• Julie McClure

3 Tips to Holistically Fix Adrenal Fatigue

Updated: Jan 25

On any (every) given day, you’re juggling work, relationships, finances, and all facets of health – mental, physical and emotional. It seems almost inevitable that stress would be the one constant, alongside change. And with that seemingly unavoidable stress, comes many health side effects: headaches, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and… you guessed it, adrenal fatigue. Which brings us here today.


So, what is adrenal fatigue, you ask?

 

The adrenals are two tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce several hormones, including cortisol. You’ve heard it countless times before: cortisol is the “stress hormone” responsible for our fight-or-flight response. But it also regulates a number of other vital processes, including metabolism, immune response, and stress mitigation. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortex (makes sense!) of the adrenal glands and then released into the blood, which transports it all around the body. Almost every cell in your body contains receptors for cortisol, which is why maintaining the right amount of cortisol is so important. Like raw dairy or Taylor Swift’s recent surprise album, cortisol is a really good thing… until it’s not. And it is not a good thing when there is too much.

The secretion of cortisol is controlled by three inter-communicating regions of the body: the hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland. The latter has an especially important function as the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis. In essence, this means that the adrenal gland controls reactions to stress and regulates various body processes, like digestion, immune response, mood, and sexuality. So, as you’re breaking up with your quarantine boyfriend, or checking your woefully low bank account balance, or even reading (cringing over!) your crazy relative’s Facebook rants, the resulting stress can release bursts of cortisol into your bloodstream.


Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenals have become overtaxed by excess cortisol release. In turn, they can no longer produce the levels of cortisol needed for optimal bodily function. (*sigh*)


If you experience prolonged periods of stress (who doesn’t nowadays?), you could be draining your adrenals and landing in a low cortisol state. This means: Brain fog. Mood swings. Food cravings. Lower libido (sex drive). Irregular periods. Or just simply this subtle, nagging feeling of being ‘off’.


In short, if ever you’ve been super stressed and feeling shitty, it’s not your imagination. It’s your adrenals.

So, how do you replenish your adrenals? I’m here with 3 easy tips to get you started + on a path to recovery.

 

Get Some (Low-Impact) Exercise

 

You don’t need to go to boot camp… in fact, you probably shouldn’t. If you are suffering from adrenal burnout, I recommend restorative exercise, like hatha yoga and walking. Intense exercise can actually backfire, as your body will view it as another source of stress if you are, in fact, completely depleted. Another way to put it: exercise increases cortisol acutely, but over time it will lead to lower cortisol levels. So, start with some yummy, relaxing yoga today and, over time, you can train to run that marathon (or not, because marathons are mad!).

 

Watch Your Diet

 

Look, we’re all doing our best here. And balance is the key to life. But when you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue, it’s important to pay attention to your intake: the late-night fast food run can have a really negative impact on your mood later.

Here’s the conundrum: stress creates greater physiological demands on our bodies. More energy, oxygen, circulation, and metabolic cofactors are needed to cope. Your body is designed to keep an ample supply of energy available in the bloodstream for easy cellular access. It does this by craving sugar and breaking down muscle to keep your blood glucose elevated. Unfortunately, chronically elevated blood glucose damages blood vessels and the cardiovascular system. And most of us don’t reach for celery after a long day of back-to-back meetings (that should have been emails). Instead, we go for the easier, more indulgent foods that lack nutrients. This creates a vicious cycle of continually undernourishing our bodies when, in fact, we desperately need more nourishment.

 

Just as stress can lead to some questionable food choices, it can also lead to another serious

buzzkill: inflammation. In most cases, inflammation is not so much threatening, as it is frustrating. But, systemic inflammation has been linked to asthma, cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, hormonal imbalance symptoms and autoimmune and degenerative diseases. Inflammation is a definitive biomarker for chronic stress on the body but, luckily, it can be aided by a proper diet.

So, what the heck are you supposed to eat? Ideally, you’d follow an alkaline diet (80% alkaline/neutral foods and 20% acid-forming, non-processed foods). But, if you just can’t seem to wrap your head around that, try following a Mediterranean diet: rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grain, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and organic eggs (if you tolerate them well). Add fiber and lower your consumption of red meat. Consider supplementing with vitamins and minerals like Magnesium, Calcium, Manganese, Vitamins B, C, and E. For additional stress protection, throw in some high quality Omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA from fish oil (sardines anyone?). But, above all else, strive for *balance* and the most sustainable diet that doesn’t cause you any more stress to think about.

 

Breathe


Even now, take a nice, deep breath.

Breathing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to combat stress – particularly in the moment. Try classic breathing techniques (e.g., box breathing), mindfulness meditation, yoga practice, or checking your ex’s Instagram feed (just kidding, making sure you’re still paying attention!).


These sort of mind-body exercises can reduce stress or negative emotions by modulating the sympathetic-vagal balance. The relaxation response slows your heart- and breathing rate and lowers your blood pressure, while also slowing your thoughts and allowing you to feel more grounded and at ease. As much as you may prefer to zone out, say binge-watching a TV series, it doesn’t have the same cellular regenerative impact as mindfulness techniques.


And the good news is: there are so many breathing exercises and guided meditations - you can try a variety to see which ones are best for your unique self. Don’t get me wrong: you can definitely still binge all seven seasons of Younger on Prime, just add in some deep breathing exercises while you’re at it.


Been there, done that? If you want to hear more ways in which I holistically replenished my adrenals, leave a comment below or send me a note!

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