Most people know that stress is a huge contributor to fatigue. It makes sense. Stress is something we experience daily and so many of us are also struggling with stubborn fatigue and unpredictable hormones.
Adrenal fatigue has gotten a lot of attention these days. On a weekly basis, I encounter women who either believe they have Adrenal Fatigue (as it is often self-diagnosed from the internet) or have been told they have it by a health practitioner.
Many of them are at a total loss of what to do. They are taking adaptogens, bio-identical hormones and Vitamin C. They are meditating. They are doing yoga. They are doing the best they can to nourish their adrenals and get back to feeling more in control of their life.
Unfortunately, many of their efforts fall short. They continue to feel fatigued, burnt out, overwhelmed, crazy, stressed and out of shape.
If you feel that you are struggling with Adrenal Fatigue, you are likely experiencing some of the following symptoms:
If I ask you how stress leads to fatigue, you might tell me a story about your adrenal glands. You might tell me that the adrenal glands produce cortisol. And when you are continually stressed, these hard-working glands are forced to produce excessive amounts of cortisol. Overtime, as stress continues, these glands wear out and eventually burn out. Enter Adrenal Fatigue.
In Adrenal Fatigue, all hormones are depleted, including estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone since the adrenals play a huge role in the production of these steroid hormones.
What I just described is basically the three stage theory of Adrenal Fatigue. Stage 1 or Acute describes the initial stress. Cortisol is high. As stress continues, and the adrenal glands start to wear out, you enter Stage 2; the Compensatory phase where cortisol levels decline and so do energy levels. Eventually the adrenal glands are overwhelmed, cortisol levels plummet and enter into Stage 3; exhaustion. In the exhaustion phase, the adrenals are burned out and sex hormones are depleted. Enter hormone imbalance, weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, sugar cravings and PMS.
But what if I told you that the symptoms you are experiencing have little to do with your adrenal glands or even cortisol levels for that matter?
I have been questioning the cortisol model of fatigue for some time now. In the past four years I have run hundreds of saliva and urine hormones panels on both men and women. I have yet to see a strong connection between cortisol levels, PMS and fatigue.
If the 3 stage model of Adrenal Fatigue is true then my clients in the Acute phase should feel energetic and my clients in the Exhaustion phase should feel fatigued and burnt out. But I have often seen the opposite and everything else in between.
Ari Whitten, researcher and nutrition expert, compiled all the research he could find on fatigue, burnout and exhaustion (about 130 studies) and found that about 25% of the studies linked these symptoms with high cortisol levels. He found that another 25% linked these symptoms with low cortisol levels while, 50% of more of the studies found no abnormality between cortisol levels and stress, burnout, exhaustion and fatigue.
Based on this data, and according to Ari, cortisol is not a great measure of exhaustion and fatigue. I tend to agree. This is something I have seen over and over and it has left me with more questions than answers.
As It turns out that there are over a dozen physiological pathways in the body that can link stress to health problems, and most of them have nothing to with “fatigued” adrenal glands.
It’s very likely that stress is causing your fatigue (and all sorts of other hormonal symptoms) without anything being wrong with your adrenal glands or your cortisol levels.
The truth is the theory of Adrenal Fatigue is flawed and according to research does not actually exist. While the medical community tends to brush those aside who struggle with Adrenal Fatigue type symptoms, these people ARE struggling and should not be treated as hypochondriacs.
What many educated health practitioners are now calling this condition is HPA-axis Dysfunction which stands for Hypothalamus-Pituitary Adrenal Axis Dysfunction. This system is responsible for mitigating the stress response.
Let’s say you are out for a walk in the woods. You encounter a bear. Now that’s stressful! You initially get that instant adrenalin rush. Adrenalin is instant but it is not long lasting. The adrenalin travels to your hypothalamus (located in your brain) which signals that stress is present. The hypothalamus sends corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) to the pituitary gland (located at the base of the skull), which then sends adrenocorticotropic releasing hormones (ACTH) to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands receive the message and produce cortisol accordingly.
