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What is Adrenal Fatigue and How can you prevent it? 

Have you ever heard of adrenal fatigue? Chances are, you’ve come across this term before at some point. It is associated with feelings of tiredness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, body aches, and general malaise. Proponents of this term use the theory that it is caused by overworked adrenal glands, as a result of difficult situations in life or too much work/stress.

What many people don’t know, is that adrenal fatigue isn’t a real medical term. There is not yet any evidence of its existence as a real medical condition. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t exist, just that there isn’t yet enough evidence to support it in the medical world. Nevertheless, people around the world suffer from the symptoms associated with this theoretical health problem and are looking for ways to improve their vitality and wellbeing.

In this article, we discuss adrenal fatigue – what it is, how it is (apparently) caused, and what you can do to help improve your energy levels and vitality.

adrenal fatigue concept tired in the morning

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a term given to a number of symptoms that are often associated with overworked adrenal glands.[1] There is a difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency, which is a medical term used to describe under-responsive signals sent from adrenal glands to the brain.

Adrenal fatigue was first coined by the naturopath James Wilson, PhD, in 1998.[2] It is an unproven theory that the adrenal glands are not able to keep up with the demands of continuous flight-or-fight response from stress, which causes a variety of symptoms.

Symptoms of Adrenal fatigue include:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Digestive problems [3]

Adrenal insufficiency is a medical term and is also known as Addison's Disease.[4] It is a rare endocrine disease that affects around 1 in 100’000 people. In this disease, the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient cortisol (and, in some cases, aldosterone), which has serious adverse effects on the body. This usually occurs after the adrenal glands are damaged. To diagnose this disorder, doctors use blood tests to test for cortisol levels.

adrenal gland 3d renderingSymptoms of Adrenal insufficiency include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Craving for salty foods
  • Irritability and depression
  • Low blood sugar
  • Loss of libido [5]

 

The theory of adrenal fatigue is that it is a non-clinical, “weaker” form of adrenal insufficiency. According to proponents of adrenal fatigue, stressful events in life (like the loss of a loved one, or a difficult break-up) put excess pressure on the adrenal glands, which eventually causes them to fatigue and not produce as much cortisol as before, but not to the extent of adrenal insufficiency.[6]

 

What are the Adrenal Glands?

The adrenal glands are two small glands located above the kidneys, sometimes called the suprarenal glands. Your adrenal glands produce hormones that are used for a number of functions in the body, including immune system support, regulation of blood pressure, and response to stress (the ‘fight-or-flight’ response). [7]

With regards to adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency, the most important characteristic of the adrenal glands is their role in the production of cortisol and aldosterone hormones.

  • Cortisol: A glucocorticoid hormone, often referred to as a ‘stress-hormone’ because of its involvement in the fight-or-flight response. Cortisol actually has many different effects on the body. It helps to control blood sugar levels, to support a healthy metabolism, to reduce inflammation, and to assist with memory and cognition. It also has a regulatory effect on salt content in the body and supporting the developing foetus during pregnancy.[8]

 

  • Aldosterone: A mineral-corticoid hormone, aldosterone has important effects on cardiovascular health. It helps to regulate blood pressure by sending organs like the kidneys and colon, which release sodium into the bloodstream and potassium into the urine. These have important regulating effects on blood pressure.[9]

 

adrenal glands in the body, accurate 3d rendering

What causes Adrenal Fatigue?

Since adrenal fatigue is not actually an accepted medical term, and there is no diagnosis for it, claims to heal adrenal fatigue are really just talking about reducing symptoms of fatigue, body aches, tiredness, and sleep disturbances. When people talk about healing adrenal fatigue, they are not necessarily talking about altering the levels of cortisol production in the body.

There is any number of reasons why you might be experiencing the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue. If your symptoms include those associated with adrenal insufficiency, then it might be worthwhile to speak to your doctor and get a cortisol blood test.

