Feeling tired, yet wired?
Unable to peel yourself out of bed even after 8 quality hours of sleep?
Find yourself feeling more depressed than normal?
Crying for no reason?
On edge, unable to concentrate and have little motivation?
While these symptoms can come from a host of reasons, I typically find my clients suffering from these symptoms typically have some sort of adrenal fatigue or stress.
Let’s take Sarah for instance. Sarah is a long-distance runner in her mid 30’s crushing her races, feeling amazing and recovering quickly from her workouts. After a few races, she noticed she was feeling a bit more tired than normal and kept getting a reoccurring cold she couldn’t seem to kick. She went on the Z-Pack, which is typical in conventional medicine, but she noticed she was sick yet again the following week.
Her workouts were suffering as well, she found herself incredibly tired after a short run, often feeling like she got hit by a truck and felt the need to take a nap.
Caffeine was her drink of choice, choosing the cup of joe over water on occasion and her diet was healthy for the most part but she still loved her sugar from chocolate, candy, and cakes daily. “I’m exercising it off, so I can eat it.” she would often say to herself.
Her job was stressful but she chose to make it even more so because of the pressure she put on herself to overperform and over commit to making her numbers for the month.
She was having some marital troubles and found herself feeling stuck and resentful with her husband but chose not to say anything to him out of fear of abandonment.
Within a few months, she found herself going from running marathons and feeling on top of the world to barely mustering up enough energy to get out of bed with mild depression.
SARAH IS NOT ALONE.
The reality is the majority of us are under immense stress most of the time which leaves little room for relaxation, replenishment, and joy. Home pressures, work pressures, money pressures, kid pressures, and all those inner pressures we put on ourselves to be perfect – eat the perfect diet, do our perfect yoga or workout, excel perfectly at work and be the best mom on the planet. It’s never-ending.
So, what happens? We fall somewhere on the spectrum between adrenal overdrive and adrenal fatigue.
As mentioned above, here’s a few tell-tale signs we’re experiencing either adrenal overdrive or adrenal fatigue:
- You’re having trouble falling asleep even when you’re tired (“tired and wired”) and even when you do sleep, you’re not rested when you wake.
- You get irritable or angry really quickly or more often than you want to.
- You’re craving sugar/carbs, fat, salt – or all of the above!
- You get tired around 3-4 most afternoons, and that’s when you really want something sweet or some extra caffeine.
- You’ve been gaining weight, perhaps noticing a spare tire growing around your middle.
- You feel anxious or blue.
- You’re getting sick more often than you used to.
- Your hormones are all over the place, you’re having fertility problems, and perhaps your libido is nowhere to be found.
- You’re memory and focus are not what you think they should be.
- Your digestive system is a mess.
Sound like you?
While there are tests that a functional or integrative doctor can do for adrenal fatigue, if you’re experiencing a few of the above symptoms, you can actually start to treat yourself without special testing. If you do want to get tested, you can ask your doctor to check a salivary or serum cortisol. The best testing looks at a 24-hour range so you can see where your peaks and dips of cortisol occur through the day, which can give your doctor some clues as to what might be going on to trigger these. Some tests, for example, the Adrenal Stress Index, also include DHEA, progesterone, insulin, and fecal sIgA, which look at the effects of adrenal stress on other hormones, blood sugar regulation, and whether your gut is being stressed.
What are some natural ways to treat adrenal stress?
Check out my 6 tips below……
Believe it or not, the best treatment for adrenal stress is to relax! Nothing fancy, it’s simply learning to program your brain and body that it’s not in fight or flight mode. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, meditation and deep breathing help let your adrenals know you’re safe which then allows your body to naturally relax and reduce the number of stress hormones floating around in your body. These relaxation techniques also help tremendously with our Parasympathetic Nervous system (distress and digest) part of our system. If our body is already overly sensitive from a heightened nervous system, these tools can help restore and heal our adrenals.
Even if we’re feeling wired, especially after that 4th cup of coffee during our afternoon slump, we really need to aim for those 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Sleep hygiene is a must to help our adrenals heal and have time for rebounding from our stressful day. I highly suggest shutting off all electronics an hour before bedtime as well as keeping your bedroom at a cool temperature and potentially having a sound machine to help you get the best night’s sleep.
REGULATE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR.
When our blood sugar drops, our body thinks we’re starving, which in turn fires up our adrenals thinking we’re in danger again. It’s imperative to keep our blood sugar regulated throughout the day to prevent drops, which in turn create anxiety and adrenal overdrive.
It’s very important to not skip meals, especially breakfast when we need healthy fats and protein to start our day off on the right track. When we live off caffeine, sugary foods and processed carbs, our blood sugar will be in constant limbo, which yet again, taxes our adrenals.
Again, make sure to get a healthy breakfast that’s high in protein, good quality fats, and veggies regularly throughout the day to keep your blood sugar balanced and your adrenals happy.
SLOW YOUR ROLL ON THE COFFEE.
Let’s be honest, Starbucks is the next best thing to food (or maybe better than for some of us) and we see them at every corner which often forces us to hit the caffeine even when we’re not fully feeling the need for it.
Just remember, caffeine allows us to push past our natural energy limits and triggers some of the same adrenal chemicals (adrenaline, for example) that get fired up when we’re under stress, leading to increased cortisol production and adrenal overdrive.
Trust me, I know it’s super hard to cut back on the coffee, especially when we’ve been relying on it for as long as we can remember. However, if we can cut back, even a cup, our nervous system will thank us for it in the long run. Drinking coffee throughout the day keeps us in that vicious cycle and I can promise, if you can get through the first few days and muster through the headaches, you will feel a hundred times better! Even if you cut out your afternoon cup and have tea instead, you’re making steps in the right direction.
We all know exercise is amazing for the heart and mind, yet some of us overstretch our limits and choose to hit the pavement instead of taking a needed rest day. Over-exercise can actually contribute to adrenal fatigue, which is why you see many endurance athletes and hard-core lifters get sick easily and find themselves more susceptible to illness and infections. I’ve also known several athletes who exercise too much typically gaining weight, especially around their mid-section due to the excessive stress response. Take it down a notch, I’m not saying you have to stop all together but maybe you cut back on the intensity for a few weeks or lower the reps of your weight training routine until your body feels strong and energetic again. If you notice you’re incredibly fatigued after the workout or well into the next day, then you know you’ve done too much.
TAKE THE RIGHT SUPPLEMENTS (INCLUDING SALT!)
I’ve found taking a high-quality multivitamin with B-complex and magnesium as well as a class of herbs called adaptogens tend to work wonders for people with adrenal fatigue! For a multivitamin, I recommend any good quality, food-based one. I typically like the Juice Plus vitamins or you can also find food based ones at Whole Foods as well.
Adaptogens are a special category of herbs that specifically support, nourish, heal, and replenish the adrenals – whether you have adrenal overdrive or adrenal fatigue. Some of my favorites for women are Ashwagandha (calming, helps with muscle aches, promotes sleep), Rhodiola (especially if you also have anxiety), and Holy Basil (especially immune boosting). I also love taking Pink Himalyan Sea Salt to get the adequate minerals and nutrients we need to feed our adrenals.
So, if you find yourself moodier than normal, craving salt and recovering slower, maybe it’s time to scale it back a notch and allow your adrenals to heal and restore.
For more tips on adrenal health, stress management, food, and fitness, hop on my FREE email list at www.kimschaper.com