Are you chronically tired for no reason? Do you feel rundown and overwhelmed? It could be adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when your adrenal glands cannot adequately meet the demands of stress. From the demands of work, to family obligations, to the hurried pace of the city and our technology-driven society, many of us feel like we’re under a constant siege of stress.
While the “fight or flight” stress response mobilized by the adrenal glands is a key to our survival as a species, prolonged stress, whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological, exhausts the adrenal glands, leads to sleeplessness, irritability, and fatigue. When our adrenal glands are constantly required to pump out cortisol, they eventually become impaired. Your body does its best to compensate for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it comes at the price of your metabolism, heart and cardiovascular system, sex drive, and even your sleep.
Research has found that sleep disturbances are directly related to increased sensitivity to the arousal-producing stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is excitatory, which means it arouses us, wakes us up, and leaves us primed for action long after the stressor is gone. Unfortunately, when we’re under prolonged periods of stress, our cortisol levels remain elevated and our adrenal glands, small pyramid-shaped glands that sit atop each kidney, never get a chance to recharge.
When we consistently don’t get a good night’s sleep, our circadian rhythm becomes disrupted. This negatively affects our serotonin and melatonin, hormones which govern appetite and mood. In other words, not only does stress keep us in an agitated state by agitating our cortisol levels, but it can lead to cravings, obesity, and blood sugar imbalances which have been shown to negatively impact mood.
While it may feel like you’re caught in a vicious cycle of stress, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and mood swings, it’s possible to break free by incorporating these six tips in your daily routine:
1. Eat breakfast.
Make a point of eating a high-fiber, high-protein breakfast every morning to stabilize blood sugar and improve mental alertness.
2. Eat regularly.
It’s important to keep up the momentum after a nutritious breakfast. Skipping meals leads to irritability and mood swings because our mood rises and falls alongside the dips in our blood sugar. Try eating four or five small, well-balanced meals per day.
3. Ditch the junk.
Remove refined, highly-processed food from your diet. This includes sugary snacks, deep-fried food, processed lunch meats, and pre-packaged items with additives, preservatives, dyes, and flavouring agents. These food-like items rob your body of the nutrients it needs to support healthy adrenal function. Our adrenal glands thrive on zinc, manganese, vitamin C, and the B vitamins found in dark leafy greens.
4. Skip the stimulants.
Say goodbye to caffeine that leaves you feeling wired, yet tired! Propping yourself up with coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks will inevitably lead to a crash. These unsustainable forms of energy over-stimulate your adrenal glands and they’re also unnecessary sources of sugar and calories.
5. Supplement with herbs.
Adaptogenic herbs like maca, ashwaganda, and rhodiola can help the body cope with stress and fatigue. For specific doses of these super supplements, consult your health care practitioner.
6. Wind down.
If you have a habit of watching the news before bed or mindlessly browsing the internet, consider a new routine. Unplug and opt for a relaxing bath or a series of yoga stretches to help your mind and body relax.