What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger. You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.
This syndrome has been known by many other names throughout the past century, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue. Although it affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, conventional medicine does not yet recognize it as a distinct syndrome.
Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.
There is considerable information throughout the website about many aspects of adrenal fatigue. For a comprehensive explanation of how stress and adrenal fatigue affect your health and what you can do to recover and protect yourself see Dr. Wilson’s book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.
What causes adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is produced when your adrenal glands cannot adequately meet the demands of stress.* The adrenal glands mobilize your body’s responses to every kind of stress (whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological) through hormones that regulate energy production and storage, immune function, heart rate, muscle tone, and other processes that enable you to cope with the stress. Whether you have an emotional crisis such as the death of a loved one, a physical crisis such as major surgery, or any type of severe repeated or constant stress in your life, your adrenals have to respond to the stress and maintain homeostasis. If their response is inadequate, you are likely to experience some degree of adrenal fatigue.*
During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain optimal homeostasis because their output of regulatory hormones has been diminished – usually by over-stimulation.* Over-stimulation of your adrenals can be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.
How Can I Boost My Adrenal Function Through Healthy Diet?
Detoxing your way out of adrenal fatigue takes time and patience. Your body doesn’t have the reserves required to go full-throttle into detox mode, so add the following foods to your diet slowly.
Start with only one food and add in one more food per week. You need only 10 weeks — 2-1/2 months — to work all of them into your diet, heal your body, and boost your adrenal function! Begin with the foods that are easiest to work into your routine; there is no “perfect” food, and all foods have a place of importance. Let food be your medicine, and let the following dosages guide you toward the perfect prescription for adrenal health.
Almonds: Grab a handful of these healthy omega-6 packed nuts for a quick snack. You’ll get a dose of protein, fiber, and vitamin E. Eating just 23 almonds a day promotes heart health, weight loss, blood sugar control, and gut health.
Research published in 2012 from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that whole almonds provide 20 percent fewer calories than once thought. Additionally, the European Journal of Clinical Nutritionin 2013 found that snacking on 1.5 ounces of almonds each day resulted in decreased hunger, boosted vitamin E levels, and didn’t result in weight gain. Both study outcomes make almonds an excellent addition to an adrenal diet. Delicious dose: 1 to 1-1/2 ounces (about 23 to 30 nuts) per day.
Avocados: Just one-fifth of an avocado’s fruity flesh (yes, it’s a fruit) packs a nutrient punch. It’s loaded with potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and fiber. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), people who consume avocados have been shown to have a better-quality diet, better nutrient intake, and lower metabolic risk factors. Delicious dose: Two avocados per week.
Fresh herbs: Use more herbs and use them more often. From parsley to rosemary to thyme, fresh herbs bundle nutrition into a small package. Throughout the world, people use fresh herbs as the base of their salads; in the United States, by contrast, traditional salads are made with iceberg or romaine lettuce.
Even grain salads in the U.S. are bland in color. Nutritionally, ounce for ounce, fresh herbs knock traditional lettuces off the charts. It’s time to make the switch! Dish up the parsley and mint Mediterranean salad known as tabbouleh for your next side dish! Delicious dose: 1 to 2 cups per day.
Kale: Kale is touted as the most nutritious green on the market, and it is! Kale is packed with vitamins A, C, and K. It contains calcium, an antioxidant boost of quercetin, and omega-3 fatty acids. To reap the benefits of this nutritionally dense green, be sure to top it with something fatty, like a drizzle of olive oil or an avocado. Note that commercially grown kale is often doused with chemical pesticides, so be certain to buy organic kale. Delicious dose: 1 cup per day.
Kefir: Kefir, a fermented milk product, is a great-tasting source of eight or more strains of probiotics, B vitamins, vitamin K2, and calcium. Because of the bacterial content, kefir is lactose-free. The bacteria break down lactose into galactose and glucose, so your body doesn’t have to do it. If you’re allergic to dairy, you can find coconut kefirs and water kefirs on the market; however, you won’t get the same protein and vitamin benefits. Delicious dose: 1 cup per day.
Kimchi (kimchee) or sauerkraut: Aside from wine, nothing represents fermented foods more than the spiced cabbage known as kimchi (kim-chee) from Korea. It’s a quick way to get a healthy daily dose of probiotics, which promote a healthy gut (the gateway to adrenal wellness).
You can also try sauerkraut, Germany’s favorite fermented food. Instead of picking up a can of kimchi or sauerkraut, look for a jar in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. You want a variety made without vinegar. The ingredients should read “cabbage, water, and salt.” Delicious dose: 1/4 cup two to three times per week.
Lemons: Before your lips begin to pucker, realize that even a small amount of lemon each day can aid digestion by stimulating the digestive juices in your stomach. The citrus peels have long been recognized for their dense phytochemicals, limonene, and perillyl alcohol.
In 2013, the European Journal of Pharmacology reported promising research on limonene and elevated blood cholesterol. It’s clear that both the peel and the citrus fruit have nutritional benefits beyond vitamin C. Add a slice of lemon to your drinking water, toss lemon zest with your favorite vegetables, or make a vinaigrette with lemon juice in place of vinegar for all your favorite salads. Delicious dose: 1/2 lemon per day. Another easy way to load this mega nutrient into your daily diet, is to add a drop of lemon essential oil into your drinking water.
Quinoa: Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is actually a seed. This gluten-free “pseudocereal” is in the same family as spinach, chard, and beets — not in the wheat or grain family. The little seeds are packed with fiber and protein, along with the anti-inflammatory antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol.
You can buy quinoa in bulk and also in pasta shapes at your local natural foods co-op. Don’t opt just for the savory style of preparation; try it in the place of any breakfast grain and sweeten it with 1/4 cup dried fruit. Delicious dose: 1/2 cup cooked four to five times per week.
Salmon: It must be the fight upstream to spawn that makes this fish such a winner. Wild salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, and a powerful load of protein. If you don’t like the taste of salmon, opt for anchovies, sardines, Atlantic herring, or Atlantic mackerel to get similar adrenal health benefits. Delicious dose: 3 ounces two to three times per week.
Tart or sour cherries: The bright and bold red of tart cherries (Prunus cerasus) signals that they’re an anti-inflammatory powerhouse. For aches, pains, sleep disorders, or gout, a daily dose of tart cherries has been shown to provide relief and reduce muscle inflammation. Delicious dose:1 cup of tart cherry juice or 1/4 cup of dried tart cherries per day.