Adrenal Fatigue: How to Fight Back

Sandra

Guest blogger, Sandra, has 15 years of international experience in the Beauty & Wellness industry. She is obsessed with her hair, restorative yoga, riding her horse and currently runs the health blog, Radiance.

‘Adrenal fatigue’ refers to a collection of symptoms including body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. Viewed as a mild form of Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency), the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ is widely used in alternative medicine, but not recognized by the mainstream medical community. Guest blogger, Sandra, details her personal experiences:

It has been eight months since my world pretty much came crashing down around me in more ways than one. For the past ten years I have been living in a chaotic mess. I seemed to draw chaos to me. I had no idea of the toll that living a life suspended in such a high and prolonged state of stress would take on me physically, mentally and spiritually. The comedown had been in the cards for a long, long time. I saw many warning signs along the way but I didn’t have the time, knowledge or where-with-all to deal with this thing called ‘life.’

In short, life sometimes causes us to crash so we can stop, wake up and get a clue.

I am extremely grateful and honored that God helped me out of my chaos and showed me things can always get better. Basically, this is what I have gleaned and put into action over the past five months from a myriad of people, books, conversations and resources to finally beat adrenal fatigue once and for all!

Adrenal Fatigue

• I have a Smoothie for breakfast (containing protein and good fats) as it is easy on the digestive system.

Digesting food and its nutrients requires energy from the body to break things down. As fatigued people need to conserve or redirect energy elsewhere, this is a gentle way for your body to start the day.

• I have breakfast within one hour of arising to keep my blood sugar levels even.

Many fatigued people skip breakfast as we’re not hungry first thing in the morning due to our low liver function. Having breakfast prevents our body from having to play catch up for the rest of the day and also helps the dreaded mid-morning sugar/coffee slump we usually end up in. Note: Coffee does NOT constitute breakfast!

• I boosted my Vitamin C levels through supplements to get me kick-started, then maintained through diet.

The more cortisol (stress hormone) used, the more Vitamin C your body uses.

Small increases of cortisol produce positive effects like improved memory, reduced sensitivity to pain and increased sustained energy. However, elevated cortisol levels from prolonged or chronic stress can cause side effects such as suppression of thyroid function, cognitive impairment, increased blood pressure, decreased bone density and blood sugar imbalances. High levels of cortisol can also lower your immunity and inflammatory responses, as well as slow down the wound healing process. – Lee, J.R. (2009). Cortisol and The Stress Connection. Virginia Hopkins Health Watch.

Ashwagandha• I take my recommended dose of Adaptogen herbs daily – Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwaganda, Maca and Siberian Ginseng.

Ginseng improves physical performance, but also removes mental fatigue. Maca root, dubbed the ‘Peruvian Ginseng’, increases strength, energy, stamina, libido and sexual function. In Russia, Rhodiola Rosea has been used for centuries to cope with the cold Siberian climate and stressful life.

• I walk – not power walking with a purpose – just out and about strolling.

I’m fortunate enough to live in the most beautiful country in the world *cheeky* so walking in nature is my absolute lifeline. I struggled with this when living in other countries where nature barely existed or when I worked from dark until dark. If you’re in the same situation, perhaps you can download nature sounds if that’s your thing and walk. We all know exercising instantly boosts endorphins, but exercise gently when you have chronic fatigue.

• The biggest change I had to make was to my nutrition/diet (or lack thereof).

Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson I am not. My nutrition consisted largely of eating out and snacking on highly sugared and processed foods to keep me going interspersed with the ‘Cigarette and Caffeine Diet’ I followed when I became a bit pudgy. Smoothies, juices, chia seeds, spinach and the rest of the Superfood Family were NOT a part of my world. Slowly I have had to re-learn to eat properly and regularly. The foods I did eat were nutrient deficient, therefore I gained no energy, nutrients or goodness from what I was putting into my body. That coupled with my celiac disorder meant my hair was not growing and was actually starting to fall out. If that doesn’t call a girl to action then I don’t know what will!

energy vampires• I cut the ‘Energy Vampires’ out of my life.

