What is Adrenal Fatigue and How to Prevent It
Exhausted? Burned out? Your body could be trying to tell you something. Let’s take a look at adrenal fatigue and some all-too-common symptoms.
What is Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is believed to occur as a result of chronic stress and the body being unable to recover from it due to adrenal insufficiency. Although it is not recognized as a medical diagnosis, adrenal fatigue is said to be brought on by chronic forms of stress: physical, emotional, environmental, illness, or a combination of those causes.
The adrenals are two small glands situated on top of the kidneys. As part of our endocrine system, their role is to produce several hormones that help our bodies function, including cortisol. When we experience stress, our bodies release small bursts of cortisol (fight-or-flight response) into our bloodstream. The theory of adrenal fatigue suggests that if we’re exposed to this stress for too long, it could lead to an imbalanced, overworked adrenal glands that produce too little cortisol and a long list of somewhat vague symptoms.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Some of the common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- low energy
- chronic fatigue
- muscular weakness
- cravings (sweet and salty)
- digestive issues
- low blood pressure
- hair loss
- difficulty sleeping
As you can see, there are a number of symptoms that might be related to your exhaustion. You might be getting frequent colds, feeling tired all the time, experiencing mental fog and sleep is inconsistent at best. Everything feels harder. Motivation has dropped and you just don’t quite feel yourself. Perhaps you recognize these symptoms as “burnout” or just plain stress.
One thing’s for sure: You’re in survival mode and something needs to change.
How to Prevent Adrenal Fatigue
Can stress cause deep fatigue? Yes it can. The onset of adrenal fatigue often occurs because of stress which could come from emotional stress (ie: divorce), physical stress (ie: over training), financial pressures (ie: moving), or any other everyday stress that piles up.
Why is cortisol so important?
Cortisol is considered the body’s stress hormone. A couple of key roles that cortisol plays is to help our bodies handle stress and support our immune system. Cortisol is also necessary to help our bodies recover from injury. If we have chronically high stress, our bodies respond with chronically imbalanced cortisol levels. Too much and too little cortisol can have an adverse effect on the body. Both can wreak havoc on our health and negatively impact muscle gains and performance.
To combat this, pay attention to your body and try reducing stress through deep breathing, meditation or counselling. Additionally, eat right to fuel your body and make sure to consume nutrient dense carbohydrates and protein foods after exercise to decrease the cortisol response.
If you’re tired, rest. Recovery is a vital part of getting fit. When we rest, our body has a chance to repair and our mind has a chance to rejuvenate. If you don’t allow enough time for muscle recovery (and mental recovery), overtraining symptoms can accumulate and lead to deep fatigue and even increase the chance for injury.
Also, make sleep a priority. If sleep is a problem for you, try making your sleep schedule the same on the weekends as it is on the weekdays, decrease caffeine intake and stay away from bluelight (TV and smartphone) for at least one hour before going to bed.
When in doubt, listen to your body.
Clean Up Your Diet
Lastly, help prevent that deep fatigue feeling by making positive dietary choices. Limits foods and drinks that are high in refined and processed sugar and unhealthy fats. This includes white sugar, white flowers, soda, fried foods, processed foods, etc. Instead, opt for a balance of proteins, healthy fats and high-quality (nutrient-dense) carbohydrates. This includes high-quality protein, eggs, nuts, dark leafy greens and colorful vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.
What you eat is just as important as when you eat. Nutrient timing (eating at regular intervals throughout the day) may also help to regulate blood sugar, optimize energy levels and support the adrenal glands.
Get Strong and Recover Stronger
Overall, the best approach to help reduce stress is to make positive changes to your lifestyle choices. If you aim to get enough recovery time, take steps to reduce stress and eat a balanced diet rich in quality protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates, then you’ll most likely keep your adrenal system strong.
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