Feeling burned out? You’re not the only one. The state of the world has many of us struggling with stress, exhaustion, and anxiety. This is especially true for women, a large percentage of whom are taking on a greater share of COVID-related burdens like childcare while trying to maintain careers and households.
The constant strain of keeping up with life’s demands can have a negative impact on physical and mental health. For some, it leads to a group of symptoms collectively known as adrenal fatigue.
Measuring about one-half inch in height and three inches in length, the adrenal glands are located above your kidneys. They are responsible for producing some of the body’s most essential hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline.
Some of the functions controlled by adrenal hormones include1:
When the adrenal glands are working as they should, the functions they control run smoothly. But some circumstances — too much stress, lack of sleep, inadequate nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins — can cause the adrenal glands to become dysregulated. They may produce either too much or too little of certain hormones, which can contribute to health problems. One of these problems is adrenal fatigue, where your body struggles to manage stress and fight infection.
Adrenal fatigue isn’t defined as a condition or a disease, but rather as a collection of symptoms. In fact, some mainstream health care providers don’t consider adrenal fatigue to be a legitimate concern, but functional medicine practitioners like myself know just how real adrenal fatigue is, and how devastating it can be.
Adrenal fatigue can manifest in many different ways, but certain symptoms are considered hallmarks. Some of these symptoms are2:
Because these symptoms may be present in other health conditions — and because some practitioners are unfamiliar with what they may represent — adrenal fatigue can be difficult to diagnose. Many women bounce from doctor to doctor, desperate to find a cause for their symptoms. Working with a knowledgeable and sympathetic provider can help you find the answers you’re looking for.
Whether you’ve received an official diagnosis or not, you can take steps to naturally treat adrenal fatigue. I often suggest my patients try these five things.
Since stress puts a huge strain on your adrenals, it makes sense that figuring out ways to lower your stress levels is key to relieving adrenal fatigue. This could mean taking up a calming practice like meditation or yoga, as well as removing stressors like toxic relationships from your life. Of course, it’s impossible to eliminate stress completely, but every little bit helps.
Your adrenal glands will never get a chance to regulate if you’re constantly running yourself ragged. Practice saying no, and make a commitment to not overextending yourself. You can’t do it all without compromising your wellness.
Rest is critical for adrenal health, and one of the best ways to prioritize sleep is to make a schedule for yourself. Set a bedtime and wake time, and stick to them! Focus on good sleep hygiene practices like putting your phone or laptop away well before you get into bed and keeping your bedroom cool and dark.
Healthy eating often falls by the wayside when you’re stressed, but your adrenals need the right combination of nutrients to function well. Make sure your diet includes adrenal-supporting foods like leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed protein. Eat lots of organic fruits and veggies, and avoid processed foods and sugar if possible. Filling up on fresh and delicious produce should help curb your junk food cravings.
I like to make individual supplement recommendations based on my patients’ individual needs, but certain vitamins and herbs are generally useful for people experiencing adrenal fatigue. These include B vitamins and magnesium, as well as adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola that helps support the body’s stress response.
If you’re struggling with adrenal fatigue and can’t seem to find anyone who will take you seriously, please reach out to us here at My Pure MD. We’re here to listen, and to help.