Adrenal Fatigue: Is your tired more than just “tired”?
By: Dr. Allison Ziegler, ND
Recent times have brought about disrupted schedules and times of uncertainty. You may find yourself trying to juggle the responsibility of home schooling your children while still trying to be productive in your job as you work from home, long parenting hours, and managing the emotions that come along with a world on lockdown and social distancing from family and friends. This recipe for stress leads to feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion. So, how does an increased amount of stress affect the body and what can we do to feel better?
The two stress glands, which are located above each kidney, are called the adrenal glands. They are powerful endocrine glands that help your body respond and adapt to stress by influencing the function of all tissues, organs and glands in the body to maintain balance during stressful periods. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stressors, which initiates the fight or flight response in attempt to protect the body from danger. Typically, this stress response would be a short burst in cortisol, allowing us to respond to the danger appropriately and it would then return to normal. In primitive times that would mean being able to run away from a Saber-toothed tiger or endure periods of physical challenge and deprivation. Unfortunately, our modern world is met with near constant levels of stress, leaving our cortisol levels constantly elevated and perhaps eventually bottoming out, leading to burnout and adrenal fatigue.
Signs that indicate stress may be impacting adrenal function:
- Sleep disturbances
- Anxiety, irritability, or low mood
- Brain fog
- Weight gain, especially around abdomen
- Hormonal imbalances such as menstrual cycle changes and low libido
- Sugar, carbohydrate and salt cravings
- Hot flashes
- Decreased immune function
If this sounds like you, the following are changes you can incorporate to begin feeling better.
During the stress response, the adrenal glands metabolizes nutrients at a higher rate. During adrenal fatigue, much of the body’s stored nutrients is used up and nutrient deficiencies can result. The goal of eating for your adrenal glands is to eat good quality, nutrient dense and whole foods. Avoiding all processed foods is essential as the body will use up additional nutrients in attempt to digest the processed foods.
Nutrition Rules for Adrenal Function: 
- Eat a wide variety of whole, natural foods.
- Combine a healthy fat, protein and carbohydrate source with every meal.
- Eat lots of vegetables, especially the brightly colored ones.
- Salt your food to a pleasant taste using sea or Celtic salt.
- Eat mainly whole grains as your source of carbohydrates.
- Combine grains with legumes or legumes with seeds or nuts to form a complete protein.
- Avoid fruit in the morning.
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons of fresh essential oils (cold pressed olive, grape seed, safflower, flax etc.) into grains, vegetables and meats daily.
- Eat high quality food; it becomes you.
Good quality sleep is important for adrenal function. Sleep is the only time the body has to repair itself; therefore, following some sleep hygiene tips can help to restore sleep and ensure a healthy stress response.
Sleep Hygiene Tips for Adrenal Function: 
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Ideal bedtime is between 10-10:30 pm.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
- Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
- Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Taking time to feel rejuvenated and renewed is critical for adrenal repair. With busy schedules and long to-do-lists it is easy to neglect yourself. Finding time to do what inspires you is key to recharging and feeling better. Although this seems like a simple task, it can be hard to find time. You can start by allowing yourself just 10 minutes of ‘you-time’ a day.
Certain minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B’s, vitamin C, zinc, selenium and magnesium are important for adrenal function. Adaptogens are a class of herbs that are wonderful at supporting adrenal function. Some of these herbs include ashwagandha, Schisandra, holy basil, Rhodiola and Licorice root.
It is important to work with a naturopath when determining which supplements are best for you.
Although it is easy to see this time of social isolation as a negative experience, it can be one that achieves a positive and lifechanging outcome. Focus on renewing and recharging yourself. “One day this will all be over, and you will have a choice to live as before or to live your life anew.” Kenton De Jong