I know this sounds harsh, but these people DRAIN mental, physical and spiritual energy stores. Energy Vampires – you know the ones, you see them coming and swear under your breath, roll your eyes, tense your body, breathe more rapidly and feel absolutely exhausted and depleted before they’ve even said hello. Now I choose who I give my time to, who I limit and who I have no contact with anymore.

• I started being true to myself…

I had always hated that expression, I found it very ‘Oprah’ and never truly knew what it meant until I stopped and had time to rest. I literally didn’t have the energy to play the game or be who I thought I should be anymore. And, more importantly I started to speak. My best friend said to me once, “Speak, tell them how you feel.” It was such a simple statement, but I heard her that day. It’s something I still struggle with but it feels great to have a voice, to be heard and know ones worth. In fact, she is the reason I started my blog – to have a voice. Now I have a clear set of values, personally and professionally that won’t be crossed.

• I invested in a juicer and blender.

Eating copious amounts of vegetables everyday was not an enticing thought at first, but it is an easy and tasty way to gain the nutrients your body craves. Note: not ALL juices are horrid, trust me.

• I cut out all stimulants such as cigarettes, alcohol, energy drinks, high-sugar laden foods and caffeine.

Thankfully, I have never been much of a drinker so alcohol was easy. I finally quit smoking last June after smoking for a lot of years. It was tough, as I have always been a worrier prone to anxiety and bad nerves. Whatever you want to call them, ‘ciggies’ were my crutch, my friend and were always there for me when life got tough. Sad huh? I still miss them sometimes emotionally but the thought of inhaling all those toxins again thankfully grosses me out. I also cut down on caffeine – I thought this was going to be impossible to be honest! Remember to know your limits and accept them. I didn’t quit cigarettes and caffeine both cold turkey, it was more of a slow culling process for me. We all learn differently and this is good. Please don’t stress! You can incorporate caffeine back into your world at a later date if you desire. Now I have one coffee a week and man do I enjoy it ! (I love this post by fellow blogger, The Holistic Ingredient, regarding coffee.) Instead, I have started drinking jasmine green tea or organic apple cider vinegar with warm water. I love apple cider vinegar as it contains a myriad of mineral and antioxidants, plus it helps to curb sugar cravings.

Forbid adrenal stimulating foods and drugs, especially coffee … The adrenals are already over-stimulated. – Practical Endocrinology, 2nd Edition, Henry R. Harrower, 1929, pg. 86

chinese chart• I learned to breath and meditate properly.

Check out my post by Kavita Maharaj. Download some Guided Meditations and sneak away in your lunch break. Ten minutes is all that is needed sometimes to rebalance yourself midway through the day. I do it in bed at night sometimes too, just to re-center myself on an extremely stressful day. You don’t need to be an expert, I found a lot of information on YouTube which helped lead to other websites. I found a free adult course in my city that offers meditation classes every Monday night for eight weeks. They often run free workshops and seminars too, so check your community newspapers.

• I explored alternative therapies.

Like most things, what works for me may not work for you as our bodies may be healthier in certain areas and waning in others. Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue isn’t recognized by mainstream medicine. Integrative doctors, however, are fantastic. They treat the Mind, Body and Spirit holistically. I’m fortunate in that I’m trained in holistics so I sought out the healing benefits of acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine and various ayurvedic practices.

• I explored my spirituality.

A busy life doesn’t lend time to true connection of any kind these days. Acknowledge God or a Higher Power, rest in the fact that if you don’t get something done, the world still goes on. We ARE NOT, contrary to our own beliefs, the center of our own universe.

• I am not contactable 24 hours a day anymore.

Pre-burnout, I was a Blackberry addict, dealing with information and socialization overload 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I had what is commonly known as F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out). Nowadays you can miss me out, I don’t care!

