Natural Healing Options for Adrenal Fatigue
“Why do I feel so tired all the time?”
By Dr. Jaclyn Borza Maher
The expectations we hold of ourselves can sometimes seem endless. Our to-do lists never seem to get any shorter and it is easy to feel overcommitted and stressed. Our busy lives can take a toll on our health and leave us feeling eternally rushed, drained and just plain tired. Before you gear up to tackle a new project or fill another time-slot in your calendar, stop and take a step back to ask yourself, “Why do I feel so tired all the time?”
Chronic stress, fatigue and your adrenal glands
We can’t talk about stress and exhaustion without a little lesson on your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are hormone powerhouses that sit just on top of your kidneys and help your body respond to stress. The hormones produced by the adrenals are in a delicate balance with each other to allow you to respond to everyday stressors in a healthy and flexible way.
If you are under chronic stress, your adrenals have to work overtime. Since your adrenals don’t know the difference between stressors, they continue to work hard whether you are confronted with an emergency or a series of day-to-day stressors. They can be internal pressures, such as expectations that you have for yourself or you think others have of you. They can be external stressors such as work, relationships, chronic aches and pains or other health issues.
When your body perceives stress, no matter how big or small, the adrenal glands produce hormones that signal your body to enter into a state of heightened awareness, a “fight or flight” response. This response is normal, but the problem arises when the intensity or the frequency of the stressors becomes excessive and our bodies remain in this state of emergency without rest.
Adrenal glands need a break between stressful times to recharge, and without it, they get burnt out. This is when your energy levels plummet, life becomes hard to manage and you have the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Signs of Adrenal Exhaustion:
Feeling groggy upon waking up in the morning.
Feeling anxious and wired.
Feeling light-headed when you stand up.
Developing low blood pressure.
Experiencing low blood sugar.
Craving salt or sugar.
Low or decreased sex drive.
Adrenal burnout causes your body to lose its resiliency to stress and you are no longer able to handle relatively small stressors without feeling overwhelmed or losing your temper. Other functions in your body also become compromised, including your immune system, sleep, digestion, and metabolism. You may turn to stimulants, such as coffee, energy drinks, high carbohydrate foods or sugar to get you through the day. All with little or no success.
Holistic Healing Options for Adrenal Fatigue
The good news is that with some support and nourishment you can restore your adrenal hormones back to their delicate balance and you can reclaim your energy level and overall health. It will require you to change or alter the habits that initially put you in a state of adrenal burnout, but in the end you will feel better.
Be kind to yourself. The simplest yet hardest of them all. Lighten the expectations that you have of yourself and take time out of each day for some “me-time.” Find an activity or space that allows you to recharge your battery. Have a few self-care options on hand that can be done in 5 minutes, that way you can always make time to do them, no matter how hectic your day. Here are some examples:
Yoga and meditation, whether on the mat next to your bed, on the grass or in the studio. It gets your body moving and quiets the mind. There are local studios offering restorative and gentle classes for beginners.
Curl up with a book and a cup of calming tea. Make yourself a cup of Fresh Lemon and Ginger Tea to help you unwind after a hectic day. The lemon is calming to your nervous system and the ginger is soothing for digestion. Check out the variety of calming teas and tonics available locally that satisfy your taste.
Light to moderate exercise in the natural sunlight. Your body needs movement, fresh air and Vitamin D. Anything, from a brisk walk to playing outside with your kids, is just what your body needs to press the “restart button.” Strenuous exercise can elevate levels of some adrenal hormones, so focus on lighter physical activities while working on healing adrenal fatigue.
2. Make wellness-care a necessity not a luxury. Good health is your greatest asset, nurture it and make it a priority. Holistic and complementary health care and bodywork can aid in rebuilding adrenal health and resiliency, and help you maintain the vigor you need throughout your lifetime. Here are a few modalities to try:
Chiropractic care. It works by clearing communication channels between your brain and your body to help it function better and promote healing. Chiropractic manipulation eliminates chronic aches and pains, stiffness and muscle weakness from the body and restores strength, flexibility and coordination. Chiropractic care calms the nervous system and leaves you feeling refreshed.
Cranial release therapy. It restores the natural rhythm of the craniosacral system, which allows for the brain and spinal cord to be bathed in oxygen and nutrients. Cranial release therapy is relaxing and can release muscle tension throughout the body.
Therapeutic massage. It releases muscle tension, can reduce stress-related pain, improves circulation of blood and lymph and it is relaxing.
Acupuncture . It lowers stress hormone levels in your body and can help you better cope with day-to-day stressors. Acupuncture can aid in maintaining emotional balance.
Energy healing. Modalities such as Reiki and Therapeutic Touch work on healing emotional issues and helping to strengthen the mind and body connection.
3. Dietary changes. While emotional stress is a trigger for adrenal fatigue, poor diet also disrupts adrenal hormones. Changing how you eat can support and nourish your adrenal glands, promote better sleep and improve your energy. Here are a few simple and easy changes to try:
Evenly space your meals and snacks. Food is your body’s fuel and if your body senses it is low on proper fuel, it triggers a stress response. When you skip a meal or snack, your blood sugar plummets, wreaking havoc on your metabolism, mood and your adrenal glands. Plan to eat three balanced meals a day and a high protein snack in between each meal to maintain adrenal hormone balance.
Eat breakfast. A high protein breakfast eaten within an hour of waking up restores your blood sugar levels that were depleted during the night. Eating breakfast can actually help stabilize and support your adrenal hormones, blood sugar levels and metabolism throughout the day. A high protein breakfast can be as simple as a scrambled egg in a corn tortilla, topped with a few slices of avocado and a clementine on the side.
Cut out the sugar and carbs. The energy we get from foods comprised of refined sugars and carbohydrates cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar that is short-lived. The “crash” that follows not only results in hunger, but also alerts your adrenal glands to start working overtime. Stop this cycle by planning meals full of fresh whole foods and have snacks readily available that are good sources of protein such as nuts, hummus, plain whole milk yogurt with fresh fruit, or apple slices topped with almond butter.
Reduce the caffeine, even when you are feeling a dip in energy and you think you need it to get through the day. Try an herbal alternative such as ginseng or a 10-minute walk outdoors to ward off fatigue. If you absolutely cannot live without coffee, try to limit your intake to one cup in the morning with a nutrient dense breakfast.
Take your nutritional supplements. Overworked adrenal glands are often depleted of key vitamins and minerals needed for them to function properly. Proper nourishment for adrenal fatigue can range from supplementation of B vitamins to probiotics and herbs. Keep in mind the list of deficiencies related to adrenal fatigue are extensive. Consult a practitioner who specializes in nutrition or functional medicine to carefully select the best blend of supplements for you.
The path towards healing adrenal fatigue can be overwhelming, especially since you are already stuck in this cycle of exhaustion, but take it slow and be intentional. If you veer off course, don’t let guilt keep you from getting back on track. As you add more lifestyle changes to your daily routine and offer the support and nourishment that your adrenal glands need, you will soon find you have more energy to make it through your afternoon routine. Taking the first step can often be the hardest, so make the decision to start right now. It all begins with showing a little kindness to yourself.
Dr. Jaclyn Borza Maher is a holistic chiropractor; she integrates applied kinesiology, cranial release therapy, myofascial release, nutrition and food sensitivity testing into her practice. She has a passion for working with families to help them achieve whole body health in a natural way. Visit www.jmaherchiropractic.com to learn more.