Earlier this week I introduced the topic of adrenal fatigue. Before reading this post, you may want to go back and read the first part in this series to understand what exactly adrenal fatigue is and learn more about many of the symptoms associated with it.
What Can I Do About It?
It's time to get more practical (ahh, my favorite part) and talk about some solutions to the problem of adrenal fatigue.
Let it be known that, once again, I am not an expert on this subject. I am just a regular mama struggling with this in my own life, and passionate about studying and pursuing better health. I love sharing what I learn and I know that many of you find it helpful to hear from other women's study and experience, but remember to always do your own research as well and/or seek out a trusted health professional who can help you as well.
Based on my own reading and research, here are some of the best ways to help the body to heal and to replenish the adrenal glands:
One of the key ways that the body restores itself is through regular, restful sleep. This can be challenging for many with adrenal fatigue, because sleeplessness (due to insomnia or frequent waking) is a common symptom.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that one of things that has begun to really help me is to take a "sleep cocktail" about 30 minutes before I go to sleep. This prepares my body to slow down and rest, and has also begun to be a trigger for me to stop doing things and prepare myself for bed (something I struggle with- there's always "just one more thing to do").
Other sleep helps include:
- Moderate exercise during the day (improves quality of sleep at night)
- Turning all screens (computer, TV, etc.) off at least an hour before going to bed
- Taking calcium/magnesium at night
- A warm bath before bed, especially with Epsom salts
- Avoiding stimulants like caffeine and sugar, particularly from about 4pm onwards
- Spend 5 minutes journaling or writing down all of the busy thoughts going through your head, then pray about the things on your mind and release them to the Lord as you rest.
- Struggling with insomnia? See this post.
- Go to bed by 10:30 at the latest, to avoid catching your second wind (which usually results in insomnia)
Also of interest is that apparently the sleep obtained between the hours of 7-9 am are the most restful. It has to do with the time that cortisol levels rise (usually between 6-8 am), except that in those with adrenal fatigue they do not rise as high or as quickly as they should. This results in feelings of grogginess and not feeling quite awake yet in the morning. Sleeping in longer allows for more restful sleep and more energy for the rest of the day, because the cortisol levels have risen adequately. This is obviously a challenge for those with young children, but I've been letting myself sleep in past 7 as much as I am able to, even past 8 on the weekends if I can swing it. I don't like starting my mornings this way (I prefer to wake before my children to start my day well) but for a short season of healing, it's worth it. Even one or two mornings a week of sleeping in later is better than nothing.
As a very "go-go-go" type of person, this is honestly hard for me. Purposefully choosing to stop and rest during the day feels so hard to do, but yet, I always feel better when I do it. It's hard for our bodies to go non-stop from morning til night without a break, and that's really what many of us busy moms do.
Fight the urge to push yourself. If you're weary, just stop. Sit on the couch with your kids and read a book. Take a seat on a patio chair and watch them run around outside. During naptime, lay down on the couch for 15 minutes. Sit to sip on a tea while you talk on the phone or wait for something to finish cooking, instead of finding other little tasks to fill the time.
I know this feels counter-productive to the efficiency that we are always grasping at. I like efficiency and multi-tasking as much as anyone else. Healing requires a different pace of life, as I am well learning. Go with it. Let yourself rest.
Image by House of Sims
I can't actually tell you what this should look like in your own life, because only you know your circumstances well enough to determine how you could reduce stress in your life.
For me, it looked like selling a successful website so that I could be healthy enough to serve my family and maintain my sanity. It has also required cutting myself some slack in the homemaking department, not keeping my house as clean as I would like it to be (understatement of the year), my meals more simple and my expectations of myself lower in general. What would it look like for you?
Reducing stress also includes making more time for enjoyment. Do something you love (my husband signed me up for a photography class). Play with your kids. Have more fun!
What to Eat
There are a few points to make in regards to the foods that we eat. The biggest is to stick to a whole foods diet, filled with nutrient-dense foods (grass-fed red meat esp. liver, pastured eggs, raw whole milk, whole grains, dark leafy greens, wild fish, etc.). Your body needs nutrients when it's healing and eating these types of foods is the best way to give it those nutrients.
Other important things to keep in mind:
- Cut way back on all sugars (yes, even the more wholesome, unrefined ones, and getting rid of sugar entirely if you can is even better)
- Cut out caffeine
- Add extra high-quality sea salt (Celtic, Himalayan, etc) to your food and even to your water, because it nourishes your cells and adds important trace minerals to the diet.
- Eat plenty of high-quality fats: pastured butter, coconut oil, animal fats (from grass-fed animals if possible), raw whole dairy, etc.
