Edit: There are now over 50 symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue that you can have for free. There is also a free report for what you can do to help heal the issue. Click on the Adrenal Fatigue book to the left and get your symptoms today.
Do you feel tired all the time? Maybe you get plenty of sleep and just don’t feel rested. Or maybe you have trouble sleeping. Low energy? Difficulty thinking or focusing? These are all symptoms of adrenal fatigue. This article explores the adrenals and the causes of adrenal fatigue. Included is a simplified explanation of how diet affects the adrenals and some suggestions for what you can do to restore them, and you to health.
The 30 symptoms include, but are not limited to:
1. Excessive fatigue and exhaustion, chronic fatigue
2. Non-refreshing sleep
3. Sleep disturbance, insomnia
4. Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
5. Craving salty and/or sweet foods
6. Sensitivity to light
7. Low stamina and slow to recover from exercise
8. Slow to recover from injury or illness
9. Difficulty concentrating, brain fog
10. Poor digestion
11. Irritable bowel syndrome, IBS
12. Low immune function
13. Premenstrual syndrome
14. Menopause symptoms
15. Low blood pressure
16. Sensitivity to cold
19. Frequent influenza
24. Reduced memory
25. Low libido, sexual drive or interest
26. Lack of lust for life and/or food
27. Excess hunger
28. Low appetite
29. Panic/anxiety attacks
30. Irritability, impatience, quick to anger.
If quick to anger, the person will often tend to back down quickly if confronted.
Many of these symptoms have other causes, so just because you have one or more symptom doesn’t necessarily mean that you have adrenal fatigue. On the other hand, adrenal fatigue is so prevalent that if you have even one of these symptoms, it is likely that your are at least a bit run down.
Almost every client I have ever seen has come to me because of one or more of these symptoms. Stress is a major contributor to adrenal fatigue. We live in a busy world that offers little relief from stresses of life. Toxicity contributes to adrenal fatigue as well. But by far, adrenal fatigue is caused by a diet high in sugar and processed foods. And, the same dietary factors that contribute to adrenal fatigue are at the root of most of our major health issues today. Most major diseases start with the same factors as adrenal fatigue, and adrenal fatigue can lead to many serious conditions.
What are the adrenals?
The adrenals are two walnut sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce three different classes of hormones at the rate of about a quart (liter) a day. One class is stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol also called hydrocortisone. Another class of adrenal hormones affect mineral metabolism especially the sodium/potassium balance. And, they produce sex hormones and their precursors. These hormones are some of the ones that make us feel good. They give us energy and a lust for life — and sex.
A simple test for adrenal fatigue
There are many tests for adrenal fatigue. Lab tests are expensive and take time for the results. However, there is a simple self-test that can be done with a flashlight and a mirror. Start in a darkened room so that your pupils dilate but have it light enough so that you can see your eyes in a mirror. Allow enough time in the dim room so that the pupils dilate fully, about ten minutes. Next, shine the flashlight into one of your eyes from the side so that the light causes the pupil to shrink down to a pin point. Do this in such a way that you can still watch the pupil as it reduces in size. If your adrenals are strong, the pupil will most likely shrink down immediately. If there is any hesitation before they react, then your adrenals are probably fatigued. I use the qualifier probably here because there are other reasons eyes may not react like this though they are not common.
Dietary causes of adrenal fatigue
As mentioned earlier, sugar and refined carbohydrates are the main cause of adrenal fatigue. Sugar includes honey, maple syrup, fructose, dried fruit, fruit juice and just about anything that is sweet. Refined carbohydrates are grains that have been ground up or have had the bran removed. This include products like bread even whole wheat bread, noodles, corn chips, white rice and pretty much anything that comes in a package. Refined foods are broken down by grinding and concentration. Refined grains have more surface area exposed to digestion, so they digest more quickly. They release their sugars quickly into the blood stream causing blood sugar to go up too high too fast.
The body responds to high blood sugar by releasing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that causes sugar to move into the liver, muscles and fat tissues. The problem is that the body evolutionarily isn’t designed to deal with the large amounts of sugar in the blood that are caused by sugar and refined foods. Evolution has designed us to eat animal protein, whole grains (not chopped up), vegetables and fruits. So, the body tends to overreact to this fast sugar by releasing too much insulin. This article is about the adrenals, but high blood sugar, high levels of insulin and constant exposure to stress hormones cause their own problems that will be covered in the future.
The release of too much insulin causes the blood sugar to go down too far. Most everyone has experienced getting sleepy after a large meal of pasta, rice or some other carbohydrate. Or, the drop in energy that follows a candy high. That’s what happens after the large release of insulin. The blood sugar goes down too far. The brain eats mostly sugar, so it gets sleepy from lack.
