Adrenal Fatigue treatment includes lifestyle and food shifts as well as removing emotional stressors, starchy foods, caffeine, tap water and staying up past 10pm.
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The Adrenal Fatigue treatment information in this article is a combination of what I learned throughout the last decade of healing hypothyroidism in my body as well as information from the following Functional/Integrative doctors and their books: Amy Myers M.D. and Aviva Romm M.D., who I truly admire, believe in and agree with. Click on their names for additional Adrenal Fatigue treatment information.
Before you read this article, please read Part I and Part II and Part III so that this all makes sense to you. There is a wealth of information there that will be necessary to understand before you dive into Adrenal Fatigue treatment.
Click the PLAY button below to LISTEN to my tips and strategies for Adrenal Fatigue and thyroid health.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenals. Ahhhhhhh, how I wish I knew about these guys a decade ago before my doctor put me on steroids in my 20s, which took away my pain but also destroyed my adrenals!!! It’s taken me over 10 years to build back my adrenals. So much fun. Let me tell you.
This has become part of my life so I love learning new ways to heal myself, and my adrenals have been anything but easy to heal. They’re tricky and they’re exhausting and you end up feeling depleted, tired and fed up most of the time.
When I learned about Adrenal Fatigue treatment from my Functional/Integrative M.D.s, I was amazed at all the knowledge I found on how I could start to heal these babies, which was KEY for my thyroid health. You’ll never have an optimal thyroid if your adrenals are out of whack.
So, let’s talk about what adrenals are and how you can make sure they’re in tip-top shape. As Susan Blum, M.D. (she was my first Functional M.D.) mentions in 8 Signs You Have Adrenal Fatigue, “When there’s severe, chronic stress, the adrenal glands can stay in the ‘on’ position, making extra amounts of these stress hormones.”
So, what are your adrenals and why should you care about them?
Let me count the ways…
Your adrenals produce your stress hormones, which are super important for your metabolism and they totally effect your thyroid so it’s key to look at these glands when you’re dealing with any sort of thyroid issue. If you’re in that amped-up mode that causes you to feel stressed all the time (and you feel like you can’t turn it off), you’re headed for some degree of Adrenal Fatigue.
In this state, your cortisol is chronically elevated or it’s high when it should be low (at night). Adrenal Fatigue is when your cortisol is chronically low when it should actually be elevated. Your production of stress hormones declines and leaves you with low adrenaline and low cortisol — feeling depleted.
The thyroid and adrenals are interconnected; they influence numerous functions together and they impact each other. Therefore, you can’t just treat one without treating the other
Does Stress Cause Adrenal Fatigue?
You’ve heard about your stress hormones before and we know that we do not want our stress hormones running the show because then our body is in fight/flight mode and everything starts to get out of balance, leaving us with terrible symptoms, aches, pains and frustration, not to mention exhaustion.
These stress hormones regulate everything from your mood to your digestion to your blood sugar to your stress response (acute short term and chronic long term stress), your immune response, blood pressure and so much more. Your adrenals are regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary glad along the HPA axis (the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal axis). Now, let’s break this down.
When you experience some sort of stress (physical, mental or emotional), your hypothalamus lets go of a chemical that sends a signal to your pituitary gland and then your pituitary releases an alert to your adrenals, which then let a whole bunch of stress hormones out into your body. Your body makes adrenaline and noradrenaline, cortisol and dopamine and they’re there to help you when you’re experiencing stress.
Stress can be a good thing or a bad thing. And also a very bad thing! Stress can also be emotional, mental and physical.
I was under HUGE amounts of emotional stress as a child. I was highly sensitive and remember being yelled at and crying all the time because some of the people around me were very intense and angry and so I took all that on myself and it suppressed my immune system and my adrenals. Now that I look back, it all makes sense. I could feel myself being suppressed. I’m highly sensitive to what’s going on in my body as well, and so when I’m being suppressed, I notice it right away.
Anything that your body must do to exert effort on these levels such as an exam, carrying heavy luggage or crying because you got in a fight with your father, is a form of stress. For example, planning a wedding can be stressful but fun. Planning a party can be stressful but fun. So, you see, stress can be fun but also have negative effects.
Not all stress is bad stress. But dealing with a mean woman at work, like my days in fashion, can be a huge stress on your body. Getting let go from a job can be a huge amount of stress. Fighting with your in-laws or a customer service person can be forms of stress for your body, as well.
So, what does all of this have to do with your health?