Many now believe that it is dysregulation in the HPA axis that leads to many of the symptoms that are associated with Adrenal Fatigue. Over time the system starts to become resistant to the negative feedback loop telling it to calm down (similar to insulin resistance), which leads to abnormal function of the axis. When the HPA Axis dysfunctions, many symptoms can arise.
HPA axis dysfunction has been associated with everything from Multiple Schlerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome to anxiety, depression and burnout.
For the most part when people say they have Adrenal Fatigue, they more likely have HPA-axis Dysfunction. It’s clear that if we focus our protocols on the adrenal glands, we are missing the mark. Are you following me? It’s not an adrenal issue to begin with.
When most people talk about stress, they are referring to the mental and emotional stress that we experience daily. This might refer to relationship stress, professional stress, financial stress or even the stress of driving in traffic.
Stress is much more than this.
Stress refers to anything that causes the body to lose homeostasis (that happy balance when everything is working as it should).
These types of stress aren’t always obvious to the average person. They might include;
As you can see stress can be many things. The above can result in activation of the HPA axis and eventually lead to it’s dysfunction, especially if these stressors become chronic (rather than quick and easily resolved)
Let’s discuss some of the other factors that link the stress system to a change in your energy and hormone levels.
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the center of your throat. This gland is the regulator of your metabolism. Its job is to produce T4, an inactive thyroid hormone, which then gets converted to T3, the active thyroid hormone. T3 regulates the rate of your metabolism.
There are receptors for thyroid hormone in every single cell in the body. If your metabolism is sluggish then you will not produce energy at a rate that keeps you energized. Therefore people who struggle with hypothyroid (an underactive thyroid) usually have low energy and struggle to lose weight. They are also more susceptible to imbalanced sex hormones because low thyroid slows down the rate at which hormones and made and broken down in the body.
When your thyroid hormone production is low everything from your brain cells to your heart cells struggle to produce energy.
Stress is known to reduce both T4 and T3. Additionally, stress may lower Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is the main signalling hormone that the pituitary sends the thyroid to tell it to produce thyroid hormone.
This is a common way that hypothyroid gets misdiagnosed. Some thyroid issues are primary, meaning that the thyroid is not functioning as it should and the result is decreasing thyroid hormone.
Other thyroid issues are secondary, meaning the thyroid is functioning as it should but is listening to the instructions it receives from stress, causing it to reduce hormone production.
Secondary hypothyroidism is often missed and while hormone replacement therapy may offer a short term boost, it does little to address the reason why the thyroid is under producing hormones in the first place (ie. Stress!)
Most people believe that getting sick is a result of “catching” a bug or virus. This may be true in some cases but the truth is we are always full of harmful bacteria. They are already in us!
They lurk in the deepest corners of our digestive system and cells. When we are healthy, well-fed, and the immune system is strong, these bugs are not an issue. They are kept in check and do not make us sick.
But when we are stressed, certain arms of the immune system are depressed. This means we are less likely to be able to keep those nasty bugs in check, they are able to outnumber the beneficial bacteria and make us sick.
Therefore you easily get sick when you are more stressed out and run down. An example is shingles. Shingles is an illness caused by the same virus that leads to chicken pox. The virus, called varicella zoster, lies dormant in nerve cells near the spinal cord after one has been exposed to chicken pox. It should remain there, dormant, not causing any issues, unless the host gets weakened and it is able to emerge. The result is shingles.
Neurotransmitters are the compounds which the brain uses to communicate. Many people have heard of serotonin and dopamine before. Other neurotransmitters also include histamine, GABA, norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Healthy levels of neurotransmitters lead to a healthy and stable mood. They also contribute to your energy levels. Symptoms caused by both low dopamine and serotonin include fatigue.
Several studies have shown that chronic stress can induce deficiencies in numerous neurotransmitters.