There are many resources online for healing adrenal fatigue. However, since it is not a real medical term, there is no defined method to heal it. However, symptoms of adrenal fatigue can usually be explained by three main factors:

  1. Stress
  2. An unhealthy diet
  3. Lack of exercise
  4. Lack of sleep

Healing methods for Adrenal Fatigue

If you suspect that you have the rare clinical condition called adrenal insufficiency, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor. However, feelings of stress and fatigue are much more common and are often caused by a just a few negative lifestyle habits. Many contributing factors to the symptoms of adrenal fatigue can easily be overcome by following these lifestyle choices:

 

1.     Practice stress-reduction techniques

There are a number of proven ways to reduce the impact of stress on your body and mind.

    • Mindfulness meditation is a quick and easy way to reduce stress. There are many apps available for free that can help you get into this. Just 3-5 minutes of conscious breathing has been shown to significantly reduce stress.[10]
    • If you prefer moving around, try yoga. There are many different forms of yoga, and you’re almost sure to find one that you enjoy. Studies have shown that yoga is effective at reducing stress.[11]
    • Try using dietary supplements for stress. Avoid harmful chemicals and use natural and effective dietary supplements for combating stress.
meditation for energy

2.     Eat healthier

Diets that are high in sugar, fat, and animal protein are associated with a large number of diseases and do not contribute to well-being and vitality.[12] To improve your energy levels, try reducing your intake of sugary foods, refined carbohydrates, and fatty animal products [13]

It’s a myth that consuming more protein will give you more energy. This is especially true for protein from animal sources. Don’t believe us? Check out these awesome NFL players who are removing animal products from their diets for the strength and energy it gives them![14]

 

3.     Drink less coffee!

coffee can increase fatigue and stress levelsCaffeine is a powerful stimulating compound. It has an extremely long half-life in the human body – up to 10 hours.[15] This means that – as any coffee drinker will know – tolerance to its effects builds quickly. Caffeine blocks the neurotransmitter adenosine, which can cause difficulties in sleeping and may increase feelings of anxiety and nervousness.[16]

Drinking too much coffee can cause your brain to overwork its adenosine receptors. These are important for getting your body ready to sleep at night. Overworking them leaves you feeling tired, irritated and fatigued until you get your next ‘fix’. This is what is known as caffeine dependency, which affects far more people than is often believed.

 

4.     Do more exercise

Studies have found that a sedentary lifestyle is as dangerous to your health as smoking.[17] Not exercising enough is a major contributor to chronic diseases. So, from a health perspective, getting enough exercise needs to be way up on your list of priorities.

From the perspective of healing adrenal fatigue, exercise increases your energy levels and vitality. It leads to a positive feedback cycle, where you feel better after exercising – a result of endorphins – and more motivated to exercise the next day.

Exercising reduces stress and anxiety and improves mood. It is key to weight loss and a toned body, which will also improve your energy levels and self-esteem.[18] Exercise also helps to promote cognitive health and restful sleep. Even just 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day can significantly improve your health. If you are feeling symptoms of adrenal fatigue, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is: “Am I getting enough exercise?”.

increased energy from exercise

5.     Get more sleep

Often easier said than done. Getting enough sleep is vital for your health and well-being. Today, doctors recommend a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep each night for adults.[19] Not only does sleep contribute to a healthy brain, body, and immune system, but it gives you more energy the next day, and may even improve fertility.

    • Try avoiding looking at a computer or cellphone screen at least an hour prior to sleep. The light from screens negatively affects melatonin production in the brain, which can cause difficulties sleeping.
    • Avoid alcohol before sleep, as alcohol reduces the quality of sleep.
    • Getting enough exercise and practising stress-reducing techniques can also improve your sleep at night.
    • You could also try using a natural and effective sleep-promoting/relaxing dietary supplement before bed.

 

Supplements to Prevent Adrenal Fatigue? Reduce stress and fatigue with these top supplements.

 

1.     Melatonin for Better Sleep

melatonin from liftmodeMelatonin is the body’s natural sleep-promoting hormone. It is produced by the pineal gland – a small endocrine gland in the centre of the brain – to help regulate the circadian rhythm. At night, nonvisual photoreceptors in the pineal gland detect changes in light and the gland responds by secreting Melatonin. Melatonin then binds to M1 and M2 receptors in the brain, which send signals to the rest of the body to prepare for sleep.[20]

 

Melatonin supplements are effective at reducing the time taken to fall asleep and may help improve sleep quality. They are safe, non-toxic, and highly effective. Melatonin supplements are not known to produce any side-effects when taken at the recommended serving size.[21] Getting enough sleep by using Melatonin supplements is a great way to counteract the lack of sleep associated with adrenal fatigue.