Well, any form of stress involves your nervous system. Specifically your sympathetic nervous system, a part of your autonomic nervous system. This system takes care of your blood pressure, digestion, breathing, heartbeat and sexual response. When these things need to increase because of a threat, your sympathetic nervous system is in charge and when they need to be relaxed, your parasympathetic nervous system cools them off.
Stress is not a bad thing. We all have stress in many forms but the key is to be able to handle it and to balance your life in a way so that you do not stay in the fight/flight mode all the time. When that happens, you’ll have insomnia, belly issues/digestion issues, exhaustion, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, thyroid issues and many other symptoms. Your immune system will also be very suppressed so you’re susceptible to getting infections and viruses/colds or even catching something like Lyme disease.
Sound familiar? I’m pretty much telling you what happened to me. My nervous system was knocked out of balance so much that my body couldn’t perform it’s regular duties and everything started to shut down because of emotional, physical and mental stressors that I was put under when I was younger, which is why I was a prime case for Adrenal Fatigue treatment.
Your Nervous System
When a threat happens, your sympathetic nervous system stops digesting your food, it stops worrying about producing babies so your reproduction stops and it takes away the priority from worrying about your immune system and your thyroid (because your body thinks it’s in survival fight/flight mode getting chased by a tiger) and your blood rushes out of those areas and into your legs and arms so that you can flee from the tiger your body thinks is chasing you. Your sympathetic nervous system was deigned to deal with physical challenges, so that’s why this reaction occurs.
So, what is really happening is that your body doesn’t care about the long-term focus of your health right now. It’s focused on how to keep you alive right now in this moment through the fight/flight mode. THIS is called the stress response (fight/flight mode). Your blood pressure increases, your palms sweat and you feel pumped up and ready to fight or flee from danger. Sound familiar?
Now, here’s the kicker.
If you’re healthy, your body will fall back into the relaxed state it was in before the threat and your body calms down. Everything shifts back to helping you digest, etc., and your thyroid and reproductive organs go back to work. This relaxation response is spearheaded by your parasympathetic nervous system, the other part of your autonomic nervous system.
If you’re like many people, your stress will be high at work and your sympathetic nervous system will be in full gear helping you tackle everything that comes your way, then you shift into the parasympathetic nervous system at night when you’re with your lover or family or children and you can relax, watch TV, read, eat a nice dinner, cuddle, get ready for bed and perhaps have sex. All of which are quite relaxing to your nervous system. This is ideal.
Fight/Flight and Adrenal Fatigue
When you live in the fight/flight mode all the time and you’re constantly stressed out, you’re setting yourself up for Adrenal Fatigue, because your adrenals been in overdrive for a long period of time and they’re been flooding your body with cortisol until they can’t keep up with the constant demand for more stress hormones. Now, your adrenals cannot produce enough stress hormones and/or they’re producing the wrong types of hormones at the incorrect times.
In a healthy person, your cortisol is high in the morning, which wakes you up, and then the cortisol levels start to decrease throughout the day and into the night until they’re so low that you fall asleep.
Now, when you’ve got Adrenal Fatigue, like I had for probably about 30 years (yes, the majority of my life — I’m only 34), you could wake up feeling like you got hit by a car and you have to drag yourself through your day. Then bedtime comes and you’re wired and can’t fall asleep and you have insomnia. Sound like you?
There are millions of people dealing with this and Western M.D.s do not address Adrenal Fatigue treatment so it’s really sad to know that so many people are not getting the help they need. When I had Adrenal Fatigue, I felt depleted and wired and on edge and by body was so out of whack. It was awful.
I first learned about cytokines years ago when I was dealing with Lyme. What many of us do not realize is that the stress response triggers inflammatory immune cells called cytokines. These cytokines perform many jobs and one of them is to make your thyroid receptors less sensitive to thyroid hormones – meaning that you’ll need more thyroid hormone than usual to have the same impact!
This is where things get tricky because your thyroid blood work (see Part I for the blood work labs to get) can come out perfect but you’ll still be seeing thyroid symptoms because if you’ve got thyroid resistance, you can have the correct levels of thyroid hormone in your blood but your cells are being deprived. Yikes, right? Your hormone in your blood is not getting into your cells where you need it so you’re not seeing an improvement in your symptoms and your blood work can look perfect.
That’s why your thyroid can be so complicated and why it’s key to work with a Functional/Integrative M.D. to address your Adrenal Fatigue treatment so that they can see all of these avenues to dive deep into what’s really going on here.
