

Eat some protein at every meal to  stabilize blood sugar and prevent strain on the adrenals.  That doesn’t necessarily mean meat.  Some good vegetarian sources of protein include:  legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, avocado, and quinoa (a delicious whole grain)

Adrenal Fatigue Supplements

Certain adrenal-boosting nutrients are needed to get your adrenal function back up, such as:

  • Ashwagandha
  • Holy basil
  • Fish oil(EPA/DHA)
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B5
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D3
  • Zinc

Taking these supplements in their whole-food form could greatly improve your symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.

Some of the top superfoods for adrenal health include:

  • Coconut
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Cruciferous vegetables(cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
  • Fatty fish (e.g., wild-caught salmon)
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Nuts, such as walnutsand almonds
  • Seeds, such as pumpkin, chia and flax
  • Kelp and seaweed
  • Celtic or Himalayan sea salt

These foods help overcome adrenal insufficiency because they’re nutrient-dense, low in sugar, and have healthy fat and fiber.

Exercise for 10 to 30 minutes:
This should include core strengthening, stretching, muscle strengthening, and cardio. Exercising longer than 30 minutes may only stress or exhaust your adrenals more, so don’t push it unless you are sure your body is supported and ready.

Connect with yourself
Whether that is through prayer, meditation, mindfulness, therapy, a walk in the park, journaling or singing. All of these activities help to bring adrenal health and cortisol back to optimal levels.

Connect with others, including pets
Calling a friend or family member has been shown to restore adrenal health? Taking time to connect with others (even someone you don’t know)—or an animal can help give your body the signals it needs to relax.

Enjoy nature
Whether you choose to spend time outdoors or simply look at pictures of trees, leaves, mountains, and flowers, either way you’ll be helping your body restore adrenal health.

Experience your emotions
Whether you feel happiness, sadness, or anger, giving yourself a chance to feel what you feel, with acceptance and support, instead of reacting or suppressing, has been shown to help keep your cortisol levels on track. Laughing, for example, is known to be one of our most powerful medicines.

Be strategic with your day and your life
Think about your values and goals, and then outline, based on what is most important to you, what it is that you want to get done. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in one day, and create a list of tasks that you’d like to work on. This approach can help you stay on track, be less stressed, and be flexible with yourself.

Here are some tips to help support your natural cortisol cycle:

  • Try to eat breakfast within an hour of getting up, or by 8 am to restore blood sugar levels that were depleted during the night.
  • Eat a healthy snack around 9 am.
  • Try to eat lunch between 11 am and noon to prevent a large dip in cortisol levels.
  • Eat a healthy snack between 2 and 3 pm to help off-set the natural cortisol dip that occurs around 3 or 4 pm. Many people notice this dip every day and reach for extra caffeine or carbohydrate-loaded snacks, which will actually impede hormonal balance.
  • Try to eat dinner between 5 and 6 pm and although it may be difficult at first, try to eat a light meal. Eventually your body will enjoy digesting less food in the evening.
  • Eat a nutritious, light snack an hour before bed, but be sure to avoid refined sugars. Nut butters with fresh fruit or cheese are ideal choices.

When we properly time our meals and snacks, we can prevent dramatic drops in blood sugar and support our body’s natural functioning. Our adrenals will not have to continually work to produce cortisol and can instead perform many of their other important secondary functions. We will also have more energy and more happiness throughout the day!

Adrenal Insufficiency Recovery Time

Recovery for adrenal fatigue can take a little while. After all, it took months, maybe years, to wear out your adrenals; so it takes a little time to build up their strength again. For full adrenal recovery, you can expect it to take:

  • 6–9 months for minor adrenal fatigue
  • 12–18 months for moderate fatigue
  • Up to 24 months for severe adrenal fatigue

The best approach is to make solid changes to your lifestyle for lasting results. If you aim for a balanced lifestyle with a healthy level of sleep, exercise, fun and positive environment, then you are most likely to keep your adrenal system going strong!

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