• I’m in bed at 10.30pm every night (okay, most nights).

In the words of Wendyl, New Zealand’s ‘Green Goddess’:  “It’s okay to be a Nana.” According to Dr. James Wilson, a pioneer in adrenal fatigue work:

It is important to be in bed and asleep before your second wind hits at about 11pm. Riding your second wind and staying up until 1.00 or 2.00AM will further exhaust your adrenals, even though you may feel more energetic during that time than you have felt all day. In order to avoid this pitfall, make sure that you are in bed before 10.30PM, so that your adrenal glands do not have a chance to kick into overdrive for that second wind.

I know going to bed may be difficult for many as this is when you finally get some ‘me time’ after the kids have gone to bed and everything else has wound down. Again, I fought this for a while feeling it was ridiculous to go to bed so early but after a few nights it was what my body wanted. Remember this is for healing and, just like caffeine, I’m sure you can pull the odd all-nighter or late night further down the healing path. I have had in the past terrible bouts of insomnia through worry or just being tired but wired. I started taking Magnesium Ultra Supplements which helps to ease and relax the nervous system.

Epsom Salts• I started to bathe in epsom salts once a week.

I give my body a good ole scrubdown to increase my magnesium and help rid it off excess toxins. Please read this article about the benefits of bathing in epsom salts. (And it’s cheap to buy! YAY!)

• I read anything I could get my hands on about healing (natural, alternative, mainstream…).

These two books helped me immensely and if you are suffering or think you may have adrenal fatigue I strongly suggest you get them:

Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Stress Syndrome (Dr. James Wilson)

REVIVE! End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again (Dr. Frank Lipman)

• I stopped being a martyr – and asked for help!

Let go of the reigns a little. Again, this is something I have noticed we don’t do much of anymore in western society. Keeping up with The Jones’s and not airing our ‘dirty laundry’ takes a toll and separates us from our community. I’m not saying over-share or become helpless, but ask for help every now and then.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to take a year off work to completely and fully recover. I realize most people don’t have this luxury – people suffering with adrenal fatigue who have children, dependants and businesses of their own can’t commit the time as I did to fully recovering, but it can be done by making changes slowly as time, energy and finances dictate.

Baby steps… Make a commitment to yourself that you deserve a happy, joyful life that is deliciously divine!

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Comments

  1. says

    Awesome post, Sandra. I have a friend suffering from adrenal fatigue so I am going to share this with her. I love your style of writing. Great to “meet” you here.

    • sandra says

      Hello Amy, I’m a fairly straight talker so thank you for the compliment. I truly hope my findings are an encouragement and of some help to your friend. All the best to you both :)

  2. Teri says

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am presently fighting stage 3 adrenal fatigue. I too have Dr. Wilson’s book and it has helped me. My issue now is allergies. Between stuffy nose and fluid in my ears it is hard some days to get my focus straight. Hopefully after my food allergy test in two weeks I will get this under control.
    Teri

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing! It makes me feel better to know that others understand how fatigue can make you feel. I always have a to do list for the day and always worry about getting everthing done. Usually only a few things get done and the world does go on.

    • says

      Hello Jess, having the ‘to do list’ is a phenomenal tool for the control freak isn’t it ! I am a fan :) I’ve slowly come to learn that trying to push my way through the list is just not worth it somedays. I generally wait now until I have the energy and enthusiasm and then things seem to get done a lot more efficiently and easily. Learning to go easy on yourself and not be so rigid is a wonderful and freeing tool for us to learn. Have a great week Jess and thank you for sharing, I certainly know how you feel x

  4. Dee says

    Oh my gosh….yes, I resonate with all of this…I have a lot of issues really…but so fed up with docs or too scared of them…again, email me :) Only if u want though :) I must check out this gal’s blog also.