The Adrenal Thyroid Connection
Now, when your cortisol gets too high, your pituitary and hypothalamus slow down and so they don’t let go of any stress hormones and your thyroid begins to slow down. Now your thyroid stops producing as much thyroid hormone, which causes your metabolism to slow down and you all of a sudden start gaining weight, even though you haven’t changed anything about what you eat or workout. You start to feel fatigued, foggy and unmotivated. Also, when your stress is high, you convert more T3 (read Part III to learn more about Reverse T3), which slows things down and halts your metabolism even more.
The key message to understand here is that when your body is stressed out and the stress does not go away and it’s not taken over by your relaxation response, then your body is in fight/flight mode and you’ll start to see all of your organs slowly shut down and you’ll experience awful symptoms. I’m talking about your digestion, your immune system and your reproductive organs (I had lost my period for years because of this and the Lyme). Everything is connected folks. That’s key to understanding your body!
Letting go of stress and supporting your adrenals is huge if you want your thyroid to function optimally. This is a big part of the Adrenal Fatigue treatment. You cannot expect to keep going on with your stressed out life and expect to heal or feel better. It’s simply not possible. Your body is telling you it needs rest. Listen to it.
There are many ways that you can start to release your stress, which I’ll be talking about soon. For now, focus on your breathing, cutting out things that you don’t need from your life, saying NO more often and giving yourself quiet time away from your phone and your computer. Your body needs this down time to heal and to stay healthy.
Adrenal Fatigue Test
Answer the below questions and see how many you answer yes to. If you answer yes to more than 2, I recommend you see a Functional M.D. to address your Adrenal Fatigue treatment.
- Do you have morning fatigue? Is it hard to wake up before 10am?
- Do you feel sleepy and tired from 2-4pm?
- Do you have burst of energy around 6pm?
- Do you get tired around 9-10pm and resist it and then go to sleep around 1am?
- Do you crave salty foods?
- Do you have PMS?
- Do you have anxiety?
- Do you have a decreased libido?
- Do you get lightheaded when you get up from laying down or sitting?
- Do you have a lot of allergies?
- Do you easily feel overwhelmed?
Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
There are many ways to address Adrenal Fatigue but here are a few. I never wanted to hear these and ignored this advice for years but I have slowly come to understand that these are at the core of what we need to do as we embark on our Adrenal Fatigue treatment journey.
- Avoid becoming overtired.
- Talk to your Functional M.D. about supplements to support your adrenals.
- Avoid negative people.
- Bring happiness and joy back into your life.
- Get into bed by 10pm.
- Get as much rest as you can between 7-9am because these are the optimal hours to restore adrenal function.
- Do something everyday that you enjoy such as going for a walk outdoors.
- Do gentle exercise. Do not do cardio, do not do spinning and do not go running. Easy exercises like yoga and Pilates work well.
Adrenal Fatigue Diet
You know the drill by now and if you’ve read my book, Eating Clean, you know this is what it’s all about. Below are a few points for you to consider during your Adrenal Fatigue treatment.
- Drink high quality purified water.
- Drink a large glass of water immediately when you wake up with 1 tsp. of high quality sea salt such as Redmond.
- Eat within one hour of waking up. Always eat breakfast before 10am because your body needs glycogen after going through the night fasting.
- Eat lunch before 12pm.
- Eat dinner before 6pm.
- Eat 5-7 servings of organic vegetables everyday.
- Eat organic.
- Remove processed foods such as cookies, cakes, breads and rice cakes and crackers.
- Avoid sugar and high sugar fruits.
- Eat small amounts of protein and fat before bed if you have a tendency to wake up between 2-3am.
- Avoid starchy foods such as white potatoes and white rice.
- Eat adrenal supportive food such as dark leafy greens, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and organic grass-fed animal protein.
- Always combine protein and fat at EVERY meal and snack.
- Avoid caffeine and coffee, which are stimulants and interrupt your sleep pattern. Drink herbal tea and try dandelion root tea if you’re having a hard time cutting out coffee.
Adrenal Fatigue Supplements
There are numerous supplements you can use for Adrenal Fatigue but remember, you have to get to the root cause of WHY you have adrenal fatigue before you start your adrenal fatigue treatment. If you don’t, the supplements will just be a waste of money!
Talk to your Functional M.D. about the following supplements to support your adrenals. But please know that anything that supports your adrenals will increase your estrogen so this may lead to worse PMS, acne, weight gain or mood swings – something NO ONE told me about until recently. Probably because no doctor understood this!
- Holy Basil