Beyond Tired: Adrenal Fatigue
by Dr. Jolene Brigthen, N.D. with Freshlife Commentary
Are you dragging to get out of bed every morning? Do you feel moody often? How about low in energy, an inability to fall asleep at night, or maybe you’re craving sugar and salt? If any of these are sounding familiar your adrenals may be in need of some support.
One of the most common reasons moms come to see me is to get help with their fatigue and moodiness. Now, some fatigue is to be expected as a new mom, but all too often I see moms struggling with fatigue and mood changes that are beyond what should be expected.
In our society, we are constantly pushing ourselves to be the best in all of our endeavors. As moms, we juggle a lot – a household, kids, cooking, cleaning, working…the list goes on. The constant expectation to stay on top of everything and to push us towards being the perfect mom, is not only exhausting, it’s debilitating.
Consider this, you are going full steam ahead only weeks (maybe less) after bringing a new life into this world. Labor is no picnic and most women aren’t afforded the opportunity to rest, recover, and rejuvenate before being flung into full-time mom.
What’s the result of all of this? Adrenal Fatigue.
Your adrenals love routine. They love consistent sleep, regular meals and low stress. You know, all those things you had before the birth of your child?
The adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys, are responsible for managing stress. However, if they are never given a break from the daily stress, they can become fatigued.
Does this sound like you or a loved one? After you've read the entire article and still have questions, visit us at Freshlife and talk to a Wellness Coach, we'll listen.
What does adrenal fatigue look like?
• Difficulty waking in the morning
• Afternoon fatigue
• Craving sugar, salt or fat
• Increased illness due to immune system depression
• Hormone imbalance
• Acne and other skin problems
• Low libido
• Poor memory
• Increased PMS and menopausal symptoms
• Dizziness, feeling light headed or a “head rush” when rising from a lying or seated position
• Inability to cope with stress
How is adrenal fatigue tested?
In addition to your symptoms, an Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) test will help reveal the function of your adrenals. An ASI looks at 6 parameters in evaluating your adrenal health.
1. 4 Cortisol Measurements: Helps evaluate your stress response and your rhythm of cortisol release during the day.
2. Insulin: Evaluates blood sugar regulation.
3. DHEA: Helps determine how you’ve adapted to stress.
4. Secretory IgA: Evaluates impact on immune system and gut permeability.
5. 17-OH Progesterone: Helps determine adrenal reserve.
6. Gluten antibodies: Helps determine intolerance to gluten.
How is adrenal fatigue treated?
1. Lifestyle, routine and consistency play a large role in adrenal health and are paramount to recovery.
2. Nutrition: Ensuring proper blood sugar regulation and consuming nutrients that feed the adrenals. Nutrient supplementation is often necessary at least in the initial phase of recovery.
3. Herbs: Adaptogenic herbs help balance the adrenal output and recharge the adrenal glands.
4. Bioidentical hormones may also be utilized if indicated.
How long does recovery take?
Adrenal fatigue doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a condition that develops over time, and therefore, requires time to recover. I often give patients the following estimates for how long they might expect to see recovery, although they should begin to experience an improvement in symptoms before then.
• Mild Fatigue: At least 6 months.
• Moderate Fatigue: At least 12 months.
• Severe Fatigue: 12-24 months.
What steps can you take now to support your adrenals?
1. Be Gentle with Yourself. You are one wonderful woman and you are doing an amazing job. Please, remember this as often as possible. Being a mom is hard and being gentle with yourself is important.
2. Eat Regularly. Consume regular meals, not allowing yourself to go long periods without eating. Low blood sugar is hard on the adrenals.
3. Eat Protein with Every Meal. This will support healthy blood sugar levels and allow your body to relax, knowing that it has plenty of fuel.
4. Lower Stress. Breathe deeply and often, meditate, practice mindfulness in the moments you can, and please honor your strength. Take note of what you have to be grateful for.
5. Sleep. Ask your partner to take the children on the weekend and allow you to sleep in or take a nap. Go to bed by 10 p.m. most nights and sleep in a completely dark room.
6. Exercise. Strength training, gentle cardio, and stretching are best for adrenal health. Long cardio routines and strenuous exercise can often make adrenal conditions worse. Meet with a health care provider to determine the right type of exercise for your health needs. Often, daily exercise, at your level, will help improve your energy and mood.