Now we get into the adrenal involvement. One of the stress hormones they release is cortisol. In ancient times stress meant that we had to fight or run away, the fight/flight response. The muscles that move quickly use sugar, and cortisol causes blood sugar to increase. There is also a cortisol release anytime there is low blood sugar. You know how you can be really hungry, then after awhile you aren’t so hungry anymore? That’s cortisol doing it’s job. The same thing happens when low blood sugar happens because of an over-release of insulin.
The adrenals are constantly being assailed by the above reactions. Processed foods and snacks are available all the time, and they are hard to resist. Our ancestors survived because they had a sweet tooth. They craved the sweet fruits that were available at the end of winter. Insulin caused that extra sugar to be stored as fat for the lean times of winter. The ones that didn’t desire sweet fruits didn’t survive, so we inherited that craving for sweets and other foods that turn into sugar. The problem is that we eat as though it is the end of summer all the time!
The adrenals are constantly being called on to produce more and more cortisol in response to the stress caused by sugar and processed food. Eventually they become exhausted. And, so does the indulger.
What you can do
The obvious thing to do is to stop eating sugar and refined foods. A lot of people will do great just by modifying their diet alone. There are lots of products on the market for treating the adrenals, but which ones really work? This is very individual, but I will give you some suggestions in part two.
Be well, and remember: the body wants to heal, all it needs is the opportunity.
@Lane, I haven’t heard of this from AF, but it’s likely that it is there. Most likely it’s a calcium/magnesium issue. This is not as simple as it might seem since there can be several nutrients and issues involved. I could probably fit it all in an article, but a phone session might be better. Probably take a half hour or so.
@Kathy, Yes, AF can cause this, but there are other issues that can cause it as well. Have you done the adrenal fatigue eye test?
I took a saliva test for my adreanal glands about two months ago and found out my cortisol levels were off the chart. I guess my body was mostly only producing cortisol. I went on some suppliments recomended by a doctor, and things went totoally haywire. Now I have routine panic attacks, low blood pressure, fatigue, and difficulty staying awake throughout the day. What should I do? I have already invested so much money in natural cures that I am at my wits end.
@David, the chances are that you are locked in a fight or flight response. It is impossible for the body to heal in that state. I can release it over the phone if you like, or you can try calming herbs. That link is to some good ones. The herbs may or may not release fight flight completely, and you may need them even if F/F is released with Applied Kinesiology. In other words, I’d recommend getting the herbs regardless of what else you might do. Panic attacks are usually due to adrenal fatigue progressing to an imbalance in brain chemistry. The liver can also be involved.
Last yr it was thought by a gp that I had giant cell arteritis and he put me on steroids. To cut a long story short he put me on nearly three times the maximum dose of these steroids, the side effects were horrendous, I put on 9 1/2 st in weight, bled through the kin not just bruising, had psoriasis and on and on. My rheumatologist weaned me off the steroids but a mth after I started vomiting not just after food either. This was back in may. Ive lost 5 1/2 st in less than 4 mths, can hardly eat anything as two mouthfuls and I’m full and usually sick. Ive just seen a consultant who put a camera in my stomach and all ok but he’s sent me to another one who straight away said all the symptoms pointed to my adrenals not working as they stop producing cortisol while you are taking steroids but kick back in when you finish them. He believes mine hasn’t kicked back in and that I possibly have Addisons disease. I am having a test for that shortly. I need to know how I can help myself as I’m very weak, so tired and in alot of pain and I’m so fed up being sick all the time. I brought blood up today from straining I presume. I have other health problems as well, arthritis, heart murmur, urinary system was totally rebuilt thanks to surgery going wrong, spina bifida occulta, still have headache from over a yr ago that they thought was arteritis. I could go on!! Can you help with any tips in keeping me going please? Thank you.
Hi Caryn, So sorry to hear what’s been happening to you! Most things can be healed with natural techniques as long as no damage has been done. Unfortunately, it sounds like those steroids have damaged you. But, there may be some things you can do. It is very important that you get the test for Addison’s done. If that is the problem then the main thing you can do is take the drugs for it. You might want to get a second opinion so you don’t have a repeat of the poor treatment you were given before.
Holistically speaking, you really need to have a very clean diet. Avoid all processed foods (ground up grains) and all sugars. Also avoid drugs, even legal ones like caffeine and alcohol. Supplements can help too, especially B vitamins. And, if you don’t have Addison’s then you can take some adrenal herbs and supplements to bring you back into balance. Some great protocols are listed in Adrenal Fatigue, Get Your Life Back. http://selfadjustingtechnique.com/my-books/adrenal-fatigue-book/
I wish you well on your path to recovery! Kalidasa