‘Adrenal fatigue’ is a term that pops up every now again but what exactly is adrenal fatigue and how does it happen? And is there anything we can do to recharge our adrenal bank account?
Let’s start at the basics: The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys, one on each side of the body. The glands themselves are no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape but they are absolute powerhouses, manufacturing and secreting many hormones essential for life, health and vitality. The inner core of the glands is known as the medulla and produces adrenaline, known as the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormone. The outer core is known as the cortex and produces cortisol and aldosterone, as well as sex hormones known as androgens.
In the context of adrenal fatigue, the hormone we want to be focusing on is cortisol. Our cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day with a spike in the morning to get us up and going for the day. That is totally normal. Stressful situations that we may encounter throughout the day (this includes exercise and low blood sugar levels, too) cause our cortisol levels to rise so we are able to deal with the situation in hand. After that, our cortisol level falls back into the normal range. However, when stress becomes excessive or ongoing, cortisol levels can stay chronically elevated, causing our adrenals to become overworked and ‘fatigued’.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include
- Fatigue not alleviated by sleep – tired all the time
- Difficulty ‘bouncing back’ from stress/illness/exercise
- Sleep disturbances / insomnia
- Anxiety / depression
- Increased susceptibility to infections / inflammation
- Brain fog / poor concentration
- Low blood pressure
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Low thyroid function including weight problems
- Affects PMT and menopause symptoms
- Food cravings – sweet/salty
- Allergies / chemical sensitivities
- Low libido
- Dizziness/fainting when first standing
In serious cases of adrenal fatigue, your adrenal gland activity is so diminished that you may ‘burn out’ which can have a detrimental effect on your ability to live your life.
But the good news is that YES we can absolutely control our adrenals by charging up our adrenal bank account so to speak!
Here are some of my top tips to keep your adrenals nourished and happy:
Eat the rainbow
Fruits and vegetables of different colours contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals to support our adrenal glands. Aim to eat three different colours of vegetables or fruits with every meal. That could be a rainbow smoothie with banana, berries and spinach for breakfast, a colourful salad for lunch and a vegetable stir fry for dinner. Cruciferous vegetables, in particular broccoli, are great for the adrenals! Aim for 9 portions per day with only 3 of them being fruit.
Include foods rich in B vitamins, magnesium and omega 3
Make foods such as whole grains, nuts and seeds and legumes a regular part of your diet. Also try to eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines 3x per week.
Make the switch to organic
Eating organic food can have a beneficial effect on your adrenal health. Pesticides used in non-organic foods are known endocrine disruptors which can cause alterations in your adrenal glands and their function. If making the complete switch to organic is not possible focus on the foods listed on the Dirty Dozen list.
Eliminate foods that can affect adrenal health
Some foods have been shown to have a negative effect on your adrenal health and should be avoided. These foods include white sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine, fried foods and processed foods.
Make some lifestyle changes
Reducing stress and finding more time to do the things you love can work wonders for your adrenal health. Adequate rest, good quality sleep (more on this here), meditation and yoga may all be helpful.
If you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, why not have a look at my brand new ‘The Energised Mother’ programme? This is a 5-week online programme in which I’ll be sharing all my wisdom with you to help you lighten your invisible motherload and reclaim your energy and sense of self. Kicking off on the For more information click here.