 

2.     Rhodiola Rosea for Fatigue

rhodiola-rosea-extractRhodiola Rosea is a Scandinavian herb that has been used for centuries for its ability to reduce fatigue and improve energy levels. It contains a number of active phytochemicals that help to support a healthy body and to improve vitality. It was first used for its benefits in reducing the effects of cold and stress, for people living in the icy northern climates of Scandinavia.[22]

 

Rhodiola Rosea supplements are effective at reducing feelings of fatigue, which are associated with adrenal fatigue.[23] Studies have found that this dietary supplement can help to improve cognitive performance and physical energy levels, without producing any noticeable side effects. Its effects are most noticeable when it is used as an addition to a healthy diet and alongside a good exercise program.

 

3.     5-HTP for a Better Mood

pure Liftmode 5-HTP5-HTP is the natural precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to help support a healthy mood and emotional well-being. When taken as a dietary supplement, 5-HTP is immediately converted into serotonin, which helps to support a healthy body and mood. At night, excess serotonin is turned into melatonin, which helps to promote healthy sleep.[24]

 

Nowadays, 5-HTP is extracted from the seeds of the Griffonia Simplicifolia shrub. It occurs in a high concentration in this African plant, making 5-HTP one of the best natural supplements for mood. This is a great dietary supplement for anyone suffering from low mood associated with adrenal fatigue.[25] When used at the recommended serving size, 5-HTP does not produce noticeable adverse effects.

 

4.     Taurine for Improved Vitality

big tub of Liftmode taurine, 400 gramsTaurine is an amine compound and is actually the most abundant amine found in animal tissue. It is produced in the pancreas from L-Cysteine and is vital for maintaining a healthy body. Taurine is often used in energy drinks for its ability to promote vitality and energy without producing adverse effects.[26] In the past, Taurine was extracted from animal tissue, but today Taurine supplements are 100% vegan and vegetarian-friendly.

Taurine is great for promoting overall health and well-being. Its major benefits include an improvement in mood, support for cognition, powerful antioxidant effects, increased metabolism, and neuroprotective effects, among others.[27] This is a great supplement to help when you’re feeling symptoms of adrenal fatigue, and may just offer the boost you need to get you up and going again!

 

5.     Baicalin for a Healthy Immune System

baicalin-50-grams-liftmodeBaicalin is one of the most powerful active components of the Chinese Skullcap, a plant used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries. It has long been known for its ability to support a healthy body and immune system. Studies have shown that this incredible dietary supplement is one of the strongest natural antioxidants available, with powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It can also be used to support a healthy circulatory system.[28]

For people who are looking to reduce feelings of fatigue and support a healthier body, this is a top supplement. Its antioxidant effects help to remove toxins from the body while supporting a strong immune system and reducing stress through its actions on GABA receptors.[29] As with all these dietary supplements, the effects of Baicalin for adrenal fatigue are much stronger if you use it while eating a healthier diet and making sure that you’re getting enough sleep and exercise.

 

Conclusion

In summary, adrenal fatigue is a non-clinical term used to describe an array of symptoms that are associated with stress. It is believed that difficult situations in life cause the adrenal glands to overwork, which reduces the amount of cortisol that they produce (but not to the same extent as adrenal insufficiency, which is a serious medical condition).

The symptoms commonly associated with adrenal fatigue include tiredness, difficulties sleeping, headaches, fatigue, body aches, and digestive problems. There are many possible causes for these symptoms, but most are thought to be related to stress.

