Have you ever caught yourself thinking, Wow, I’m burned out! It’s a feeling most people can identify with. But what does that really mean, and how does it happen? Do you go to sleep feeling exhausted, sleep 8 hours and wake up still feeling tired? Foggy brain, irritable? Are you drinking coffee throughout the day just to keep yourself going?
Adrenal fatigue is a phenomenon characterized by a disruption of your adrenal glands’ ability to make cortisol in the right amounts at the right times in response to stress.
The adrenals are the body’s hormonal powerhouse. Two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, they’re the linchpin of a feedback loop coordinating nearly every hormone in your body.
The Three Stages Of Adrenal Fatigue
There are three stages of adrenal fatigue. Each one is associated with a different type of cortisol imbalance, and typically people progress from stage 1 to stage 3 sequentially over time.
Stage 1: Wired and tired
This stage is characterized by high cortisol levels, especially at night, leading to insomnia, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain. People often feel energized but in an edgy “wired” way.
Stage 2: Stressed and tired
In this stage, many people wake up early in the morning (often around 3am) and are unable to fall back asleep. Later in the day some stressor kicks in, and they feel more awake. Their cortisol peaks early, flattens out, but often has midday or early evening rise.
Stage 3: Burnout
This stage is characterized by exhaustion regardless of hours slept, a flat cortisol curve, and in some cases low DHEA and thyroid hormone levels. I’ve been in stage three for a while now due to Lyme disease which is a dangerous place to be because it’s associated with higher risk of autoimmune disease.
So what can we do about it?
1. Follow the adrenal diet.
This means getting rid of foods that you are sensitive to and foods that cause inflammation, and eating lots of brightly colored vegetables, lean clean protein, and whole grain gluten-free carbs.
Eliminating dairy, eating more vegetables, and eating more carbs. A strict no-carb diet can stress the body even more, worsening adrenal burnout. Of course, don’t eat cookies and cakes, but rather quinoa, lentils and buckwheat.
2. Go to bed early.
Getting to bed before 11pm is a must in any stage of adrenal fatigue. Many people get a second cortisol surge after 11pm, which further disrupts sleep patterns.
3. Flood the adrenals with B vitamins.
B vitamins (B5 and B6 in particular) are food for the adrenals and can be low in a high-fat, low-carb diet. B12 and folate also help with energy production.
4. Cool inflammation.
Using omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, and vitamin C supplements lower systemic inflammation levels allowing the adrenals to recover.
5. Replace important nutrients.
Vitamin D, selenium, magnesium and zinc are all important for proper thyroid function and adrenal function.
6. Focus on hydration.
Dehydration is also a hallmark of adrenal fatigue. Try adding a multi trace mineral supplement to absorb more water into your cells. You can also add fresh lemon juice or Himalayan sea salt to your water instead.
7. Use adaptogenic herbs.
Licorice root, ashwagandha and rehmannia help balance and stimulate the adrenals. Always check with your doctor first.
8. Build rest into the day.
The last thing you need is high-intensity cardio that would further burn you out. Try adding yoga or walking into your schedule a few times a week. Take time to breathe and restore your body.
9. Change your perspective.
Is your definition of success killing you? In many cases, what you perceive as success is driving you into adrenal overload. We have to realize that “it” (whatever it is) doesn’t have to be perfect to be great.
For most people who live their way into stage 1, 2 or 3 adrenal fatigue, it’s just a matter of living their way right back out of it and into balance with their bodies.