Our adrenals are endocrine glands located above our kidneys. These glands are responsible for producing hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, which provide our bodies with a rapid response to stress situations. Adrenal glands also produce steroid hormones such as cortisol, which is involved in the regulation of our metabolism and immune response, aldosterone, which regulates blood pressure and electrolytes, and androgens, which convert into our sex hormones. When our adrenals become fatigued, we can experience symptoms such as high levels of fatigue, inability to fall asleep at night, not waking well-rested, inability to handle stress, lowered immune system and food cravings.
How do we damage our adrenal function?
In today’s society everything is so “Go, Go, Rush, Rush!” We try to get as much done as possible in the few hours we have in a day. What we don’t realize is the damage we are causing to our body’s normal functions by constantly being in a high stress state, eating poorly and living in a toxic environment. Our adrenals get exhausted from having to produce so many hormones in response to our busy lives and environmental burdens we are exposed to regularly. This is known as Adrenal Fatigue. Once we overwork our adrenals and wear them out, they lose their ability to provide us with top energy and stamina to get us through our days.
How do we restore health to our adrenals?
Adrenal damage happens over time, and though it make take a while to get them functioning properly, it is possible! Through a balanced diet, adequate and restful sleep, resolving emotional stressors and taking some things off our plates, we can all promote healthy adrenal function.
Eating for energy
Food is the fuel for our body’s fire. Eating food provides us with the essential macro (fats, protein, carbohydrates) and micro (mostly vitamins and minerals) nutrients and water needed to support all body and organ functions.
Carbohydrates are metabolized to provide energy.
Proteins provide amino acids, which are required for cell construction, especially for the construction of muscle cells.
Essential fatty acids (fats) are required for brain function; including memory, problem solving, and critical thinking, as well as cell membrane construction.
Minerals are generally trace elements, salts, or ions such as copper and iron. Some of these minerals are essential to human metabolism. Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions needed to maintain life. Metabolism is divided into two categories: Catabolism (breaks down organic matter) and Anabolism (uses energy to construct components of cells such as proteins and nucleic acids). These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments.
Vitamins are organic compounds essential to the body. They usually act as coenzymes or cofactors for various proteins in the body.
Water is an essential nutrient and is the solvent in which all the chemical reactions of life take place.
When reducing calories, intake of essential nutrients may also be reduced. If a diet fails to meet minimum nutritional requirements, this deficiency can threaten physical fitness, general health, and emotional well being. If a person does not feel well enough to be active, weight loss will be unlikely. Without enough food, our body and our mind will not be able to function properly, which will affect mood and energy.
Sleep seems to be quite a challenge for most people these days. Some of us can’t fall asleep. Others can’t stay asleep. And the reasons are as different as the day is long – and the days can be really long when you can’t sleep. Here are some simple considerations to support restful sleep.
Darkness. 1-2 hrs before bedtime start turning off the lights in the house and dim the lights of the rooms you are still using. Melatonin, a sleep stimulating hormone, is released in response to darkness. Research has shown that the brain will interpret artificial light as daylight and interfere with the normal release of melatonin.
Disconnect. Turn off your computer, your phone, your television. Put away paperwork and stop doing house work. Doing this 1-2 hrs before bed will allow your mind and your body to calm down before trying to sleep. This is especially useful for those of us who can’t NOT work – we work in our sleep, which is why we don’t sleep well. Also, listening to quiet, relaxing music or sounds may help calm the mind and relax the body into sleep.
Bedtime. Choose a reasonable bedtime and wake time. Sticking to a reasonable and consistent sleep schedule will help maintain your internal clock and your body will find a regular rhythm. This will make falling asleep and staying asleep easier.
Studies have shown that sitting quietly repeating a relaxing phrase for as little as 10 minutes each night helps reduce anxiety and stress and improves sleep. Meditation is a great way to help yourself reduce emotional and mental stressors from your day as well as from your past, which can help take a load off of your adrenals.
Getting a kick start on all of the above lifestyle changes is just a part of addressing adrenal fatigue. If you feel that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue and would like support managing your health, be sure to speak with your Naturopath for more ways to get your adrenal function back to optimal levels!