Today’s #podcastpick is from The Balanced Bites Podcast, Episode #15 Adrenal Fatigue, Part 1. You can listen here.
Your adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys, they are responsible for producing & releasing cortisol (the stress hormone). Prolonged elevated cortisol levels (high stress levels) can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Fatigue, headache, weakened immune system, afternoon slump, feeling full/bloated, blurred vision, dizziness, hemorrhoids or varicose veins.
Hitting the snooze button several times or feel like you can’t get out of bed.
Feeling like you need to drink coffee/caffeine all day long because can’t stay awake.
Not feeling recovered 20-30mins after a workout.
Unstable blood sugar levels: if you have unstable blood sugar all day long, then your insulin levels are constantly trying to correct that. You cannot fix adrenal function if your endocrine system is under constant stress.
Cortisol levels should be high in the mornings, pretty steady throughout the day, and decline at night to allow for sleep. If you are feeling tired & wired (can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep) then your cortisol levels are low in the morning and high at night.
Long term Adrenal stress can lead to infertility, PCOS, low libido, depression, anxiety, & thyroid disorders.
How Do I Know If I Have It?
A salivary adrenal index is best but can be costly. It tests saliva cortisol levels throughout the day, from various samples.
You can however do some simple tests at home.
Pupil light reflex: go into bathroom, look into mirror, turn lights off, shine light into pupil & it should constrict, if after 30 seconds it begins to dilate again you may have adrenal fatigue. Postural test: take blood pressure while sitting down, stand up & immediately take BP again, if first number did not increase by 8-10 points or if the number dropped then there could be adrenal fatigue.
How To Heal
Sleep is most important. Aim for 7-8hrs of uninterrupted sleep each night. Short term supplementation with melatonin can be helpful if you struggle to fall asleep. Use blue light blocking glasses (like these) 2hrs prior to bedtime or avoid screens/tv. Consider taking an Epsom salt bath (my favorite brand here).
From a nutritional standpoint consume less sugar, eat more whole foods, eat low carb (especially if you know blood sugar regulation is a struggle for you), eat a wide variety of colors, add mineral salt to foods or add minerals to water. Consume foods rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, and Magnesium.
Vitamin C rich foods: cruciferous veggies- brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli
Vitamin B rich foods: eggs, chicken, red meat, tuna, salmon, spinach, kale
Magnesium rich foods: cooked black beans, cooked black-eyed peas, cooked chickpeas, almonds, cashews, flaxseed
Lifestyle changes may also be necessary to get stress under control. Assess what in your life is causing you stress. Can you change it or avoid it? Say no to things/people/events that feel draining to you. If your job is a big stressor, can you find another job? If you cannot change or avoid the stressor, then change your mindset/thoughts around it. For example, instead of telling yourself ‘I have to go to work today’ say ‘I get to go to work today which provides for my family’.
Keep a running gratitude list where you can write down what you’re most thankful for.
Don’t over exercise or do lots of strenuous exercises. Move your body to get in NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) movement. Play outside with your kids, go for a walk with friends, listen to an audio book/podcast while you take a walk by yourself.
Supplements are meant to be just that—supplemental. You can’t out supplement a bad diet, bad choices, or a negative mindset. However, while you’re in the healing process of making sustainable lifestyle adjustments, supplementation might be necessary.
These can be helpful: vitamin c, vitamin b5, b complex, magnesium, liquorish root extract/tea (take in the morning only, not after 3pm), GABA for anxiety stress, melatonin at bedtime, apoptogenic herbs, ashwagandha root/leaf, ginko biloba, an adrenal support blend, or natural calm which is a magnesium supplement.