  5. jennifer says

    SO happy that I ran across your blog & this post! i have recently been diagnosed w/ adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, & a plethora of food allergies/sensitivites. it definitely is all overwhelming and I am just trying to do as much research as i can. Even though I have a good support system, sometimes i feel that it is just impossible to completely understand how this affects day to day life. Its nice to read that others are experiencing the same symptoms, thoughts, frustrations, etc. Thanks again!!

    • says

      You really have been hit hard Jennifer, and it sounds as though you’re having to make some big changes in your life too. I’m so glad you have great support it makes a HUGE difference and that this post helped you out. Bless you, I hope things will become better for you soon !

  6. says

    THANK YOU so much for this post! I’ve only recently become more aware of adrenal fatigue but what I’ve read hits home enough that I want to try and nurture it more. This post is SO helpful as I begin that journey. I already take magnesium but ordered an adrenal support complex to take as well. I do juice a lot and I used to be very good about lots of yoga and meditation but I’ve slacked off of late. Mainly, I just want to sleep. I have no problem sleeping. Problem is, I want to go back to sleep almost as soon as I wake up. I feel like I could sleep ALL the time almost and that leads to feeling guilty for not DOING stuff and feeling unproductive, etc. And of course, that leads to MORE stress. I’m in a constant struggle to know whether it is better to force myself to get up and drag through doing stuff or to allow myself to sleep as I wish. I don’t know what’s best there. Anyway, I am going to do some of the tricks here, starting with an epsom salt bath right now. THANK YOU again!

    • says

      Hi Karen, its really frustrating dealing with the thoughts of “I should be” and “I’m so lazy”. Please just try to relax and accept where you today in life. I honestly seemed to just sleep for months so I know exactly how you’re feeling. Please keep in touch and let me know if any of the suggestions Ive made in the article make an impact with you. Please take and just chill ;)

  7. Lorraine says

    Sandra,
    I’ve been suffering with fibromyalgia, severe gut issues and a host of other things for years. In 2009 I went through the terrible trauma of having Breast Cancer in March, 4 Pulmonary Embolisms in May and Open Heart Surgery in September. Already one who lived a hectic lifestyle, 2009 brought me to my knees. I am trying to address my Adrenal Fatigue and I really appreciate your blog on this. Really well thought out and well presented. I’m considering taking a glandular supplement but I also know that meditation, rest and supplements work hand in hand.

    ]

    • says

      Lorraine, I’m sorry to hear 2009 was such a shocker. I think that load of illness would have bought anyones life to an astounding stop. You really have been through a lot and Im sorry to hear it. I appreciate your comments immensely, you are right though about the treatments all working hand-in-hand. Please stay in touch and let me know of your recovery process. Blessings to you :)

  8. Sandra says

    Hi there. I was wondering what you put in your smoothie for breakfast. I am finding breakfast to be the most difficult meal. I am not sure what to put in a smoothie anymore since bananas are forbidden, no fruit in the morning, & no dairy. I used to do spinach plus apple, banana, frozen berries, yogurt and almond milk. Then found out I shouldn’t be eating veggies and fruits together! Don’t know what to eat for break – the most important meal apparently…..please help,
    Sandra

    • says

      Hi Sandra and Barb, thanks so much for asking about smoothie ingredients. There’s so many option really lessened only by your personal allergies. Personally I use Rice Milk as a base with 1tsp of Chia Seeds soaked into it. You want to basically add as many vegetative nutrients into one smoothie as possible so I use ‘Body Ecology’s’ ~ Vitality Supergreen Powder Supplement, its packed with green and red algae, fermented green veggies, pro and pre-biotics as well as a proprietal intestinal support blend. i then add in frozen Raspberries (my favourite), Maca Powder and maybe 1/3 of a banana.
      Like I said so much depends on your own allergies and tastes. If you can have milk then coconut water is another great option. The options are endless.
      Please check out a number of smoothie recipes I have pinned up and found on Pinterest so knock yourself out and the link to reading more about Body Ecology’s Vitality Supergreen Powder.

      http://www.pinterest.com/palomino72/mcjuice-mcsmoothie/

      http://bodyecology.com/the-immune-system-vitality-supergreen.html#sthash.D2d77Gzb.dpbs

      Please let me know if any of these ideas help you out any and good luck x

  9. Amber says

    Very well written and understood! Seems i’m on the right path to recovery, I love your outlook on how this has changed your life and allowed you to view things from a different perspective. This experience has brought me closer to God and strengthen my marriage as well. Blessing to those who are in the recovery process, it will happen.

