When your cortisol levels soar too high, you’re bound for adrenal fatigue. Here’s how to know when you’re approaching adrenal burnout, and what to do about it.
Your hormones are essential for your store of energy. When your hormones are out of balance, your adrenal health suffers.
If you are under a lot of stress, there’s a good chance that your adrenals have weakened. Here’s how to tell if you have adrenal fatigue, and the best lifestyle changes you can make right now to readjust your cortisol levels.
3 Stages of Adrenal Fatigue
There are three major stages of adrenal fatigue:
Stage 1 – Cortisol levels are too high all the time. Many people feel good during this stage, have a lot of energy, and can burn the candle at both ends.
Stage 2 – If you don’t make any diet or lifestyle changes, you’ll eventually move into stage 2. At this point your cortisol levels will start to drop too low, and you will begin to experience fatigue and other symptoms.
Stage 3 – At this point, your cortisol levels are too low virtually all of the time. You will likely feel exhausted and have no energy to do the daily activities you’re used to.
How Adrenal Health and Gut Health are Related
Two of the most important adrenal hormones also help to regulate the digestive tract by strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation. These hormones – cortisol and DHEA – are made throughout the body, but they are primarily produced by the adrenal glands.
Cortisol is the main anti-inflammatory hormone in the gut. If your cortisol levels are too high or low, you might experience chronic digestive issues due to the inflammation in the gut, which can also lead to inflammation in other areas of your body. [tweet_quote]Your most important adrenal hormones also help regulate your gut health.[/tweet_quote]
DHEA, the other adrenal hormone, is extra important for your immune system as it helps fight and prevent infections in your gut. We are exposed to pathogenic bacteria on a regular basis, and DHEA helps protect our bodies against them.
So, as you can see, having the right amounts of cortisol and DHEA is essential not only for healthy adrenals but for digestion and immune functioning.
Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue
Aside from gut health, cortisol is involved in a few other key body functions. Here’s how seemingly unrelated issues might actually indicate stress on the adrenals.
- Spiked Blood Sugar. Cortisol is linked to blood sugar regulation, so if your blood sugar is too high or low, it may be a sign of cortisol issues.
- Low Blood Pressure. If your blood pressure tends to be too low, that’s a good sign that your cortisol output is too low.
- Poor Sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or not feeling rested when you wake up, it could be a sign of cortisol dysregulation.
- Infertility. Adrenal hormones help regulate sex hormones. If you’re having difficulty getting pregnant, you may need to address your adrenals.
Other common adrenal fatigue symptoms include:
- Lower back pain
- Knee weakness or pain
- Feeling both “tired and wired”
- Excessive sweating from little activity
- Dizziness or light-headedness upon standing
- Muscle twitches
- Sensitivity to light
- Heart palpitations
- Easily irritated
- Salt cravings
- Chronic infections (bacterial, fungal, yeast)
- Excessive mood response after eating carbs
- Sweet, sugar, and carb cravings
- Premature aging
- Dry skin
- Low libido
- Easily startled
How To Support and Protect Your Adrenals
Restoring your adrenals is possible through lifestyle modifications, diet, and supplementation. First, it is critical to implement healthy lifestyle changes that help promote balance and reduce stress.
- Lower stress levels. Take time for self care practices like yoga or meditation. You can also try these restorative yoga poses for adrenal fatigue!
- Eliminate sugar and processed food. Processed carbs and sugar put a lot of stress on the adrenals. Eliminate gluten, dairy, and soy from your diet, as these foods tend to cause inflammation.
- Eat a natural, whole foods-based diet. Eat animal protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits.
- Get quality sleep. Our bodies need 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night in order to strengthen the adrenals. Make it your goal to go to bed by 10pm every night.
- Quit coffee for 30 days. Coffee wears out your adrenals. Take a break by drinking plenty of fresh water and herbal tea in place of coffee for one month. After your coffee detox, limit yourself to one cup of coffee in the morning.
When your body is unable to deal with the stressors of your life, from low-quality foods, lack of sleep, emotional problems, etc…adrenal fatigue is the result.
