What is Adrenal Fatigue?
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of each kidney. Their job is to make sex hormones and stress hormones, like adrenaline & cortisol. When the adrenals are overtaxed, we end up with symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
When the body has been too stressed for too long and the adrenals have been taxed with too much hormone production, they become fatigued. Fatigued adrenals can produce too little or too much stress hormones at the wrong times. This can lead to all kinds of health symptoms.
How Do I Know if I Have Adrenal Fatigue?
There are many signs & symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Most people have some level of adrenal fatigue unless they have been intentionally healing & nourishing these glands.
Signs & Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Hair loss
- Low libido
- Blood sugar crashes
- Feeling exhausted in the morning & wired at night
- Trouble falling asleep even though you are tired
- Waking up too early & being unable to go back to sleep
- Salt & sugar cravings
- Sweating without exertion (nervous sweats)
- Craving stimulants, like coffee, black tea, matcha, chocolate or cacao
- Mysterious weight gain or difficulty losing weight
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is primarily caused by stress. Almost everyone in the modern world has some degree of adrenal fatigue, because we live such fast-paced lifestyles. Most of us don’t realize just how fast-paced our lifestyles are, but I can guarantee you that generations before us were not exposed to nearly as much stress from the pace of life.
I’ll share a personal story about this. I had a beautiful homebirth with my second child in September of 2022. I did not have to leave the house for 2 weeks! I was able to really embrace the first 2 weeks postpartum, spend most of it in bed & live at the speed of my newborn baby (which is of course very, very slow).
After 2 weeks, I made my first venture out of the house & drove my car. As I pulled onto a main road, I could feel the stress hormones quickly rising in my body! I am a very experienced & confident driver. I was not nervous at all. In fact, I was quite relaxed and extremely happy to be out in the world again. I was acutely feeling the difference between the natural pace of life & our modern artificial pace of life. It was so crystal clear to me just how much adrenaline is required to drive a car, something many of us do multiple times a day without even thinking twice about it.
Add on the stress of a job, small children to care for, financial pressure, sleep interruptions and you have a sure-fire recipe for serious adrenal fatigue.
This constant level of stress taxes the adrenals & begins to wear down our energy. Most people reach for stimulants like coffee, black tea, chocolate, and other sources of caffeine just to survive. Unfortunately, caffeine is another stressor for the adrenals. It artificially puts the body into fight-or-flight, which gives a temporary feeling of more energy, but ultimately is taxing the body even further.
In fact, caffeine doesn’t actually give you more energy, it just blocks you from feeling tired. When the body needs rest the most is often when we reach for caffeine, keep pushing ourselves & tax the adrenals even more.
Fasting is another major stressor for the adrenals. Although fasting & intermittent fasting are a very popular health trend, fasting is disastrous for the adrenals, especially for those with chronic health symptoms. After not eating for a period of time, the blood sugar will start to drop. This signals the body to go into starvation mode & triggers the adrenals to release stress hormones for survival.
This is one reason we can see rapid blood sugar drops with adrenal fatigue. The adrenals aren’t able to help regulate blood sugar levels. I used to personally experience this. My blood sugar would drop so fast. My heart would pound. I would get very cranky (even angry), light-headed, sweat, get hot & tingly. It was very uncomfortable & very stressful to go through that. Even though I have not experienced blood sugar drops for many years, I still have a bit of PTSD from these experiences and ALWAYS have snacks with me wherever I go.
Birth can be another big trigger for adrenal fatigue. The body uses huge amounts of adrenaline in the birthing process. After birth, the adrenals need time to recover. This is a natural process & the adrenals are designed for this! We just need to make sure that the body is properly supported for birth and the postpartum period given the additional stressors of modern living.
Sleep disturbances are also a big stressor for the adrenals. This is a double whammy for new mamas’ post-partum. The birth majorly taxes the adrenals and then sleep is often disrupted for many months (or even years) waking to care for the baby at night.
Sometimes, the biggest challenge with sleep disruptions is that the more interrupted sleep is, the more the adrenals become taxed and the more difficult it is to sleep. This can become a viscous cycle, especially if the nervous system is very dysregulated by other stressors or trauma.
Excess fat in the diet is another a trigger for adrenaline production contributing to adrenal fatigue. When we consume too much fat, the adrenals must pump out lots of adrenaline to stimulate the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for making enzymes that digest fat.
When I see a new mama a few months post-partum, drinking lots of coffee to manage life with a newborn, going back to work on a keto diet or intermittent fasting in an attempt to lose weight, I get so scared for her. This is a recipe for a major health crash!
If you’re experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue, do not fret! This condition is reversible with time and appropriate adrenal healing strategies!
Natural Treatments for Adrenal Fatigue
Here are some tips to help you get started healing your adrenals:
- Consume glucose first thing in the morning. This could be lemon water with honey, fresh fruit juice, a smoothie or fruit.
- Eat lots of leafy greens, celery & cucumber. The mineral salts in these foods are a primary fuel source for the adrenals.
- Eat every 90 minutes to 2 hours. A consistent supply of glucose will nourish the adrenals and keep blood sugars stable.
- Focus on ‘adrenal snacks’, unique combinations of of potassium, glucose & mineral salts that are especially supportive of the adrenals. Check out Medical Medium’s list of adrenal snacks here.
- Lower fats in the diet. 20% of calories or less fat is very helpful for healing.
- Consider adaptogenic herbs that help support the adrenals, like ashwagandha, rhodiola, ginseng or holy basil. (Check out my Amazon store for my favorite herbal supplements.)
- Other highly beneficial supplements to consider: Amla berry powder, B-complex, magnesium glycinate
Beneficial Foods (in addition to adrenal snacks) from Medical Medium
- Wild blueberries
- Romaine lettuce
- Red-skinned apples
- Lemon balm
- Nettle leaf
- Schisandra berry
Real Strategies for Long Term Success Healing Adrenal Fatigue
Focusing on adrenal support early on in healing can make all the difference in your success. If you’re new to healing, make sure you are focusing on these steps!
If you’ve been on the healing journey for a while, but you’re struggling to make progress or reverse symptoms, you may still have a significant level of adrenal fatigue. Shifting your focus to adrenal healing can make a dramatic difference.
Addressing the whole person
Food strategies and supplements are very important for healing adrenal fatigue, but in order to be successful in fully reversing adrenal fatigue, we also have to address lifestyle factors. You can eat all the adrenal snacks and take all the right supplements, but if your job is extremely stressful, your relationship is seriously out of balance or you have longstanding unresolved trauma, nutritional approaches can only do so much.
From a spiritual perspective, adrenal fatigue may be a sign of lack of sufficient self care, sometimes feeling defeated by life, longstanding anxiety, and what Louise Hay calls “emotional malnutrition”.
This is what Rachel specializes in, combining her in depth knowledge of nutrition & physiology with her intuitive abilities to ‘read’ a person and know what they need to address in order to successfully heal. Rachel has spent years developing her coaching style, which is inspiring, compassionate and effective.
When you combine the power of plant foods with addressing old wounds, strengthening your connection to Spirit and reconnecting to the wisdom of your body, healing becomes much easier and quicker. Rachel uses a combination of intuitive coaching, energy healing and channeled messages in chakra readings to facilitate holistic healing.
After nearly 20 years of practicing as a nutritionist and 5 years of working with Medical Medium information, Rachel has found this to be the most effective approach to successful healing.
If you’re looking for support or guidance in healing, get started working with Rachel today!