- Two drinks to boost your body: Homemade Egg Nog (very simple, I make a similar recipe often) and this electrolyte drink (intended to drink while in labor, but it works for any old time). Water with some lemon juice (a bit of Stevia if you like to sweeten it) and a sprinkle of sea salt is a great beverage as well.
- Reduce your carbohydrates, particularly by cutting out any refined carbs (like white flour products)
One key thing that I have read over and over again about adrenal fatigue is that it is extremely important to keep your blood sugar levels as balanced as possible. This happens by some of the suggestions I've made above (cutting out refined carbs and sugar), but also by eating frequently.
Having snacks between mealtimes, ensuring that you eat something soon after waking, eating some protein and fat as part of each meal, avoiding sugars that boost your blood sugar (before it plummets back down even lower)... these are all strategies that will help to keep that blood sugar as steady and stable as possible. The quantities of food don't need do be large, it just matters that you eat something.
Image by macinate
Adrenal Cortex: This is probably the most important one (aside from good, nourishing foods). These supplements are literally raw bovine adrenal cortex, and as weird as that sounds (I know, I thought so, too), they really work and they serve a very important purpose. They support, fortify and restore normal adrenal function, by providing the necessary constituents needed to speed recovery. They help to remove the stress being put upon your already-taxed adrenals, by giving them what they need to function well. For many, this is the supplement that makes the largest impact, and the energy boost is usually quite noticable.
I have tried two different brands and I am very happy with the one I am using now. It's by Enzymatic Therapy and it's called Adrenal Stress End. Recommended dosages vary widely. I have heard of anywhere from 2 capsules up to 12 capsules, depending on severity. Personally, I take 6 right now, and as I begin to get better I will gradually lower that if it seems like my body can function well without it. It seems like many determine dosage according to the point at which they seem to truly make a difference.
GABA: Technically an amino acid that really functions as a neurotransmitter, GABA is very useful at calming the nervous system. I take mine at night to help calm me before bed, but many others take it throughout the day to keep the nervous system in a more restful state and remove further strain from the adrenals.
B Vitamins: Very useful for energy and also because they contribute to the function of the adrenal glands. Ideally, these nutrients should come from food but in the healing stages, I think it's just fine to take them in supplement form (and in food as well!). In our home, we use a B vitamin complex that is time released and find this works well (my husband particularly notices how much it helps him). Food sources include: beef (esp. liver), turkey, seafood (clams, oysters, salmon, tuna), raw dairy, eggs, whole grains, molasses and brewer's yeast, to name a few.
Vitamin C: This one is important because the more cortisol is made, the more Vitamin C is used, and it is also used in many other functions of the adrenal glands. It's best to take it several times each day (because it is water-soluble) or take a time-release version. Food sources include (raw and fresh containing the highest levels): red pepper, kiwi, citrus fruit, berries, melons, most green veggies (spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc.), cauliflower, tomatoes and many others. Organ meats contain some as well.
Herbs: The best known herb for combatting adrenal issues is Licorice Root. It is an anti-stress herb, increases energy, helps to regulate cortisol levels, and to balance blood sugar. The adrenal cortex supplement that I take (see above) contains licorice in it, so that's how I take mine. You can also take capsules, teas, etc. Other herbs that are supposedly useful (but I have not researched them in depth yet) include Siberian Ginseng, Gingko Biloba, Ashwagandha and Ginger Root.
Signs and Symptoms:
General adrenal fatigue topics:
Helps for getting better:
Tired of Being Tired (the book I found most helpful)
What things have helped you on your journey of recovering from adrenal fatigue? Which suggestions do you find the hardest?
Disclaimer: I am not a certified medical professional of any kind and am not qualified to give you medical advice. My goal is to help to educate and inspire you to take responsibility for your own family's health and make informed choices of your own, not to consult you on medical treatment.
Top image by D'Arcy Norman
Other Related Posts You May Enjoy
- What is Adrenal Fatigue and Do I Have It?
- What is "Real" Health?
- The Benefits of Sleep: 8 Benefits for Getting Quality Sleep
- What it Means to Be Well
- My Journey to Burnout: Proof That I Really Can't Do It All
- Developing the Exercise Habit
- Staying Motivated to Excercise
- Finding Fulfillment in Being A Mother Only
- Naturally Neutralizing Stress: Herbs that Calm
- The Terrible Thirst of Depression
- Treating Depression Naturally: Supplements, Herbs, and Foods for Feeling Better
- Panel Discussion on Burnout and Fatigue: 3 Women Get Real About Their Struggles part one and part two