Adrenal fatigue. You've probably heard the term, and may feel like it's something happening to you. Do you suffer from burnout, or a lengthy bout of exhaustion, you can't seem to pull out of, but with no obvious symptoms?
Adrenal fatigue may be your problem. Here's a little primer on these very important glands and how to treat them right.
The adrenal glands are small pyramid shaped organs that sit atop each kidney in the lower back. The adrenals release their own stress hormones in response to certain situations or environmental conditions, and control the release of many other important hormones in the body such as DHEA, estrogen and testosterone.
Their primary function is to prime the body to deal with life-threatening, stressful, or pressure-filled circumstances. They largely determine the energy level available for the necessary response.
In our fast paced western culture, an estimated 75% of individuals suffer from adrenal fatigue some time in their lives. This occurs when the glands can no longer keep up with the pace of outputting stress hormones. Or as in the fable about the "Boy who cried Wolf," the adrenal glands no longer respond to repeated demands that they've heard too many times before.
Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue may include severe fatigue, lightheadedness upon standing, depression and irritability, lack of sex drive, exhaustion and general malaise. Adrenal fatigue is often associated with intense or prolonged stress, life crisis, trauma, and chronic illness. Other factors include certain lifestyle choices such as improper diet, substance abuse, and too little or irregular sleep.
When healthy, your adrenals can instantly increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release energy stores for immediate use, sharpen your senses, slow digestion and various other secondary functions. This function is extremely important in emergency situations.
But poorly functioning and overtaxed adrenal glands can lessen your ability to deal effectively with crisis situations.
Another aspect of healthy adrenals is the ability to endure long periods of physical exertion such as seen in marathon running, swimming, long distance cycling, and similarly, the day to day responsibilities of parenting! It is your adrenal glands job to react to stress in a balanced manner so that one's response is appropriate to the situation.
The adrenal glands signal the storage, release and utilization of carbohydrates and fats, the conversion of fats and proteins into energy, and influence the distribution of fat on the body. Their output is involved in blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular function, digestive function, and in controlling blood pressure. The adrenals are further involved by playing a part in sexual interest and response - so poorly functioning adrenals can really put a damper on things by increasing fat storage on your belly while making you disinterested in the whole process of life altogether!
The following are some natural suggestions for nourishing and rejuvenating adrenal health:
Here is an easy one - ensure an adequate intake of water. This is a must in all natural health, wellness and fitness programs. Plenty of water helps keep the kidney flushed and cleanses the body, so it has less toxins to deal with, hence less stress.
I use the formula .6 x body weight = ounces of water per day you should drink. This is a number that should be moved towards over time. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds your daily water intake would be 90 ounces. .6 x 150 = 90 ounces. If you are currently drinking 40 ounces of water per day and your (ideal) daily ounce intake is 90 ounces, increase gently to your ideal ounces of water over the next month or two.
Next step for better adrenal health are more periods of peace and quiet. Take 10 minutes of time to sit in silence at both the beginning and the end of each day.
Find a quiet place in your home or outside near a tree or natural source of water. Sit in a comfortable position and gently follow the rhythm of your breath. Allow yourself this sacred quiet time each day as an opportunity to nourish and assimilate, ground and rejuvenate your energy.
To enhance this process get adequate fresh air, use deep breaths, and movement. Spend time in nature-walking along the ocean, at a park, on a well traveled trail. Take full deep breaths and inhale in the healing power of the natural world. Take time to look at the trees and flower as well as the sky and various birds and so on. Enjoy this time outside as healing and nourishing. All this will give your adrenal glands a break and let them build reserves for future needs.
As for dietary recommendations, decrease (or preferably eliminate) intake of processed sugars and increase intake of natural earth sugars from root vegetables such as yams, carrots, turnips, and beets. Processed sugars truly poison the body every time they are eaten and causing stress to the system.
Sweets are a hard habit to break, but you'll notice a significant increase in balanced energy when you're able to reduce their intake.
Next, ingest greater amounts of essential fatty acids. Various sources include fish oils, evening primrose oil, borage oil, hemp oil, coconut oil, and flax oils.
Research which sources are best for your needs. Essential fats are precursors to many hormones in the body and will support your overall well-being.
Finally, do your best to cut out caffeine from all sources. Even green tea, which is wonderful for you in moderation, can upset sleep patterns and add pressure to an already stressful lifestyle. Coffee is high in other stimulant compounds which seem to truly aggravate those already in tense situations, and cola and so-called 'energy' drinks may be the worst contributors to adrenal fatigue of all with their combination of processed sugars and refined caffeine.
For a soothing, regenerating treatment, take an Epsom salt bath which will pull out fatigue and acidity from the body. Again, let your mind go and release the worries of the day, and try to incorporate this into your regular routine. Consider adding a few drops of pure Lavender essential oil to your bath and allow the relaxing aroma to help you relax and refresh. Here is a favorite essential oil bath blend: 4 drops Lavender essential oil, 1 drop Rose essential oil. These oils are well known for their uplifting and relaxing qualities.
You may also use an essential oil blend that is said to replenish the adrenal glands without stimulation. Mix one ounce hazelnut oil plus 50 drops each of Black Spruce and Pine essential oils. For a gentle lift, reduce the Black Spruce and Pine to 30 drops each, and add 20 drops each of Cedarwood and Peppermint. Apply twice a day to the lower back for a week or two to help support glandular function - and you'll smell great too!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do what you can to improve your sleep routine. Getting to bed before 10pm is crucial - the hours between 10 and 12 are thought to be extremely important in rejuvenation. Try finishing your last meal as early as possible in the evening to get better rest, so the body is not spending as much effort digesting your dinner as it is replenishing all your other vital resources.
Herbal sleep formulas are effective for many people, and are non-habit forming as some prescription medicines can be. Also, studies have shown that the aroma of certain essential oils in the room can have a dramatic effect on sleep quality - an easy way to experiment is to sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil on your comforter before retiring (be sparing, too much can actually be stimulating!)
While the steps addressing lifestyle changes may seem difficult, if you've been suffering from adrenal fatigue, they're certainly worth making an effort at. Properly functioning adrenals are a must for getting the most out of life, and supporting them is essential in any natural health, wellness and fitness program.
About the Author: Nancy Webber is a proponent of the varied and potent healing actions of aromatherapy essential oils. For more, see anandaapothecary.com.