In an ideal world, we wake up in the morning peppy and full of energy ready to face the day ahead. And once the day’s activities are done, we settle down and enjoy a restorative 8 hours of sleep in preparation for the next day’s activities. Unfortunately, there are many people who have a very different daily experience. Adrenal fatigue causes suboptimal energy regulation, which can lead to numerous symptoms ranging from neurological impediment to physical sluggishness.
One of the most common complaints from those with adrenal fatigue is the sensation of mental alertness while feeling physically sapped and exhausted also known as being “wired and tired.” Having a basic understanding of adrenal fatigue, knowing the symptoms it promotes, and learning of the treatment options available can help resolve adrenal dysfunction and eliminate frustrating symptoms.
Adrenal Fatigue Basics
The adrenals are small glands that have big impact. This important component of the endocrine system is responsible for producing hormones that regulate blood sugar, energy level, the body’s stress response, and many other functions. When working correctly, the adrenals help us stay appropriately energized and focused throughout the day. Unfortunately, many people do not have the benefit of fully functioning adrenals. It is estimated that up to 80% of the population suffers some degree of adrenal insufficiency, which can promote the occurrence of both mental and physical exhaustion.
One of the most common sources of adrenal dysfunction is adrenal fatigue. When the body experiences chronic physical or mental stress, the adrenals can become overworked and eventually exhausted. The result is reduced production of critical hormones such as the stress hormone, cortisol. If the adrenals are already taxed due to long-term stress, acute stress events such as loss of job, sickness, or physical trauma can trigger an adrenal crash. This occurrence causes greater dysfunction and exacerbates symptoms.
The Many Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue causes widespread dysfunction with the most common and prominent symptoms involving neurological function and energy level. Those suffering from adrenal fatigue often report feeling “wired and tired.” This is typified by feeling mentally active yet physically drained, feeling wide awake when resting in bed at night, or fluctuating from levels of great focus to severe brain fog throughout the day. These sensations can contribute to greater levels of stress and anxiety which further exacerbates adrenal fatigue.
Feeling “wired and tired” is just one of the many symptoms and sensations caused by adrenal dysfunction. Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Brain fog
- Craving sugary or salty foods
- Difficulty focusing
- Heightened emotional sensitivity
- Increased heart rate
- Insomnia and disrupted sleep
- Loss of libido
- Low blood pressure resulting in dizziness
- Mood swings
- Muscle and joint stiffness or weakness
- Nausea, typically in the mornings
- Poor response to stress
- Recurrent infections
- Shaking and trembling
- Sluggishness and difficulty getting up in the morning
Because many of the symptoms listed are relatively vague, they can be easily overlooked or wrongly attributed to other conditions. Therefore, it is important to be familiar adrenal fatigue and recognize that symptoms may be indicative of adrenal insufficiency or dysfunction. If you suspect adrenal dysfunction, you can confirm it through saliva cortisol testing. Measuring saliva levels of cortisol four times throughout the day, morning, midday, evening, and night, provides a picture of cortisol production that can help identify adrenal dysfunction. Recognizing adrenal issues before they develop into full adrenal fatigue allows for more expedient treatment that may reduce the risk of potentially debilitating symptoms.
Treating Adrenal Fatigue Through Lifestyle Change
Much of the process of resolving adrenal fatigue relies on eliminating contributing factors. Areas such as suboptimal diet, excess stress, and poor sleep quality all play into the development and perpetuation of adrenal fatigue. Implementing healthy lifestyle changes in these areas supports the adrenals and helps alleviate dysfunction.
Eating Habits and Diet
A typical western diet suggests eating three hearty meals every few hours. However, this can cause undue blood sugar spikes and hormonal fluctuations resulting in poor energy regulation. It is better to eat many smaller meals or snacks throughout the day that contain a low number of refined carbohydrates and sugars. Caffeine, processed sugars, and gluten can also cause intestinal and neurological stress resulting in excessive adrenal action and subsequently fatigue. Reducing or completely eliminating these foods from one’s diet supports the adrenals by reducing digestive stress, which helps the healing process.
Incorporating nutrient dense foods such as bone broth and root vegetables support adrenal repair and functionality by providing the nutrients these systems need. Eating foods that contain greater amounts of protein and healthy fats help keep blood sugar nominal and limits intestinal stress. Complex carbohydrates, such as root vegetables, also reduce the occurrence of blood sugar spikes, and subsequently adrenal crashes. This is because it takes longer to break down complex carbs, which helps regulate energy levels.
Exercising to Reduce Stress
Exercise is one of the best ways to alleviate stress while also supporting mood and neurological health. When done safely, aerobic activity triggers the production of endorphins, which promote sensations of happiness and accomplishment. This reduces stress thereby limiting the body’s release and production of cortisol and other stress-related hormones thereby limiting adrenal exhaustion. However, it is important to keep in mind that if adrenal fatigue is severe, excessive physical activity may cause additional damage. Always exercise safely and at appropriate intensity.
Sleep is essential to healthy bodily function, particularly adrenal activity. Improving sleep quality helps eliminate stress, improves bodily rejuvenation, and restores systems such as the adrenals that may need to be repaired. Ideally, everyone should be getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep quality can be further improved by maintaining a healthy sleep environment. Ideal sleep conditions should include a moderate room temperature, and no extraneous light, noise, or other disruptors.
The Importance of Supporting Your Adrenals
The adrenals play a significant role in regulating numerous bodily functions including stress response, energy level, and focus. Those suffering from adrenal fatigue typically have a daily struggle with feeling mentally energetic while physically tired or vice versa. This is a common sign of adrenal insufficiency or complete adrenal exhaustion. Recognizing the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and responding appropriately with healthy lifestyle changes can improve hormone and energy levels while also eliminating sensations of being “wired and tired.”
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2. Tired and Wired? Try These 5 Foods to Improve Your Energy and Get a Good Night’s Sleep. The Hormone Diva. http://thehormonediva.com/tired-and-wired-try-these-5-foods-to-improve-your-energy-and-get-a-good-nights-sleep/
3. Adrenal fatigue symptoms. Women’s Health Network. https://www.womenshealthnetwork.com/adrenal-fatigue-and-stress/common-adrenal-fatigue-symptoms.aspx