You struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Your body aches throughout the day. You’re not hungry and have actually lost a few pounds over the last month. Something just isn’t right and you can feel it, but you’re not sure what’s going on.
Could it be depression? Maybe, but you’re relatively happy and don’t feel depressed. What about an underlying illness? No, you just had a checkup and everything went fine. So, what is it? Why do you consistently feel like your life is a marathon and you’re always in last place trying to catch up?
You might have adrenal fatigue and the reason you, your doctor and your tireless Google searches can’t find an answer is because adrenal fatigue isn’t one diagnosis, but a collection of them.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of minor symptoms that add up to have a major impact on a person’s life. The reason it’s called “adrenal fatigue” is because most of these symptoms are tied to the adrenal glands and the endocrine system, responsible for regulating hormone functions in your body. If your hormones are unbalanced, it can affect everything from your mood to how your body responds to stimuli in your everyday life.
Someone suffering from adrenal fatigue generally has broad hormone imbalances—some more severe than others. For example, your body might not produce enough melatonin, which can cause sleep issues or lead to lack of sleep. Meanwhile, too much serotonin production might create mood swings. There are dozens of hormones controlled by the endocrine system and the adrenal glands, which can lead to innumerable combinations of hormone imbalance if a person has adrenal fatigue.
How do you know if you have adrenal fatigue?
As described above, most people can feel adrenal fatigue when they have it. It might range from an “off” feeling to a persistent feeling that you’re not yourself or that your body is unbalanced. Some of the most common signs and symptoms that point to adrenal fatigue are:
- Lack of restful sleep, insomnia or trouble falling asleep at night
- Lethargy, general malaise or the propensity to become tired easily
- Body aches and pains, especially in joints
- Loss of weight, hair or complexion (hyperpigmentation)
Adrenal fatigue will leave you feeling like you’re in a rut—that you’re constantly behind. It’s often tied to stressful situations and emotional distress, such as working lots of overtime or coping with the death of a loved one. As a result of its symptoms and its onset factors, it’s commonly associated with depression—however, while the two can be linked, they’re not the same.
To determine adrenal fatigue—or problems rooted in the adrenal glands—your doctor will likely recommend a blood test to measure adrenal hormones. If levels are low, it’s an indication of adrenal fatigue and your doctor may want to explore different options for treatment.
Breaking free of adrenal fatigue
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot your doctor can do to help you overcome adrenal fatigue because we’re still learning about it—causes, treatments and management approaches. The good news is, there are widespread accounts of ways to combat adrenal fatigue that have led many people to overcome it—approaches any doctor can endorse. Here are a few of the ways people have reported to overcome adrenal fatigue:
- Follow a hormone-friendly diet. This means cutting out as much caffeine and sugar as possible, since these compounds are known to affect hormone production when consumed in excess. Avoid carbs, hydrogenated oils and foods heavy in preservatives. It’s recommended to try a natural diet like paleo or a modified vegetarian diet, always preparing your meals fresh.
- Consume hormone-friendly foods. Start adding foods to your diet that naturally support positive hormone production. Examples include avocados, fatty fish, kelp and seaweed, fermented foods, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils like coconut oil. Moderate your intake of these foods but make sure they’re a regular part of your diet.
- Explore adrenal supplements. Adrenal fatigue means your body needs a little bit of help regulating the production of hormones. Supplements can help. Vitamins C and D, fish oil, lavender and rosemary extracts, ashwagandha and adaptogens can all aid your body in finding the right balance of hormone production.
- Regulate your sleep and stress. A great natural way to get your body back on track is to manage your stress and regulate your sleep. Try to take a mindful minute every hour to calm yourself. Take a short nap in the afternoon if possible. Get a full eight hours of sleep. These steps will add up to a body that’s more relaxed, rested and capable of healing from adrenal fatigue.
- Exercise daily. Even if it’s a quick jog or 30 minutes lifting weights, exercise is a major component in overcoming adrenal fatigue. Exercise promotes positive hormone release and helps regulate hormone levels in the body. Yoga and outdoor exercise in particular are proven to promote balance within the body.
Eliminating adrenal fatigue means taking control over your life. Break the monotony of your everyday routine, because that’s probably one of the biggest contributors to adrenal fatigue! Instead, look for ways to incorporate wellness into everything you do. Eat better, move more and stress less. These things will take work, but your body will recognize and reward your effort as it returns to regular hormone production.
One day, you’ll wake up without that brain fog, lethargy or aches and pains, and you’ll just feel better!