Chronic stress can lead to GABA resistance, meaning that your brain resists GABA. GABA is your main inhibitory neurotransmitter which inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters and helps you relax. If you lack GABA sensitivity you are more likely to feel wired, have racing thoughts and struggle to calm down at night.
Serotonin and dopamine are also impacted by chronic stress, which not only affects your mood but means your energy levels are less than optimal.
Stress is thought to be the number one cause of Leaky Gut. To learn more about Leaky Gut, click here.
We are all familiar with the gut-brain connection. Remember how your stomach felt the last time you had to give a public speech? That feeling of “butterflies” is evidence that what’s going on in your head has the ability to affect what’s going on in your gut.
When we are having a stress response, your energy moves away from rest and digest processes and is funneled into the muscular and skeletal system. Your body is preparing you to run or fight for your life. That means that if your stressed, digestion is slowed or even halted.
If there is food in your gut then it doesn’t get digested. It just sits there and is fermented by bacteria which produce toxins that can contributed to leaky gut.
Additionally, exposure to food sensitivities, toxins and pathogens can also increase intestinal permeability and lead to leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, you struggle to breakdown, absorb and assimilate nutrients and minerals.
Lack of mineral and nutrients can affect every system in your body. Clearly if you do not have nutrients to function properly, you might struggle with energy levels.
Gut inflammation can also affect neurotransmitter production (much of your neurotransmitters are produced in your gut), lead to more food sensitivities and also cause IBS, autoimmune conditions and small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Many people who are chronically stressed also have trouble sleeping at night. Many of these people describe feeling fatigued upon waking, despite sleeping eight hours or more. They also tend to feel wired at night and are often unable to sleep. They might describe a “second wind” that comes about in the evening even after feeling exhausted and drained throughout the day.
It is also no secret that having a stressful day can lead to loss of sleep. Many people are unable to stop thinking about the stress that plagues them as they fall asleep.
This can lead to issues falling asleep or the inability to stay asleep during the night. Stress also reduces our ability to get into the deep sleep needed for repair and regeneration. If our endocrine system is unable to repair itself, our hormones might go a little wacky.
Lack of sleep is incredibly hard on the body and can lead to many health problems. The impact that stress has on sleep patterns is probably one of the most common ways that stress can impact your energy and hormones levels. Click here to improve your sleep.
If low energy is your main issue, start by looking at your sleep patterns. If you can find a way to sleep better than there is a good chance you can cultivate more energy for yourself.
Stress increases the rate at which you burn minerals. Minerals are the spark plugs of the body and are needed as co-factors in every single chemical reaction in the body.
Stress means you use minerals like magnesium and potassium at a higher rate. Lacking in these critical nutrients mean that your cell doesn’t have what it needs to function optimally or give you the energy you need to feel your best. Minerals are needed to produce all hormones, including sex hormones, in proper amounts. Mineral deficiency not only leads to fatigue but it leads to hormone imbalance and symptoms of PMS.
Deficient minerals also make it more likely that your body will hold onto toxic metals. Why? Because metals, although toxic, can perform similar tasks that minerals can. If you don’t have a certain mineral your body may use a metal instead. Your body then holds onto this metal instead of detoxing it through the liver.
A deficiency in potassium, for example, means you are more likely to hold onto Thallium. Thallium is an extremely toxic meal, 10 times more toxic then mercury. Thallium was added to gasoline after lead was removed from it years ago. It is in our air, soil and water. Having good mineral status is key to avoiding heavy metal toxicity which can greatly interfere with cellular function and lead to numerous health issues.
Your mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells. They are organisms whose main job is to produce Adenosine Triphosphate, the main source of energy for your cells.
Your cells are the building block of every organ, gland and system in your body. It’s simple. If your mitochondria is unable to produce cellular energy, you won’t be feeling very energetic either. You mitochondria in the cells in your adrenal glands are also needed to churn out sex hormone. Unhealthy mitochondria means hormonal imbalance and stubborn fatigue.
