Until about 7 years ago, I had never heard the term "adrenal fatigue". Oddly, once I heard it - I hear it referred to daily now. What is adrenal fatigue, how can it affect you and how do you manage it?
Adrenal fatigue is a nonmedical term applied to what the medical community refers to as nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, sleep and digestive issues. Like many "nonmedical" terms, it can be hard to define and even harder to determine if that is what you have. Many medical communities do not acknowledge adrenal fatigue as a diagnosis and there is no known blood test to confirm whether your adrenals are over or underproducing hormones at such small levels. However, some saliva tests have shown high cortisol levels and these high levels have been related to decreased immune function, increased blood pressure, weight changes, unexplained hair loss, and more.
So even if the medical community doesn't acknowledge it - it appears it still exists - so what is it? Adrenal fatigue has been described as a period of chronic stress followed by or accompanied by weight gain, mental fog, exhaustion, sleep and digestive issues, unexplained hair loss, and more. Many of these symptoms share several diagnoses in common so it is important to rule out other possible diagnoses with your healthcare practitioner. However, if you feel you have been under a heavier load of stress than usual due to circumstances in your life, this could certainly be a factor in your feeling under the weather.
Let's focus on what the adrenals are and do. Your adrenals are two little small glands that cap your kidneys (and work with your kidneys in a unique way). Your adrenals produce hormones that help regulate blood pressure, control blood sugar, burn fat and protein, and respond to stressors like major illness, attack or injury. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, your adrenals are directly related to your kidneys and any issues with your adrenal glands are treated first by focusing on strengthening and balancing the kidneys. Adrenal glands are considered the spark plug of your body while the kidneys are the cooling system (water regulators). The two work together to keep your body balanced energetically - not too much or too little.
There are stages of adrenal fatigue so it is good to recognize the first symptoms so you can rein it in (Texas metaphor here). I usually notice that I feel edgy, overstimulated but VERY tired. I tend to crave salty foods A LOT and feel stressed and under pressure but not completely overwhelmed (as if I think I can still handle it all but wish I didn't have to). That's my first notice that I am hovering on the edge. For me, this is the sign that I should practice some self care and reasses whether I am following the regime below to arrest the spiral.
What does this mean for managing it? Practicing self care, building rest time and recovery time into each day is important. In this world of rush and rush more, taking time to rest and heal is imperative to your overall health and especially your adrenals. Focusing on eating a balanced diet with brightly colored fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds can do much to help relieve the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Focus on maintaining good hydration throughout the day to flush your body of toxins. Get plenty of sleep - 8+ hours a day minimum and go to bed before 11pm (when you probably get that second rush of energy and then cannot sleep). Begin consuming inflammation reducing foods/herbs/supplements and cutting out those foods that cause inflammation (dairy, sugar, processed foods, heavy proteins) and add adaptogenic (super foods like: https://draxe.com/adaptogenic-herbs-adaptogens/) into your diet regularly. And last, but not least, learn new techniques to manage stress in your life (exercise, meditation, changing thinking patterns, journaling, get outside help from a trained professional). For me, practicing self care includes Yin yoga (especially those practices focused on balancing the Kidney meridians), Restorative yoga and meditation to help me manage stress and force me to settle down and truly relax during the day. This could be feet up the wall for 10 minutes, or any supported yoga pose practiced a few times a day. Yoga nidra is especially helpful in helping you sleep, rest, reboot and settling your mind.
Whatever you may be feeling, check with your health care practitioner to rule out any other diagnosis; however, the above is an overall healthy lifestyle so it is always a great way to manage and/or prevent adrenal fatigue.
Peace & Namaste, Aprille
I have been "playing" and experimenting with yoga, aromatherapy and healthy living since my late teens - researching, testing, reading, investigating, and learning anything that would make my life - and the lives around me - better naturally.
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