The adrenals glands, which rest on the top of the kidneys, release stress managing hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. They also help convert protein, fats, and carbohydrates into available energy, help the thyroid with metabolism, and help regulate sex hormones. Prolonged stress, inadequate nutrition, lack of quality sleep, and lack of exercise (low intensity, weights, and interval) can cause these glands to become fatigued, reducing our body’s ability to manage stress, and regulate energy and hormones. The affected thyroid, and unstable production of other hormones (estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, cortisol…) often lead to weight problems.
Cause: Stress in all of it various form (illness, infections, surgery, poor nutrition, high sugar/carbohydrate intake, lack of sleep, depression, excessive high intensity exercise, negative emotions related to work, finances, relationships…) for prolonged periods of time without adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise.
Stages: Adrenal fatigue has four progressive stages which are often never diagnosed and severely decrease a person’s quality of life. Healing the Adrenals can take a few months to a few years depending on severity and lifestyle factors.
Stage 1: Anti-stress hormones, like cortisol, are increased to meet the demands of the stressors. Mild fatigue is evident after waking in the morning or in the mid-afternoon around 2pm-4pm, but no physical dysfunction is noticeable. Blood sugar imbalances and cravings for stimulants (sugary drinks, coffee, caffeine, chocolate, high carbohydrate foods, and energy drinks) increase to get going in the morning, or for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Stage 2: Cortisol levels fall when the body is unable to keep up the demands for anti-stress hormones. This leads to a constant state of feeling tired and stressed. The thyroid glands are more affected at this stage, and feelings of sluggishness and being cold set in. Weight gain in the abdominals is common. Anxiety, irritability, recurring infections, and PMS or menstrual problems are also seen in this stage. The body needs more rest than usual, but daily activities can be accomplished. It is harder to fall asleep, and stay asleep, and upon waking, feeling unrested. Thyroid, hormone, and anti-depressants are usually prescribed in this stage, but they may have little or no effect. There is an increase in stimulant (caffeine, carbohydrate, nicotine…) use to sustain or lift energy.
Stage 3: In this stage, the adrenals are no longer able to keep up with the prolonged demands of stress and cortisol output gradually decreases even further. High stress events can cause an adrenal crash where no cortisol is produced and limits the ability to even get out of bed. In this stage, it takes longer to recover from severe stresses. Energy only lasts for short amounts of time and the body requires a lot of sleep and rest. Exercise is rarely tolerated and fibromyalgia sets in. The body becomes unable to get rid of toxins, which leads to increased allergies and brain fog, or feelings of mental confusion or lack of mental clarity. Other symptoms include anxiety, increased depression, slow digestion and metabolic rate, decreased libido, insomnia, and hypoglycemia. The ability to perform daily tasks is limited and extreme fatigue leads to bed-rest for most of the day as the adrenal failure increases.
Stage 4: Adrenal fatigue can include cardio-respiratory failure, Addison’s Disease, and death.
Healing Strategies for Adrenal Fatigue
Stress: eliminating unnecessary stress, meditating, relaxing, taking time to do things you enjoy
Sleep: aim for 7.5-8.5 hours, be in bed before 10-10:30 PM (most important) and sleep until 8/9 AM (if possible).
Protein and Vegetables: the adrenals need protein to heal and produce hormones, aim for 20-30 gram 3x/day and about 4 cups of vegetables (especially green or cruciferous for magnesium, foliate, and Vitamin K); organic is best for hormone problems and allergies; also decrease sugar and carbohydrates as they stress the adrenals.
Exercise: low levels of cardio (may not break a sweat), interval training 2-3x week, and weight lifting, are great ways to help stabilize cortisol levels; long-distance or extreme training (longer than an hour, or high intensity) can increase cortisol levels and stress the adrenals.
L-glutamine: is the most abundant amino acid in the body and is used in most of the cells. Stress, injury, surgery, and extreme exercise deplete it. It is used for chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, healing the muscles and stomach, stabilizing blood sugar, and eliminating sugar/carbohydrate cravings. It is best taken on an empty stomach 3-5 grams 2-3x day, 20 minutes before meals, or 90 minutes after, but it will work if you cannot. 1 tsp. powdered form in water, morning, afternoon, and night. Puritan.com has the best price, # 5575 or #067813, but you can also buy online or at any health food store.
Vitamin C: is vital to heal the adrenals and to help with stress hormone production. Emergen-C packets are a great source of this. But you can also try 500 mg ascorbic acid with 250 mg bioflavonoids. **
Pantothenic Acid: is critical for energy production and converting glucose into energy. It is present in all cells but is especially important in the production of adrenal hormones. It helps relieve feelings of stress; start with 500 mg 1-2x day with meals and up to 1,500 mg/day; puritan.com or any health store
Multi-vitamin: Liquid Health Complete Multiple, Liquid Health Daily Multiple, Vitamin Code Raw Women’s Multi Formula (2 a.m./2 p.m.), Vitamin Code Men Raw, Doctor’s Best Multiple, etc. Look for one that has B-12 in the form of methylcobalamin (not cyanocobalamin) and folic acid as L-5MTHF, folate, or in natural form. Vitacost.com
Magnesium: is also critical for healing the adrenals, protecting the heart and brain, and producing energy. Chelated forms of magnesium are usually best – magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, magnesium citrate, magnesium ascorbate, magnesium citromate, magnesium aspartate. Take 400-1,000 mg before bed. The best brands are Klaire Labs, Pure Encapsulations, Doctor’s Best, and Solaray at covenanthealthproducts.com, blueskyvitamins.com, etc.
Sublingual B-12: is essential for thyroid function and energy production; it may not be needed in Stage 1, but as the failure of the adrenal glands progresses the thyroid also shuts down and this is essential for thyroid hormone production. In women, it can also help with cramping, heavy periods, and PMS. Doses for healing are 400mcg – 5000 mcg, depending on severity of symptoms and depletion levels. Take 1 lozenge a.m. Make sure you buy METHYLCOBALAMIN and NOT CYANOCOBALAMIN form. Puritan.com #038261 or #32860, or any health store.
Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder or other adrenal support: an adrenal glandular that promotes healing and production of adrenal hormones; for those is stage 2 or 3 of adrenal fatigue start with 1-2 caps am or early afternoon (before 3); it may make you more tired if you don’t need it but will significantly help with energy if you do, so observe your symptoms.
DHEA: levels decrease beginning in stage 1, however, some people do not need this and an excess of DHEA becomes converted into estrogen and testosterone which can cause increased irritability, headaches, stomach issues, light-headedness, and excess throat mucous. In women, acne and facial growth are signs of too much DHEA. In men, signs of too much DHEA include aggressiveness, male pattern baldness, breast enlargement, and high blood pressure. Only take if you have done a saliva test and test frequently as these levels can rise quickly. Usually changing the diet to include more protein and vegetables and low levels of exercise will increase the levels of DHEA naturally.
Soul and Core by Rain International are amazing supplements that I use with clients to help with many different issues, especially Adrenal Fatigue. They have the highest ORAC ratings for antioxidants than anything else out there.
Note: During times of elevated stress increase pantothenic acid, magnesium, and Vitamin C.
Take aways for My Better Health Choices
Here are some supplement combinations for the different levels of Adrenal Fatigue.
* Puritan’s Pride (http://www.puritan.com)
Everyone responds differently to different supplements. You may find that somethings work better for you, and that you respond poorly to another.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.