It is the opinion of some health practitioners that the main component of fatigue is mitochondrial dysfunction. The more and more I read and understand, the more I am starting to switch from a cortisol model of fatigue to a mitochondria model of fatigue.
Robert Naviaux et al. did a study involving 84 subjects. 45 of these subjects were diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, while the other 39 individuals were normal controls. In the subjects with CFS, 80% had an abnormal blood markers, which was suggestive of a low metabolic state. They concluded that CFS is a state in which the metabolism has slowed in response to environmental stress.
This is really interesting. These researchers also discovered that the mitochondria has more functions than just producing energy. They are also responsible for cellular defense, or protecting the cell from threats.
What types of things can threaten the cells? Viruses, parasites, bacteria, heavy metals, environmental toxins and psychological traumas. All these things can turn on the cellular defense system. The problem is the mitochondria can only do one of these jobs at a time. Either they make energy or they defend the cell.
If any of these factors or present, your mitochondria will be busy protecting you and will not be allocating resources for energy production. This is the number one reason why sickness makes you tired. All your mitochondria have shifted away from energy production to protecting you from whatever virus, bacteria or parasite is attacking your system.
I find this so interesting. In the past year I have really started to understand the role of heavy metal and environmental toxin accumulation in health.
After eliminating a ton of gut infections (including parasites and candida), getting rid of SIBO and doing significant gut healing, I saw little improvement in my energy. Upon running a hair mineral analysis and two heavy metal panels, I found that I was toxic in metals.
It wasn’t until I started addressing these metals that I finally saw a shift in my energy. I now do the same with all my clients and not only can we resolve their fatigue but we can re-balance hormones which means no PMS, no mood swings, easier weight loss and more restful sleep.
I recently did a webinar with Wendy Myers, heavy metal detox expert, who said that heavy metal toxicity underlies every single case of chronic fatigue. If you are eating a healthy diet, living a healthy lifestyle and you still feel exhausted and struggle with hormone imbalance, you are likely toxic with metals. I am in complete agreement with Wendy.
Since shifting my thinking, I have began addressing heavy metals in all my clients and the results have been profound.
We discuss the importance of having a healthy and normal circadian rhythm. It is cues from the rising and setting sun that signals our body to do certain tasks at certain times. For example, darkness tells your body it’s bed time and stimulates the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone.
The rising sun has a similar effect. It tells your body, “Hey, it’s morning time. Get out there.” Many of us live inside, have curtains on our windows and do not get direct light exposure when we first get out of bed. My advise is to turn on every single artificial light in your house and open every single window.
Even better, wake up, grab a tea and go for a walk or sip your tea in your back yard. Even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes, this can greatly increase your energy, jump start your circadian rhythm and reduce that dreaded morning fatigue.
Gluten, by far, is the most important factor when it comes to boosting the energy levels of my client. Gluten is a funny thing. You may have heard a lot of competing views on the gluten-free trend. It depends on who you are talking to.
In my clinical experience it is the one thing I can take out of a clients diet that always, without fail, leads to increased energy and better hormone balance. Gluten seems to have a negative effect on your thyroid. Gluten closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gluten gets into the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gluten also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. Thyroid tissue and gluten are structurally similar. It is a case of mistaken identity and your immune system can attack your thyroid.
If you have followed this article so far, you know that healthy thyroid function is critical to healthy energy levels. Time and time again I have seen gluten-free diets leads to more energy. Give it a try!
Easier said then done but there is no question that improving your digestion will also boost energy and promote healthy hormone production. Many people don’t know this, but every single hormone is metabolized in the gut. So you if you struggle with PMS, you have gut problems. Period.
The best way to start healing your gut is to eat fresh, organic whole foods. You can also supplement your diet with homemade bone broth and fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir.