    • says

      Hey Amber, I’m stoked to hear you’re on the path to recovery and that you’re marriage hasn’t suffered in the process. Thanks so much for reading and the compliment :)

  10. Dixie says

    What a great find….always surfing the net…and this morning when I found your site…I felt blessed….
    I have saved the site and will refer to it as needed….I am just beginning my road to recovery through elimination and discovery…..I am sure so many of your suggestions will help…..Thanks for all of your insight and God Bless You.

  11. Dennis says

    Very useful information here. My wife suffers from this and it has been such a struggle for her. I am trying to learn more about this so I can try and be of some help. Thank you all for your posts. :)

    • says

      Hi Dennis, what a wonderful husband you are! I’m sure you are a huge strength to your wife especially as you’re doing research and looking for answers. Sadly many people don’t have someone like you so it’s important that you encourage and introduce positive steps and changes in your wife’s life. Blessings :)

  12. Debbie says

    I’m so happy I came across this. I have fibromyalgia and RA and I am so tired of all the meds. I used to use alternative medicine and it helped my CFS so so much.Then I couldn’t afford it and went the western medicine route. I so regret it as they loaded me up with so much meds. I was told that I am at stage 3 adrenal fatigue so I know I’m walking on a tightrope. I’m praying that I can get myself to the point that I will be strong enough to wean myself off the meds. Thank you so much for meds.

  13. says

    Fantastic post. Really good information, and practical. There are some things here that I can definitely use in practice.

    Another thing for people to keep in mind is the importance of cortisol and DHEA testing – especially through saliva. These are the primary hormones implicated in adrenal exhaustion. The ability to evaluate where in the day cortisol is high, low or even normal, makes it more convenient when looking to implement various nutritional supplements. For example, licorice root, which is known to increase the half-life, can be timed to a specific time of the day. For example, if your salivary cortisol level is normal in the morning, but low at noon than it makes more sense to take licorice root around 11 am, as opposed to first thing in the morning.

  14. says

    Another comment about this article. The use of Epsom Salt is an important tool to help with relaxation of the body, taking pressure off the adrenals. Epsom Salt is magnesium sulfate and has been used for years as a way to help with muscle aches and pains. However, the magnesium in epsom salt is important for nervous system function to help with diminishing sympathetic activity which is linked to the “flight or fight” response. Many people are deficient in magnesium. Also, the sulfate is an important chemical that provides substrate for the methylation cycle (helpful for attention, focusing, and improved brain chemistry), as well as detoxification. There are creams of Epsom Salt too which is great for kids and people not able to take baths or whose skin may be sensitive to a bath of epsom salts.

  15. Kelly says

    What a fantastic piece of writing. At 23 after a serious bout of influenza and horrible recovery, doctors visit after doctors visit trying to find out what was wrong with me I gave up on all hope and trust in my doctors I went to a naturopath … 6 months down that track I actually see the light! Only thing I find hard it changing the eating habits… Baby steps though right! :) ps the lady in the above comments that had a horrific 2009 I wish you all the very best xx

    • says

      Hi Kelly, sorry for the late response. I hope you’re still seeing the light :) I agree with your whole-heartedly about food being the biggest and slowest change to make. I still struggle in this area but compared to a year ago I’ve made a lot of progress . I have found that juicing has helped immensely. Please watch ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead by Joe Cross. I’m convinced now that food more so than supplements can heal our bodies fully. I generally do one large green juice a day as I can’t force feed myself enough vegetables :) Have a great week Kelly and take care :)