 

Healing adrenal fatigue is something that a lot of people wonder about. This refers to methods used to improve the symptoms mentioned above, through natural or synthetic means. Great natural ways to boost your energy levels and reduce fatigue are to improve your diet, increase the amount of sleep and exercise that you’re getting, and to quit drinking and coffee (even just temporarily). There are also a number of great dietary supplements that you can use to boost energy levels and improve mood.

woman standing on a mountain top having healed fatigue

References:

[1]What is adrenal fatigue?”, Examine.com, available online from https://examine.com/nutrition/what-is-adrenal-fatigue/ [Accessed June 5, 2018]

[2] Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, Book by James L. Wilson, Smart Publications, 2001, ISBN 1890572152, 9781890572150

[3]Is there such a thing as adrenal fatigue?” by Todd B. Nippoldt, M.D., April 2017, MayClinic.org, available online from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906

[4] Neary N, Nieman L. “Adrenal Insufficiency- etiology, diagnosis and treatment.” Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity. 2010;17(3):217-223.

[5] Naziat A, Grossman A. “Adrenal Insufficiency.” 2015. NCBI Endotext [Internet]. Avaialble online from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279122/

[6]Adrenal Fatigue: Is It Real?WebMd.com, available online from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real [Accessed June 5, 2018]

[7]Adrenal Glands”, Jon Hopkins Health Library, available online from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/endocrinology/adrenal_glands_85,p00399

[8]What is Cortisol?Hormone Health Network, available online from  https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/cortisol

[9]What is Aldosterone?Hormone Health Network, available online from https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/aldosterone

[10] Praissman S. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction: a literature review and clinician's guide.” J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2008 Apr;20(4):212-6

[11] Gururaja D, Harano K, Toyotake I, Kobayashi H. “Effect of yoga on mental health: Comparative study between young and senior subjects in Japan.” International Journal of Yoga. 2011;4(1):7-12.

[12]Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Report of the joint WHO/FAO expert consultationWHO Technical Report Series, No. 916 (TRS 916). Available online from  http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/summary/en/

[13] Spence JD, Jenkins DJ, Davignon J. “Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: Not for patients at risk of vascular disease.” The Canadian Journal of Cardiology. 2010;26(9):e336-e339.

[14]NFL players' surprising new performance hack—going vegan” by Sarah Berger, CNBC News, 31 Jan 2018, available online from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/31/why-nfl-players-and-other-athletes-are-going-vegan.html

[15]Chapter 2: Pharmacology of Caffeine”, Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001.

[16] Richards G, Smith A. “Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children.” Journal of Psychopharmacology (Oxford, England). 2015;29(12):1236-1247.

[17]Lack of exercise as 'deadly' as smoking”. NHS UK,  July 18 2012, available online from https://www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-exercise/lack-of-exercise-as-deadly-as-smoking/

[18] Warburton DER, Nicol CW, Bredin SSD. “Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence.” CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2006;174(6):801-809.

[19] Consensus Conference Panel, Watson NF, Badr MS, et al. “Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society.” Sleep. 2015;38(6):843-844.

[20] Tordjman S, Chokron S, Delorme R, et al. “Melatonin: Pharmacology, Functions and Therapeutic Benefits.” Current Neuropharmacology. 2017;15(3):434-443.

[21] Costello RB, Lentino CV, Boyd CC, et al. “The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature.” Nutrition Journal. 2014;13:106.

[22]Rhodiola Rosea”, Examine.com, available online from https://examine.com/supplements/rhodiola-rosea/ [Accessed June 5, 2018]

[23] Ishaque S, Shamseer L, Bukutu C, Vohra S. “Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue: a systematic review.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012;12:70.

[24] Hinz M, Stein A, Uncini T. “5-HTP efficacy and contraindications.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2012;8:323-328.

[25] Birdsall TC. “5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor.” Altern Med Rev. 1998 Aug;3(4):271-80.

[26] Schaffer SW, Ju Jong C, KC R, Azuma J. “Physiological roles of taurine in heart and muscle.” Journal of Biomedical Science. 2010;17(Suppl 1):S2.

[27] Ripps H, Shen W. “Review: Taurine: A “very essential” amino acid.” Molecular Vision. 2012;18:2673-2686.

[28] Srinivas NR. “Baicalin, an emerging multi-therapeutic agent: pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, and considerations from drug development perspectives.” Xenobiotica. 2010 May;40(5):357-67.

[29] Chang HH, Yi PL, Cheng CH, Lu CY, Hsiao YT, Tsai YF, Li CL, Chang FC. “Biphasic effects of baicalin, an active constituent of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi, in the spontaneous sleep-wake regulation”. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 May 17;135(2):359-68.