Are you moody, irritable, always tired, have trouble concentrating and crave sweet or salty foods? You may have adrenal fatigue. It is estimated to affect around 80 percent of people in the world according to James Wilson (author of “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome“). Of course, these symptoms can be indicative of other health issues but adrenal fatigue is likely one of the most misdiagnosed issues in modern medicine.
Your adrenals produce hormones that are essential to life. Hormones such as cortisol which helps to regulate metabolism and your body’s response to stress as well as aldosterone which helps control blood pressure.
Fatigue is the most common adrenal fatigue symptom (obvi, right?), but, it leads to an imbalance of a number of hormones and neurotransmitters which pretty much effect your entire body and its systems. Symptoms include food cravings, feeling tired and low on energy.
Sounds much like me midway through contest prep for a bodybuilding show. I am darn sure my adrenals were super fatigued due to all the stress of strenuous exercise and starving, I mean, dieting down. And I am still on the mend from being only 4 weeks out from my last contest. It takes a while to recover.
Want the extensive list of symptoms.. well, here you go….
- Morning fatigue or trouble waking up
- Decreased libido
- Muscle weakness
- Poor focus
- Bone loss
- Increased allergies
- Difficulty sleeping
- Cravings for sugar
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Muscle tension
- Inability to tolerate high-carb/potassium foods unless paired with fat and protein
What causes adrenal fatigue?
- Insufficient sleep and stress. Not sleeping well, poor diet, life events, daily life and so on all stress us out!
- Leads to increased adrenaline and cortisol levels.
- A disruption is the normal 24 hours cycle of cortisol leads to a state of alertness at night which prevents restful sleep.
- Those in later stages of adrenal fatigue will have lower cortisol and blood sugar levels which leads to cravings and snacking.
- Poor diet
- Exposure to toxins and pollution
How is adrenal fatigue diagnosed?
- Test cortisol levels
- ACTH challenge. (I like to call it the adrenal stress challenge): this is where you get a baseline of your coritsal levels, then your doc injects you with ACTH (adrenal corticotrophic hormone) to stress your adrenals and monitor the response.
- Test your thryroid
- See more on adrenal diagnoses here.
- Read more on why adrenal fatique is hard to diagnose here.
1. Start your day with protein.
Eggs are a great way to start your day! And, even though they have traditionally gotten a bed rap due to cholesterol content, new research shows eggs have no affect on raising cholesterol levels.
Eat the entire egg when you have adrenal fatigue. The yolks are a rich source of the vitamin B complec choline which is super important for adrenal fatigue.
Also, an added benefit to starting your day with protein is weight loss. Studies show that people who start thier day with protein eat 200 calories less without even trying! Studies also show that individuals that eat a higher protein diet feel less hungry and consum overall less calories. Read more about protein in The Ultimate Get Fit Girls Guide to Protein.
2. Have a mid morning snack.
Going for more than 3-4 hours without eating can stress your adrenals. What happens is the drop in blood sugar levels sends a message to your adrenals to secrete more cortisol to boost glucose for the brain. Cortisol taps into protein stores via gluconeogensis in the liver which gives the body energy to help a person fight for flee a stressor. Constant increased levels of cortisol can also contribute to belly fat and eventually increased blood sugar level.
Try a good mid morning snack like apples and almond butter or catch a quest bar or bulletproof bar on the go.
3. Eat lunch! No later than 2pm.
Each lunch that includes a protein and 1-2 servings of veggies. If you include a carb like potatoes or rice, make sure that the serving is no larger than the size of your inner palm.
add in a pic.
4. Have an afternoon snack.
Our energy naturally wanes between 3-4 PM. Eating right before or during this time will keep this dip from becoming a crash!
5. Dinner should be before 6:30 PM.
Again, make sure dinner includes a protein and a couple servings of vegetables. If you include a carb like potatoes or rice, make sure that the serving is no larger than the size of your inner palm.
6. Reduce caffeine and sugar intake and stick to fresh whole foods.
Aside from kicking fatigue, making whole food choices is best for long term health and fitness.
1. Remove stress
Modern life is stressful. There is no denying that. The speed at which we live our lives is ever increasing. We can try our best to reduce the stress in our lives but there will always be some there.
Many people just chill and do nothing at end of stressful day by watching TV or scroling FB, but this is really the lack of more stress, not true relaxation. One of the best ways to truly relax is through mediation. There are many types of mediation. Mediation is a skill that takes practice as our minds are constantly turned on.
Meditation has many benefits that not only promote relaxation but improves mental focus and clarity in our daily lives. Fortunately, there are cool ways to practice meditation! Researchers at Center Pointe have found that listening to certain tones can put our brain into these meditative patterns and reduce cortisol levels by 47% just by listening. Check out holosync from Center Pointe to listen to some brain relaxing tunes. Also try brainfm which is what I use.
There are also programs like HeartMath that give you feed back based on your state of relaxation and progress throughout the session. We hook our kids up to the emwave2 by HeartMath and they love the instant gratification of getting a virtual hot air balloon to float up into the air or creating a rainbow in the sky. Many times we have our kids use this when they get really upset and need to learn these tools to calm down. Instead of a time out, they must hop on the emwave for so many minutes or get a certain percentage in the green zone (the relaxed zone). It is pretty challenging but gets easier with practice.
2. Increase sleep quality
Sleep is HUGE in recovery, fitness, health and just plain feeling good! Modern life messes with our circadian rhythms is a big way. The blue spectrum of light emitted from light bulbs, computers, phones etc affects your hormone levels after the sun goes down. That blue spectrum of light makes our brain think it’s still daylight. Instead of starting to produce melatonin to ready you for slumber, the blue light hinders that production affections your sleep quality and circadian rhythm. Luckily, there is a simple solution to that! Get some blue blocking glasses and put them on when the sun sets. We do it in our house, our kids wear them, and many times we will wear them to indoor venues during the day where there is no natural light. Check out ErisFits’ Sleep Hacking Series to read more about this super interesting and soon to be super main stream topic. Also check out 17 FIT GIRLS BEDTIME HABITS – BEDTIME ROUTINE THAT CHANGED MY LIFE for more sleep tips.
Whether you have adrenal fatigue symptoms or not, the above tips are GREAT to live by for health, longevity and maintaining a healthy body composition!!