4 Major Causes Of Adrenal Fatigue
The Stress Effect:
Stress is the #1 cause of adrenal fatigue. Repeated stresses, no matter their cause, make a person more susceptible to adrenal fatigue.
Any form of stress increases cortisol in the body and while cortisol is great in low doses, most of us have too much cortisol floating around our bodies.
This overloads our adrenal glands, eventually leading to adrenal fatigue, weight gain, and frustration.
The Sleep Effect:
Sleep is very important for healthy adrenal glands, unfortunately insomnia is a classic sign of fatigued adrenal glands.
It’s important to get to sleep from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. to keep your circadian rhythms stable.
Avoid caffeine, screens, and physical activity later in the day as they act as stimulants.
Try meditation, reading, or deep breathing to calm your body down and promote restful sleep.
The Exercise Effect:
Most people think all exercise is good exercise. Look, this is hard for me to say since for a large portion of my career, showing people how to exercise was how I paid for my grass-fed beef, but NOT ALL EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR YOU.
In fact, if you have adrenal fatigue, you shouldn’t exercise more than 20ish minutes at a time only 3 or 4 times per week, MAX.
Exercise releases cortisol and other stress hormones, which usually help you build lean muscle and burn fat, but only when your adrenal glands are working properly.
The Nutrition Effect:
If you make poor quality food choices, your body will make poor quality responses to the demands placed on it, stress.
When you consume high quality foods, you’re ability to manage stress of all forms is significantly higher than if you are eating processed foods.
In most cases of adrenal fatigue, a poor diet is a major contributing factor and in 100% of the cases of reversing adrenal fatigue a nutritious diet is necessary.
It’s important your diet contains high-quality proteins, easily digestible carbohydrates, and non-inflammatory fats.
Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue? 13 Questions to Ask Yourself Right Now…
Do I feel constantly tired, fatigued, or low energy?
Do I constantly need coffee, energy drinks, or pick me ups to wake up in the morning or make it through the day?
Do I struggle with allergies?
Do I have bouts of asthma?
Do I get sick often (sinusitis, colds, flu, infections etc…)
Am I under severe emotional stress?
Do I suffer from chronic pain or other physical stress?
Do I have low blood pressure?
Do I have a hard time getting out of bed every morning?
Do I get light-headed when I rise quickly?
Do I crave salt or salty foods?
Do I believe I would feel much better if I could just sleep until 9 a.m.?
Does my body not respond well to exercise (achy muscles, no weight loss, sore joints, etc…)?
Do I struggle to lose weight, no matter how much I try to lose weight?
If you answer yes to 2 or more of the above questions it is likely you have some level of adrenal fatigue.
To start healing and boosting/calming the adrenal glands:
– Eat adrenal-friendly, alkaline, low-glycemic foods
– Manage stress and improve sleep
– Do daily diaphragmatic breathing exercises
– Avoid cardiovascular exercise, do strength training
Supplements For Healthy Adrenals
In addition to lifestyle changes, there are certain vitamins that can help boost adrenal health. Try to focus on eating more foods that contain these vitamins, or take them in supplement form.
Vitamin C is directly related to cortisol output. In fact, Vitamin C is found in its highest concentration in the adrenal glands. Choosing a Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids can help aid in the absorption of Vitamin C.
B vitamins are necessary for gut health and overall well-being. In particular, Pantothenic Acid, or B5, is important for the adrenal glands as it plays a role in creating every hormone in the body. Vitamin B5 also helps with anxiety, stress and the production of cortisol.
Herbs such as rhodiola, ginseng, cordyceps, and ashwagandha are all known to support the adrenals. These herbs are considered adaptogenic because they adapt to the state of your body and improve it. In other words, they will raise cortisol if your cortisol is too low, or lower it if it is too high.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve experienced any type of chronic stress (physical, mental, emotional) for a prolonged period of time, then I suggest getting your adrenals tested. Once you support your adrenals through diet, lifestyle, and supplementation, you can begin to heal your body, regain your energy, and feel vibrant again.