What Is Adrenal Fatigue and 5 Things You Must Do To Fix It

Welcome, welcome all you tired and weary people. If you suspect you have Adrenal Fatigue and haven't had it confirmed, please read my post on the symptoms and How To Diagnose Adrenal Fatigue. You can't properly treat Adrenal Fatigue until you know where you're at.

First, I want to extend my sympathies, as a fellow Adrenal Fatigue sufferer. It’s taken me 5 years and several doctors to finally make progress with my adrenals. I know what you're going through and also assume that most people have probably told you that you are crazy, confused, and just need more coffee. 

This guide is going to cover the basics of understanding Adrenal Fatigue, how you got here, and how to get better.

WHAT IS ADRENAL FATIGUE?

Adrenal glands are essential to life. Besides producing adrenaline and handling the "fight or flight" response, here's a summary of all the things adrenals are responsible for. Our bodies are built to handle trauma and stress, but CHRONIC and prolonged stress over time, takes it's toll. 

Dr. James L. Wilson first came up with the diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue in 1998. To break it down, he found that Adrenal Fatigue occurs when the body undergoes chronic stress, which leads to overworked adrenal glands as they try to pump out cortisol (the stress hormone, see: What is cortisol?). This can result in highly imbalanced individuals with too elevated or too low of cortisol levels over time. As well as this, Dr. Wilson discovered that adrenal fatigue sufferers often have low DHEA "the parent hormone" which is involved in producing many necessary hormones.

In holistic circles, Adrenal Fatigue is a very common diagnosis, but in conventional circles not so much since there is no drug to fix it (unless you have Addison's Disease). My doctor at Mayo Clinic so much as told me Adrenal Fatigue wasn't real— and when I forced her to do a cortisol stimulation test, she ended up saying, "your adrenals are sleepy." Okay... so FATIGUED, you might say?

WHAT CAUSES ADRENAL FATIGUE?

Simply put, stressors and lifestyle factors are what got you in this mess.

The problem lies in figuring out your stressors. We might think of common things like: having babies, over working, poor diet, etc. but we also need to consider things like: underlying infections, food intolerances, gut imbalances, emotional stress— anything that puts stress on the body. Unfortunately, I had several doctors attempt to treat my Adrenal Fatigue with zero success because they had not dug deep enough to find out that I had Epstein Barr, which was causing constant stress on my body.

HOW DO YOU HEAL ADRENAL FATIGUE?

The whole point of fixing adrenal fatigue is to get cortisol on its normal rhythm and hormone production regulated. 

1. Regulate Blood Sugar. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and/or blood sugar spikes both put the body under stress. You have to maintain balanced blood sugar or you die. When the body is under stress, the adrenals release cortisol. When we skip meals, cortisol has to kick in to tell the liver to pump out some glucose to keep our blood sugar from dropping to dangerous levels. So as you can see, this is another way in which we overwork our adrenals. Here's a great article that goes more in depth about cortisol and blood sugar.

Stop abusing insulin: avoid eating too large of meals, starving, or eating too much sugar. Eat a balanced snack every 2 hours— VERY IMPORTANT WITH ADRENAL ISSUES. Medical Medium has some great adrenal snack suggestions here.

You can also take blood sugar supplements to help metabolize glucose better - chromium is very common.

2. Schedule. You know when you have a dog and you want to get it on an eating and potty break routine — you have to get them on a SCHEDULE. So, treat yourself like a dog. Your body is designed to have energy in the morning, when the sunlight hits your eyes, and to start slowing down at sunset. This is called circadian rhythm. As you send your body the wrong signals (staying up late and sleeping late, exposing yourself to blue light after dark, not eating regular meals) it disrupts this rhythm. I used to be a total night owl (hello RIGHT BRAINED CREATIVE) and so I get the struggle.

  • get to bed at the same time (preferably by 10 pm —the most restorative sleep is before midnight)
  • turn phone settings to night mode (warm light) after sunset and until sunrise and use amber glasses if viewing technology to avoid blue light
  • rise at the same time
  • be sure to get sunlight on your eyes right after you wake
  • eating regular meals, and snack every 2 hours

Then your body knows when it's supposed to create energy and when it isn't. I notice a significant difference in my fatigue when I stop technology at 9pm and go to bed by 10:30. I also wrote a post on 7 Natural Insomnia Cures to Knock You Out, where I outline more ways that I got my sleep under control. 

3. Cut Out Caffeine. The very reason you NEED caffeine is because of your adrenal issues. What does caffeine do? It forces your adrenals, which are already struggling, to pump out adrenaline. 

So caffeinating yourself is making everything worse. You can either take my word or read this article that explains the affect of caffeine on the adrenals. Swap out coffee for the adrenal cocktail. Take it upon waking and again at 11am. {4 oz fresh OJ / 1/4 tsp himalayan salt / 1 TB coconut cream or collagen}

4. Supplementation. Do NOT start taking generic adrenal support with tons of things in them. That is a total waste of money and will get you nowhere. Yes, things like adaptogens are helpful, but some are for calming and some are for energy and you have to know which ones you need at what time of the day. Supplements are necessary, but they need to be specific for your cortisol issues.

Supplements that I found the most helpful for low cortisol: licorice root, rhodiola, ginseng, liquid B-12, Biotics Research AB5. For better sleep: lemon balm, magnesium oil spray, and all the things I mentioned in this insomnia post

5. Identify Hidden Causes. You can take all the supplements and get all the sleep in the world, but if you have something internal going on that continues to cause internal stress, you will never heal. This happened to me and I wasted LOTS of money, time, and took hundreds of unnecessary supplements.

Be sure you find a holistic or integrative doctor who will dig deep enough — especially if you've been trying to heal without progress — to identify any underlying infections, inflammation, or diseases. That could very well be the cause of your Adrenal Fatigue and fixing that is your first step.

Wondering who's the mysterious wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation.