You know that adrenaline rush you feeling when you get when you are scared or frightened? This adrenaline rush is the body’s natural defence mechanism, which is controlled by our adrenal gland, which is designed to give our body an energy boost to escape danger or deal with other stresses around us.
What exactly does our adrenal gland do?
The adrenal gland is part of the endocrine system and is situated just above our kidneys. These thumb size glands are responsible for producing over 50 hormones that navigate nearly every function our body makes. The adrenal gland plays the most important role to help our body deal with stress. For example when our brain notifies our adrenal gland that it has sensed a treat, it releases an adrenal hormone to help our body deal with the threat. Then our adrenal cortex releases corticosteroids to slow down certain aspects of our body’s functions, such as digestion, immune system and other functions that are not essential for immediate survival.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue takes place when our adrenal glands are over worked and can’t cope with the daily amount of physical, mental and emotional stress we find ourselves dealing with. These prolonged or extreme stresses cause an imbalance in our adrenal function, which results in our adrenal glands becoming deficient or releasing excessive hormones.
Adrenal fatigue is a very common and affects around 80% of the population and the most popular causes are;
- Stress experienced sudden life changes such as death of a family member / friend, surgery, divorce.
- Change in circumstances such as financial, change of job, relationship, housing etc…
- Lack of sleep through insomnia.
- Poor diet and exercises
Although many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are also linked to a variety of other conditions, research has also shown that a combination of these symptoms below are also indicators of adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are;
- Muscle / whole body aching
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood swings / irritability / poor memory
- Hormone imbalance / abnormal sugar levels
- Food cravings, including sweet or salty
- Suppressed immune function
- Increased allergies
- Light headiness
How to heal your adrenal glands naturally
The most important ways to support and look after our adrenal gland is to deal with our stress more effectively; by making sure we rest when we are feeling tired avoid not getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercises regularly.
Exercise its self a physical stressor, however regular exercise leads to an increased ability to cope with stress and reduce the risk of stress related disorders. However the key is to focus on gentle activities such as walking, yoga, gentle cycling or swimming. Once you’re starting to feel better, gradually begin in some more moderate exercise.
Be careful though as there is a great danger of over doing it when you have adrenal fatigue, so it’s important to listen to your body and be patient with yourselves, while you heal. Eventually, your metabolic reserve will be rebuilt, allowing you to resume your normal exercises regime you used to do before adrenal fatigue set in. But keep in the back of your mind that a relapse is possible, so careful ly monitor your energy reserves and decrease your exercising if you start to feel your energy decreasing.
Relaxation techniques seek to counteract the results of stress, as relaxation is designed for repair maintenance and restoration of the body. These techniques can be anything from watching television, reading a book, sleeping, and meditation. The important thing is that you set aside at least 5 – 10 minutes each day performing a relaxation technique.
- Deep breathing techniques can be practiced anywhere and can be used in almost any situation. The key to deep breathing meditation is to breath from your your diaphragm, filling your lungs as much as possible. This increases your oxygen supply, helping you to think more clearly and reducing tension and anxiety. Breathing meditation can be used alone or with music, aromatherapy, or in conjunction with other stress reduction relaxation techniques.
- Progressive muscle relaxation technique involves tensing and relaxing the muscles, one muscle group at a time, starting at the feet and working up the body. Some people skip the tensing step and simply focus on relaxing each muscle group. While this is effective, tensing each muscle group first helps you to become familiar with how tension feels in each area rather than how those muscles feel when they are relaxed.
- Mindfulness technique is a little harder than the previous ones for many people. Mindfulness is simply staying in the moment and being fully aware and present in what is happening at a given moment. Judging the past and worrying about the future are both incredibly stressful. Focusing on the present moment can restore balance. You can practice mindfulness deliberately, by focusing on your breathing or a candle flame. You can also practice mindfulness more actively, by focusing on the moment as you go through your daily activities.
Diet plays a huge role for your adrenal glands to recover from adrenal fatigue. First of all you need to remove foods that are hard to digest such as;
- Refined sugars, fructose syrup and sweeteners
- Hydrogenated oils
- Processed foods
- Carb heavy food
- Processed meat
At the same time you want to increase the amount nutrient dense foods in your diet, as these not only contain nutritional healing properties but are also easy for the body to digest. Here are some examples of nutrient dense foods that will help you heal your adrenal glands;
- Chicken or turkey
- Avocado & healthy fats
- Nuts (especially walnuts and almonds)
- Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels and sprouts
- Kelp & seaweed
- Pumpkin, chia and flax seeds
- Himalayan salt
- Fermented foods
By taking supplements, you can ensure you are getting enough nutrition that may be missing even from the most perfect healthy diet (due to soil depletion and over farming), as one of the main ways you can heal your adrenal glands is through nutrition. Here are a few supplements to include in your healing adrenal health kit, which can be found in most chemists or on-line;
- Ashwagandha (find out more about ashwagandha in the next section)
- Holy Basil
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin B5, B12, C and vitamin D3
- Liquorice root
Herbs That Support Your Adrenal Gland
There are several herbal medicines that support adrenal function such as ginseng, rhodiola, and ashwagandha. All of these support our adrenal glands by increasing a resistance to stress and are sometimes referred to as “adaptogens” because they help us to cope with stress.
Ginseng – Both Chinese and Siberian ginseng can enhance our ability to cope with various stressors. By delaying the onset and reducing the severity of the alarm phase of the body’s short and long term response to stress. Chinese ginseng is generally regarded as being the more potent form, and is the best choice if you’re under a great deal of stress or recovering from illness. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with mild to moderate stress and haven’t experienced any obvious adrenal impairment, Siberian ginseng may be a better option.
Rhodiola – The adaptogenic actions of rhodiola are different from those of Chinese and Siberian ginseng, which act primary on the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis. Rhodiola seems to exert its adaptogenic effects by working on neurotransmitters and endorphins. It appears to offer an advantage over other adaptogens in circumstances of acute stress because it produces a greater feeling of relaxation and greater anti-anxiety effects. A single dose of rhodiola extract prior to acute stressful events has been shown to prevent stress induced disruptions in function and performance, but like ginsengs, it has also shown positive results with long term use.
Ashwagandha – A patented ashwagagandha extract known as Sensoril has shown impressive results in dealing with stress. It works with the body’s natural systems to help restore balance and normalize functions. It helps increase the body’s resistance to stress and reduce physiological responses to stress events. Sensoril delivers a variety of benefits that help maintain good health, including:
- Helps counteract the negative effects of stress
- Increases resistance to fatigue
- Promotes mental clarity and concentration
- Supports healthy weight management by inhibiting stress responses that can lead to overeating
- Improves resistance to stress
- Helps protect against free radical damage to cells
If you have any concerns, experience any of the adrenal fatigue symptoms for a long period of time, or are worried you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, I recommend you seek advice from your doctor immediately.
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