Other great tools to help you heal your gut are l-glutamine, aloe vera juice, collagen and my very favorite product, GI Revive from Designs for Health. If you want access to these high quality supplements, you can sign up free for my online dispensary.
As we discussed, mineral status is crucial to healthy energy levels and hormone production. Unfortunately, many mineral supplements are low quality and do not contain a healthy combination of minerals. If you want to talk a multi-mineral make sure you take a good one. The only one I currently recommend to my clients is Ocean’s Alive Marine PhytoPlankton. To get access to this and other high quality supplements, you can sign up free for my online dispensary.
If you struggle with nasty symptoms in the week before your period like fatigue, cramps, swollen breasts, migraines, water retention and moodiness, doubling up on your multi-mineral can help alleviate these symptoms. If you are taking Ocean’s Alive, you can take 2-4 full droppers every day in the week before your period.
If you are chronically fatigued or you are dealing with stubborn hormone imbalance that won’t shift no matter what you do, you are likely toxic to some degree with metals and environmental toxins. Did you know infrared sauna sessions are one of the most effective ways to detox metals and toxins? It’s true.
If you have access to sauna, I recommend using it as often as possible. I like to sit in a sauna 3-4 times per week. It not only helps you detox but it also improves your skin, boosts your immune system (another way to enhance energy) and reduces inflammation and chronic pain.
The cause of fatigue, PMS and hormone imbalance is complicated and multi factorial. Your symptoms are likely being cause by a combination of the above and not just one. Whether you think you have Adrenal Fatigue, have hormone imbalance or you are just sick of being tired, getting well involves changing diet and lifestyle and addressing detoxification and toxicity. Start with my 5 solutions to get quick results.
If you want to learn more about hormone balance and how you can start balancing your hormones and eliminating PMS right now, grab my 3-Part Mini-Course.
Of all the health concerns that my clients come to me with, fatigue is by far the most common complaint. Many of my clients describe feeling “burnt out,” “run down” and “worn out.”
These are feelings that most people can identify with. Take for example, the story of Mary. Mary is a 37 year old working single mom with two kids. She started her own physiotherapy clinic and she pretty much does everything herself. Between her kids’ extracurricular sports and activities, she rarely has time to relax. She struggles to say no and often over schedules her life. When she takes vacations, they are more like sightseeing missions than an actual time to rest.
Initially, as life got busier, Mary felt like she could hand it. The stress in her life was significant but she felt motivated and energized. But as time went by, the feeling of being able to handle things started to diminished.
Getting to sleep at night became more difficult as she often felt wired. She began waking up early in the morning, around 3-4am, and found herself unable to fall back asleep. Mornings became challenging as she often woke feeling unrested, even when she did sleep 8 or 9 hours.
She started to experience intense blood sugar crashes. She found that she needed to eat more frequently and often craved salt and sweets. She also noticed she was starting to gain weight around her abdomen even though she hadn’t done anything to change her diet. Exercise, which once helped her feel good, now made her feel exhausted.
As things started to deteriorate, life was no longer easy to manage. Work now easily overwhelmed her and she has little energy left to play with her kids.
Can you relate to Mary?
This is a common experience. What Mary has going on is Adrenal Fatigue. Recently, I have been talking about how we need to re-think this whole concept of adrenal fatigue and what is actually going on in the body. To learn more about what I mean, click here. What we are actually talking about is HPA axis dysfunction. But that’s a total mouthful! Let’s call it Adrenal Fatigue to keep things simple.
Adrenal Fatigue is a condition where the system in the body that deals with stress, or the HPA axis, becomes dysfunctional after constantly being bombarded with stressors. Our stress system is made to deal with stress that is short, intermittent and easily resolved. Chronic stress overworks this system which leads to symptoms of exhaustion, fatigue, insomnia and weight gain.
There is a lot of poor information out there when it comes to healing this serious condition. It’s easy to get lost in the rabbit hole. I my experience there are some key things that you should have in place if you want to heal.
