The current pandemic has shed light on the health effects of chronic stress and anxiety on the human body. In the alternative medicine community, one health condition widely believed to be caused by constant exposure to stressful environments is adrenal fatigue.
Naturopathic doctors explained that the adrenal glands, a small pair of organs located above the kidneys, cannot function well when under prolonged stress. As a result, cortisol (the hormone partly responsible for the fight or flight response) is inefficiently produced.
While stress is inevitable, all hope is not lost, as several interventions are available to an individual with this condition. The good news is that these solutions do not require any medications. The simple act of altering your diet and tweaking your lifestyle offers a great possibility that this condition can be remedied.
Without further ado, let us tackle the things you need to know on how to treat adrenal fatigue naturally.
Adrenal fatigue — symptoms, causes, and treatments
Adrenal fatigue is a dysfunction of the communication between the brain and the adrenal glands. This should explain why chronic exposure to stress is being pointed out as the culprit for this condition, although there are other possible causes.
The symptoms associated with having adrenal fatigue are commonly found with other health conditions as well, which makes it more challenging to detect. The Endocrine Society does not consider adrenal fatigue as an actual disease.
Naturopathic and alternative medicine practitioners, though, are adamant that adrenal fatigue is an actual medical condition. There is a belief that the following signs indicate having this disease:
- Chronic fatigue
- Sleep deprivation
- Brain fog
- Sugar and/or salt cravings
- Insulin resistance
- Reduced sex drive
- Skin ailments
- Digestive problems
- Body aches
- Weight loss/gain
- Issues with blood sugar levels
- Hair loss
- Low blood pressure
- Weak fingernails
Since it is the naturopathic and alternative medicine doctors that are firm believers in this condition, it is not surprising that the commonly found treatments are natural. As for naturopathic therapies for other diseases, the regimen revolves around food, lifestyle, and sometimes, supplements.
The adrenal fatigue diet
When you go to your doctor for a check-up, many times he will list what and what not to eat based on their diagnosis. The same is true for adrenal fatigue. Certain food groups add to the stress of your adrenal glands; whereas some have anti-inflammatory and other health benefits. Check out the table below to have a glimpse of these food items:
- What to munch on — Lean meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, leafy and other vegetables, whole grains, dairy, low-sugar fruits, sea salt, healthy oils (olive, grapeseed, coconut), avocado, fermented foods (except alcoholic drinks), organ meats, oysters, turkey and tofu.
- Say “NO” to these — Caffeine, processed foods, sugar and sweeteners, carbohydrates-loaded foods, hydrogenated oils (soy, canola, corn), white flour products and fast foods.
It looks like a regular healthy diet, right? We're missing a thing, though. Water! Keeping yourself hydrated reduces the stress to your body, thereby maintaining homeostasis or the state of balance in the body systems.
Water is also the primary medium on which nutrients and hormones are transported throughout the body, so make sure to always be hydrated.
Recommended foods and why you should eat them
The amino acid tryptophan, which is in foods such as turkey, is essential in the production of the sleep hormone serotonin, so you can sleep better. It can also be obtained from other sources such as meats, tofu, dairy, eggs, nuts, fish, oysters, cruciferous vegetables, and legumes.
Sea salt helps replenish your endocrine system, including the adrenal glands. Of course, everything must be eaten in moderation. A little bit of everything is ideal, and the frequency of consumption must also be monitored.
Why avoid these tasty treats?
Now, why avoid caffeine? For obvious reasons, this is a stimulant, meaning it will ruin your sleep.
Then why do some people feel sleepy after sipping a cup of coffee? Since coffee is a diuretic (meaning it induces the production of urine), the reduction of fluids in our body when we urinate causes our blood to thicken, thereby slowing down the flow of blood to our brain, which in turn causes drowsiness. Still, when the effects of caffeine kick in, you become wide awake.
Most of the foods in the right column are carbohydrate-rich. When these carbohydrates are broken down into their simplest unit (sugars), added stress is caused to your adrenal glands. Similarly, processed foods such as bacon and canned meat usually have high sugar content. They are also rich in bad fats, just like hydrogenated oils, which cause inflammation of the adrenal glands and other body organs.
Vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements
Aside from consuming and avoiding certain foods, taking supplements in the form of pills, oils, or teas can help alleviate adrenal fatigue symptoms. While most are present in the foods we eat, supplements provide a convenient way of getting your required dose of these nutrients. Others, such as essential oils, are convenient to rub on your skin or incorporate in your bathtub, both of which provide a relaxing feeling and reduce stress.
Herbal teas offer a great alternative to coffee and part of a meal. Chamomile tea is one of the more famous "non-tea" teas and is known to reduce stress and provide a soothing effect. Another one is the rooibos tea, which can influence the balance of cortisol levels. Veer away from the common tea since this is rich in caffeine as well.
In addition, certain herbal supplements have been found to support the adrenal glands. These include:
- Licorice root — This was shown to increase dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), the parent hormone responsible for the production of hormones in the body. It was also studied that it reduces androgen and testosterone levels in women.
- Fish oils — This has gained traction as a nutraceutical lately, thanks to counter-acting certain medical complications and symptoms. If you are familiar with the TV commercials about Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids found in fishes, what they are saying is that their products are good sources of these healthy oils.
- Magnesium — A mineral that plays a vital role in several body functions, it is a cofactor in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. These include (but is not limited to) boosting the immune system, blood pressure regulation, and improved bone density.
- Vitamin C — The ever-reliable nutrient, Vitamin C has become synonymous with a healthy immune system, as it has a stress-busting capability. It also plays a significant role in the formation of collagen, which is important for your joints and repairing body cells.
- Vitamin D — Known to many as the sun vitamin, this nutrient plays a significant part in the most crucial body processes, mainly aiding in the absorption of calcium for improved bone health.
- Selenium — This is another mineral that was shown to affect adrenal function when it drops to an insufficient amount. It has antioxidant properties, which means that it fights toxins in our body known as free radicals, thereby protecting us from cell damage.
- Lavender oil — This is an essential oil that has been shown to reduce stress. It is also widely studied for its ability to limit episodes of insomnia in sleep-deprived people. Other benefits include antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, antidepressant, antispasmodic, detoxifying, hypotensive, and analgesic properties.
- Rosemary oil — Like lavender oil, this can reduce cortisol level and brings down oxidative stress in the human cells. A study investigating the effect of rosemary oil as part of aromatherapy found out that subject individuals felt fresher after inhalation of its essence.
- B-complex vitamins — Vitamins B12 and B5, otherwise known as cyanocobalamin and pantothenic acid, are found in meats. If you are reducing meat consumption to address adrenal fatigue, then take supplements of these substances. Vitamin B5 and B12 are widely regarded for their function in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.
- Adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola Rosea, ashwagandha, holy basil, and Schisandra — these particular classes of medicinal plants all work to increase the body's stress tolerance. Holy basil has phytochemicals that improve stress response, whereas Ashwagandha prevents lipid peroxidation, or the damaging of lipid layers of the cells, usually due to bacterial infection.
Since adrenal fatigue originates from chronic stress, it is a no-brainer that the primary solution to treating this is reducing the pressure inflicted on one's body. However, how do you reduce something that has become integral to societal development? Is it possible to live without stress?
The answer is obviously no. Fortunately, by reducing your exposure to stress, you also reduce the probability of contracting stress-related ailments.
So, below are several solutions on how to treat adrenal fatigue naturally by incorporating some lifestyle changes:
- Meditate — This relaxes your mind and body, thereby reducing stress.
- Sleep — Nothing is better for the body’s recuperation than good quality sleep.
- Eat — Do not skip meals.
- Exercise — Avoid high-intensity workouts.
- Enjoy the sun — Sunlight is an important element in the synthesis of Vitamin D.
- Be positive — Worrying weakens the immune system and contributes to the formation of free radicals.
To cap it off, while we live in a world where success is equated to being busy, look at what the most successful personalities are up to. Founders of Facebook and other giant companies can be seen taking a stroll in a park or forest while some read their favorite books during the weekend.
It just shows that taking a break from work for your well-being, coupled with a healthy diet and some supplements, is just as important as logging in the hours. Next time you feel overwhelmed and exhausted, you can settle, breathe, and follow the suggestions above for a healthier and more productive you!