  16. Cheryl says

    I’ve been suffering with Adrenal fatigue for months before I knew what I was dealing with. I have fibromyalgia and have digestive issues. I started a vitamin regimen with supplements and can tell of some changes but my sleep is still off..2a.m. I’m up! Im sorry to say that I’m a smoker and the.thought scares me of how sick this may make me. I’ve gone down but haven’t stopped. So nervous I’ll never get better.Thank u for ur blog for I feel.very alone. Much luv

    • says

      Hi Cheryl, I’m stoked you found Jessica’s webpage and this article. Its definitely a frustrating illness especially when the mind is constantly telling you ‘its laziness’, ‘depression’ or some other negative soul destroying messages we feed ourselves. Don’t be so hard on yourself, I smoked on and off for 25 years so I know how hard it can be to cut down or fully quit, you’ll get there, remember this is a process and many, many people are in the same boat Cheryl. I’ve been really amazed at the feedback I’ve received since Jess posted this article. Keep poking around the Prayers and Apples website and my blog as I’m positive there are tips there that can aid you as you slowly begin to make the changes you need to. Baby steps ! Feel free to send me an email anytime as you’re surely not alone X

  17. Shabbir_dossa says

    Hello!!! Guys,
    I fought with my adrenal fatigue with ayurveda and its simple, yes food makes a big difference but you need to fire up your digestive oven.
    Need to buy pitpapra juice, brahmi amla juice and choti dudhi juice and take it twice a day before your breakfast and dinner. Also take some harde, which are digestive pills. People who have adrenal fatigue should have gerd, acidity etc. juicing does help and if you want to heal yourself internally then go for organic vegetable juice fast for a week also but i recommend first to fire up your digestive oven so that uou can start metabolzing the food you eat, get some strength and then go for the fast.

  18. says

    This is really great info. I suffered from adrenal fatigue for many years and this is the type of advice that really helped me to overcome my problem. So, to all you sufferers, YES! There is hope! Just don’t lose faith and know that your body can heal itself. I was lucky to find some great advice that helped me overcome my adrenal fatigue and get better.

    Here is one of the resources that helped me a lot:

    http://adrenalfatiguenomore.com/adrenalfatigue.html

  19. Elaine says

    Thank you for this post. I am 2 weeks in not smoking. I had no idea how much my body truly needed that fix because of this raging hormonal imbalance. 3rd quit. But I can already tell it’s my last. There is no chance in heck even one cig is worth this process. This “body in healing” process is awful to get through. Looking forward to the upswing. Until then, I’ll be reading this over & over since brain fog keeps me from retaining anything at this time. For now, an Epsom salt bath sounds delightful.

    Elaine

  20. G from Canada says

    Can someone give tips on how to overcome intense sweet and salt cravings? As well as waking up in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep? Thanks

    • says

      Hello G, I deal with this every day as a functional medicine practitioner. Many of my patients wake up in the middle of the night due to blood sugar levels dropping too low. The adrenal glands produce cortisol and one function of cortisol is to raise blood sugar levels when they get too low. When cortisol is released in the middle of the night to increase blood sugar levels, it wakes the person up. In terms of food, I write a great deal about it for free on my website. Enjoy and e-mail me if you have any questions. Thank you. Mike

      http://mikedaciuk.com/daily-health-blog/how-to-reduce-carbohydrate-cravings-2/

  21. Royalistic J says

    Hello,thank you Sandra and Jessica,
    I suffer as I cannot wake up in the morning Even with several alarms going on, I’ve all the symptoms of adrenal fatigue,
    It’s the worse when I’ve coffee even though I’ve one cup and only once a Week!,
    Please tell me what to do as I lost many jobs and relationships because of that,
    Thanks,

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