The HPA axis, or the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis, is what regulates the stress response. It is dysfunction in this axis that causes the symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
The HPA axis thrives when it works on a normal circadian rhythm. This means you have to sleep and wake with the sun. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, this may not always be realistic, but do the best you can.
Ideally, you should be in best before 10:30pm and out of bed before 8:00am. Going to bed late and not getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night is the quickest way to adrenal burnout.
It seems simple but adopting a natural sleep-wake cycle may be the quickest way to pulling you out of burnout and increasing your energy levels.
For tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, click here.
When your body is under stress, the brain acts by telling the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Cortisol is the important stress hormones that allows you to react in life or death situations.
While cortisol is a stress hormone, it is also a blood sugar hormone. One of its primary jobs is to immobilize blood sugar. When blood sugar gets too low, cortisol increases to bring it back up. This isn’t much of an issue if it only happens occasionally. But let’s be honest, many of us have ongoing blood sugar dips throughout that day.
Eating a diet that is high in sugar and/or carbohydrates isn’t effective at stabilizing blood sugar. You get a temporary burst of energy but as sugar and carbs are quickly metabolized, your energy crashes and so does your blood sugar. Cortisol quickly rises to deal with this.
Like skipping sleep, spending your day on a blood sugar roller is one of the quickest ways to adrenal burnout.
Eat a diet that is high in quality protein, healthy fat and lower in carbohydrates. I am not advocating a low-carb diet but many of us eat too many carbohydrates. Cutting out high sugar foods, refined carbohydrates and not relying too heavily on grain products will be important.
Next week I’ll talk more about the specific adrenal diet that is optimal for supporting adrenal fatigue.
We all know that exercise is important but many of us exercise way too much. The important thing to understand is that exercise is a stressor. It can be a good stressor if you are healthy and manage your stress well. But for people like Mary, who are burning the candle at both ends, exercise just adds gasoline to the stress fire.
Endurance exercise is hard on the adrenals. That long duration exercise elevates cortisol and keeps you in that fight-or-flight response. When I run adrenal panels on women who run marathons or do crossfit, I often see severely dysregulated cortisol and depleted sex hormones.
If you already know you have adrenal fatigue, you need to be mindful. Exercise should make you feel energized, not depleted and exhausted. Keep your workouts short duration (ie. High Intensity Interval Training, Tabata workouts or shorter runs/bikes/hikes) or focus more on restorative movement like yoga, pilates and walking.
Caffeine effects the body by forcing your adrenals to pump out cortisol. This is why caffeine gives you energy and makes you feel good. Unfortunately, if your cortisol production is low then pumping it out now won’t give you much for later on in the day.
Caffeine consumption not only messes with your cortisol rhythm but it also affects your sleep cycle. If you absolutely must have caffeine, stick to one cup in the morning before 10:30am.
Unlike table salt, sea salt contains a full spectrum of salts in their natural form. In particular, sea salt contains potassium and sodium. The ratio between these two minerals are crucial for your adrenal function. Potassium is found primarily inside the cells, while sodium is found outside the cells.
When there is excessive sodium and deficient potassium, excess adrenal activity will take place. The opposite happens when potassium is in excess and sodium is deficient.
A great way to improve your adrenal health is to manage your electrolyte balance. Adding a pinch of sea salt to your water is a fantastic way to make sure you have enough electrolytes. Drinking too much water is a quick way to deplete your electrolyte balance and throw off your adrenal function.
How do you know you are drinking too much water?
Do the pee test! Your urine should be light yellow. If it’s clear, you need to back off. If it’s brown, you need to take a drink!
Don’t over schedule your life. Most of us have busy lives and on top of that we feel the need to say “yes’ to every offer or opportunity we get.
Being busy is not cool. You need to learn how to say no and take time for yourself. When I work with clients I always have them practice what I call the art of saying “no.” Try it out this week. Say no 5 times and see how good it feels. While it can make you anxious to turn people down, what you may notice is that no one cares as much as you think they will when you tell them “no.”
