Conditions > Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue (Hypoadrenia) Natural Treatment
What is adrenal fatigue?
Sometimes called the 21st century stress syndrome, adrenal fatigue or hypoadrenia describes a medical phenomenon where your body is exhausted, burnt out, and unable to physically, mentally, and emotionally recover from the daily stresses of life.
The result is a gradual decline of physical, mental, and emotional health. Even if your standard lab results may not indicate any irregularities, you still feel exhausted. But is adrenal fatigue a real condition? And how can it be treated naturally?
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What causes adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is believed to occur when the adrenal glands become over-stimulated and stressed over an extended period of time, resulting in inconsistent cortisol levels.
Cortisol, your stress hormone, is produced by the adrenal gland and is responsible for your flight-or-fight response to stress.
Inconsistent cortisol levels indicate your body is unable to properly return to its cortisol baseline, resulting in a number of symptoms which are discussed below. Realize that adrenal fatigue can be confused with several serious health conditions related to a non-functioning adrenal gland. Addison’s disease is one example.
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
Most people familiar with adrenal fatigue agree that feeling tired and sluggish, experiencing unexplainable weight gain, and the inability to think clearly are common signs of adrenal fatigue. A complete list of symptoms of hypoadrenia include:
Feeling tired and sluggish
Having low energy
Unexplained weight gain
GI imbalances such as constipation and diarrhea
How to test for adrenal fatigue?
Presently, adrenal fatigue does not have a formal diagnosis. Because so many of the symptoms that manifest when your adrenal glands are over-stimulated are common among other conditions, it is difficult to distinguish adrenal fatigue.
Realize that adrenal fatigue, though difficult to diagnose and pinpoint, does exist and is a real condition. However, it is likely less common than you might think. Your doctor or endocrinologist can test your cortisol levels to get a fuller picture of your physical state of health. This is often accomplished with a saliva test.
Saliva test for cortisol levels – Your family doctor or endocrinologist collects saliva samples throughout the day. These samples track your cortisol level throughout the day. Often times, patients with adrenal fatigue will find their baseline cortisol level is on the low side.
How to naturally treat adrenal fatigue?
You can naturally treat adrenal fatigue symptoms with diet changes, meditation practices, regular exercise, and minimal supplementation.
Incorporating osteopathic manipulation treatments can also help your muscle tissues relax and improve circulation in the body. Acupuncture treatments can harmonize the flow of Qi in your body, and specific herbs can assist in bringing your body back to baseline cortisol levels.
Meditation – If you experience the adrenal fatigue symptoms mentioned above, stress is likely contributing to your fatigue. Incorporating a daily 15 minute meditation practice during which you slow your mind and breathe deeply can help reduce your stress level. In the long term, a good daily meditation practice can help reduce many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Plant-based diet – A diet to reduce adrenal fatigue can assist your body in detoxifying itself and relieving the physical symptoms of fatigue. Remember, a large complaint of adrenal fatigue sufferers is feeling fatigued all of the time. A plant-based diet can make it easier for your body to digest food. A temporary absence or minimal presence of meat can also aid in the detoxification process. More specific diet recommendations are found below.
Exercise – Starting an exercise program can be very difficult when you feel fatigued. But gently exercising over a period of 3-4 weeks can help you start feeling better. I specifically recommend starting a very basic yoga routine.
Realize that most “beginning” yoga videos found online are far too advanced for somebody with adrenal fatigue. So I recommend you focus on range of motion exercises. For example, your exercise routine can be as simple as rotating your wrists for 5 to 10 cycles before alternating direction, or moving the elbows and shoulders. The point is to get your body moving.
Osteopathic manipulation & acupuncture – Osteopathic manipulation treatments (OMT) can help your muscles relax and help increase the circulation in the body. Acupuncture therapy can help harmonize the flow of the Qi in the body, reducing blockages that may be contributing to feelings of fatigue. Specific herbs can start to bring the body back to baseline.
Chinese medicine and adrenal fatigue
My approach to treating adrenal fatigue has always been to look at the condition through the paradigm of traditional East Asian medicine. By pinpointing and targeting exactly which way the body is imbalanced, we can prescribe a specific treatment to bring it back to balance.
In Chinese medicine, we work to figure out exactly how and in exactly what way your individual body is imbalanced. By perceiving it that way, we can start to understand how people who have the same diagnosis also exhibit different symptoms, requiring different treatments.
Chinese medicine also gives us a way to take the different symptom patterns you experience and put them in a single picture. By figuring out exactly how your body is unstable or unhealthy, we can begin to bring it back to center using natural treatments like acupuncture, osteopathic manipulation, and traditional herbs.
Herbal supplements for adrenal fatigue
Three herbal supplements that are very effective in assisting adrenal fatigue are rhodiola, ashwagandha, and licorice. These herbs are classified as adaptogens, which means they have been shown to naturally balance and restore the body.
Rhodiola –Rhodiola is an adaptogen that supports your adrenal gland by promoting a healthy response to stress. In doing so, it offers antidepressant and anti-anxiety benefits.
Licorice – Licorice is an adaptogen that conserves the body’s stores of cortisol by boosting adrenal gland function, increasing how much cortisol is present in the body.
Ashwaganda –Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that supports the nervous system and helps the body adapt to stressful conditions by helping to support normal mood, energy levels, and immune function.
We also know that basic vitamin supplementation can help reduce some symptoms of adrenal fatigue. A good multivitamin is a good start. Many patients also respond well to high doses of Vitamin C.
Suggested diet for adrenal fatigue?
The best diet for adrenal fatigue is a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet can reduce adrenal fatigue symptoms by aiding in the body’s detoxification process.
You may also have food sensitivities to gluten or dairy that you are not fully aware of. To assist your body in detoxifying itself as completely as possible, consider temporarily eliminating gluten and dairy from your diet.
According to Dr. Joel Furnham, who offers excellent plant-based recipes, the following foods can aid the body in the detoxification process:
Nuts and seeds
Mediterranean pine nuts
Why should I avoid eating meat?
Realize that any toxins consumed by the animal are also stored in the meat. Any chemicals a cow ingests, for example, herbicides and pesticides sprayed on the grass, are present even if you’re consuming organic meat. These toxins then enter your body. In order to detox your body, temporarily adhering to a meat-free diet offers benefits. Remember that you can get enough protein on a plant-based diet.
Why should I avoid the paleo diet?
The reason I recommend avoiding the paleo diet if you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue is that you will eat far too much meat and over time, consume toxins that contribute to the feeling of fatigue.
Going to see your doctor
If you feel you may have adrenal fatigue because you experience fatigue, weight gain, and foggy mind, get evaluated by your doctor as early as you can. Typically with some specific lifestyle changes and minimal supplementation, we can reverse this all-too-common condition and help you return to enjoying life.
What causes adrenal fatigue? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906
Does adrenal fatigue really exist? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997656/
Supplements for adrenal fatigue? https://bellalindemann.com/adrenal-fatigue-ibs/
Written by: Dr. Dan Williams, DO
Last edited: January 21, 2019