Adrenal Exhaustion: by Ruth Sladek, BHSc (Nat) BHSc (Nut) Naturopath – Nutritionist.
Do you keep losing your car keys & your mojo? Maybe you have adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue, sometimes called adrenal exhaustion, is one of the most under diagnosed conditions in western society. It has been estimated that 80% of adults suffer some sort of adrenal fatigue. Unlike diseases of the adrenal glands like Cushings syndrome or Addisons disease which require careful medical management, adrenal exhaustion is a functional imbalance of the adrenals. This functional imbalance can be assessed by salivary cortisol testing if necessary and responds well to naturopathic care.
Adrenal fatigue is marked by a wide range of symptoms including ongoing fatigue and a feeling of exhaustion, poor sleep, hard to get out of bed in the morning, a decreased ability to cope with stress, poor concentration and brain fog, depression, anxiety, sugar and/or salt cravings, weight gain especially around the abdomen and an inability to lose weight, low sex drive and poor immunity. Long term stress is the usual trigger for this condition. This can be physical (excessive exercise, pain), mental (pressure at work, uni, school) or emotional (conflict with family or work colleagues). Often it is caused by a combination of these but can also be from an isolated stressful event. There are three stages of adrenal fatigue as cortisol levels change from high to fluctuating
and finally to low. Naturopathic treatment focuses on identifying the correct stage then rebalancing the cortisol levels as well as tonifying the adrenals and improving the overall stress response. It is important to determine what stage of adrenal fatigue is present to choose the appropriate combination of herbs. Herbs such as rhodiola, withania and various types of ginseng can be useful here. Nutrients like B group vitamins and especially vitamin B5 are also essential in improving stress responses and adrenal functions. Vitamin C is also important in adrenal hormone production as well as being an antioxidant and immune stimulant. A diet high in easily digestible protein, low in sugar and any stimulants can also aid the recovery of the adrenals. Of course other measures that assist with managing ongoing stress such as meditation, exercise, massage and acupuncture can also play an important role in long term stress management and wellness. Identifying and treating adrenal fatigue however helps to overcome the often chronic and stubborn underlying basis of anxiety, fatigue, depression and unwellness by restoring the normal function of this important but often overlooked hormone system.