Don’t be like Mary. Make yourself a priority and do things that make you smile.
Mental and emotional stress has become so common that most of us don’t even realize we are stressed. Ongoing stress is problematic since our HPA axis does not differentiate between road rage and being chased by a bear.
Being a busy, on the go person who never takes a moment to breathe means your body does not digest, detoxify or hold onto it’s important nutrients.
The easiest way to mitigate a chronic stress response is to learn how to deep breathe. You can practice deep breathing to deal with a stressful situation or just a daily practice.
Breathe in deeply with your nose, into your diaphragm and breathe out slowly with your mouth. Let yourself feel calm and cherish the moment. Simple steps with a profound effect.
Each of the eight B vitamins that make up a B-complex are important to the adrenals and the stress system in different ways. Three of the B vitamins are incredibly important for your adrenal glands:
B5 (pantothenic acid): B5 is needed to produce acetyl CoA, which is needed to convert glucose into energy. The adrenal glands need energy to function which makes B5 crucial for this. B5 is also essential in the production of pregnenolone, your master steroid hormone. Pregnenolone is a precursor for estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, progesterone and cortisol.
B3 |(niacin): B3 is a crucial co-enzyme to preform many of the reactions that the adrenals need for optimal function.
B6 (pyridoxine): B6 is another critical co-enzyme needed for adrenal chemical reactions. It also plays a large role in modulating the HPA axis and the stress response.
Although B3, B5 and B6 are extra important for adrenal function, all the B vitamins are necessary for optimal function. They all work together.
If you are going to supplement, try taking a B-Complex. Make sure the B12 comes from methylcobalamine and not cyanocobalamine. My current favorite B-Complex is Stress-B Complex from Thorne Research.
Adaptogenic herbs are fantastic. They are a group of plants that help your body adapt to physical, chemical and environmental stress. These herbs grow at high altitudes in Eastern Europe and areas of Asia.
Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants. They do not have a specific action on any one area of the body, rather they help you respond to the stressors around you and balance your physiological functions.
Considering the amount of stress we are constantly being bombarded with, it seems that most of us can benefit from using adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens include ashwaganda, astragalus, ginseng, licorice root, holy basil, some mushrooms and rhodiola.
While all of these are good options, I have some personal favorites:
Ashwagandha, is often referred to as Indian Ginseng. This is an Ayurvedic herb that regulates the immune system and can help reduce anxiety. I love adding 1-2 tbsp of Ashwagandha into my morning smoothie.
Another one of my personal favorites is Ginseng. I use this often in my clinical practice with clients who are struggling with energy during the day. Ginseng also has antioxidant properties and anti-depressant effects. It can also help naturally lower high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
Coming in at a close third is Rhodiola. Rhodiola was used traditionally among Siberian warriors to help them adapt to the harsh Northern environment. Studies have found that it helps normalize sleep and eating patterns after stress. Some newer research shows that it might be a great tool for weight loss.
While adaptogens are fantastic, they will have limited effect if they are the only thing you are doing for your adrenal fatigue. You need to incorporate the above suggestions to get the best results.
You know me, I am a huge fan of testing. If you have been doing all the things I mentioned here but are still feeling like a bag of crap, then you should consider testing. I recommend running the DUTCH test by Precision Analytical. This is a comprehensive urine test for hormones. Knowing your unique imbalances will help customize and guide your healing plan.
If you would like to know more about some of the lab testing I offer, please feel free to set up a free phone session with me.
You can click here to access my scheduling link and pick a time that works best for you.
Adrenal Fatigue sucks. If you are dealing with this condition then you are likely tired, sleep deprived and fighting off endless cravings. It’s not fun. Before you give up or spend money on expensive programs or testing, make sure you have these things in place first. But if you are struggling to do it on your own, there is no shame in reaching out for help. You can book a free session with me HERE or you can visit this website to find a Functional Nutrition Practitioner in your area.
What has been the most important thing for you when healing your Adrenal Fatigue? Let me know in the comment section below!
Cortisol is getting a lot of attention these days. It’s clogging up my Facebook news feed. Mostly, people are hating on cortisol. It has a bad reputation for making us fat, wired and totally crazy. But cortisol is not all bad. In fact, cortisol is necessary for our survival and without it we would die.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone. It is produced in the adrenal cortex of the adrenal glands. Cortisol has a variety of roles in the body but we know it best as a survival or stress hormone.
When you are stressed, the hypothalamus in your brain tells your adrenal glands to release cortisol. Some stress is a good thing. Stress keeps us motivated and helps us learn about our surrounding environment.
Most people don’t realise that cortisol has many positive side effects. It is a potent anti-inflammatory and pain killer. It also keeps us motivated and energized throughout the day. Cortisol keeps your blood sugar stable so you don’t need to eat frequently and it aids in the breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Cortisol is produced in our body in a circadian rhythm. Every morning cortisol spikes, which is what wakes you out of bed. It is meant to strongest in the morning (and this is also when your energy should be at its best) and then it should decline throughout the day and be the lowest at night. It works in opposition to melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.
Cortisol becomes an issue that wreaks havoc on our health when it becomes dysregulated. It can quickly go from being your bestie to your evil frenemy.
Cortisol becomes a major issue when it becomes chronically high. Elevated cortisol is no problem when it happens in short bursts and then quickly returns back to normal after the stress has been resolved.
Chronically high cortisol is not a normal situation and is unique to the human condition. Most of our life is actually meant to be spent at rest with no stress. If you consider wild animals, they spend most of their lives just hanging out, grazing, eating, walking around. It is only during those key moments when they are being hunted or hunting that stress hormones are high.
Unfortunately, we live in a very challenging world. Most of us have significant mental and emotional stress but we also live in a toxic world which results in significant internal stress as well.
When cortisol is chronically high, it delays gastric emptying (making you constipated), suppresses your immune system, downregulated thyroid hormones (killing your energy levels) and makes you really excellent at storing fat no matter what you eat.
People with high cortisol often feel tired and wired, have trouble sleeping, are unable to lose weight, have zero sex drive and catch infections easily.
After cortisol has been chronically high, the stress system starts to become dysregulated because levated cortisol is catabolic. This means that it will break the body down over time. At some point the brain is telling the adrenal glands to produce cortisol but the system has become so dysfunction that the adrenals don’t receive the proper message. Cortisol production starts to decline.
Low cortisol is problematic because cortisol is a blood sugar stabilizing hormone. With out adequate cortisol, you have trouble keeping your blood sugar stable. Low blood sugar without cortisol to stabilize it, results in the release of adrenalin to raise blood sugar.
With adrenalin comes a release of insulin. Insulin acts by lowering blood sugar and you end up on that rollercoaster of blood sugar fluctuations.
Since cortisol is energizing, people with low cortisol often feel exhausted. They may also experience increased pain and muscle aches since cortisol is anti-inflammatory and painkilling. People with low cortisol are prone to “bonking,” feeling exhausted even after a full night’s sleep, feeling overwhelmed and having low blood pressure.
Like the solutions for high cortisol, getting extra sleep at night and taking adaptogenic herbs can also be helpful. If you can’t seem to get back on track, no matter what you do, contact a practitioner training in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition or Functional Medicine.
Cortisol is an important hormone. While many of think of it as a bad thing, it is extremely important to our survival. When it works for you, you feel fantastic, energized and ready to take on the world. But when it’s not working for you, seemingly simple tasks become extremely difficult.
Having normal cortisol production is important. If you haven’t already, run a saliva or urine hormone panel to assess your cortisol levels and make changes as necessary.
How are you feeling these days? Are you struggling with high or low cortisol? Let me know in the comments below