Adrenal fatigue are two words that you often hear bandied about in the fitness industry and it’s not a surprise with the huge amounts of stress that we are under these days. From relationship problems to amounting work pressures, stress is everywhere. I personally have a relationship with adrenal fatigue as I suffered from it quite severely a few years ago and still to this day I have varying levels.
My journey with adrenal fatigue all started around 5 years ago. At the time I was working as a freelance Personal Trainer. I have been in the Personal Training industry for over 13 years and have been lucky enough to have had a busy diary with some amazing clients. Anyone who has been in the Personal Training industry will know that it means early starts and late finishes. Now for most of my career it hasn’t been a problem but around 5 years ago for no reason (that I knew about at the time) I remember feeling flat. To be honest it was more than just flat, I felt like crap. I would go to bed at 8.45 in the evening have over 9 hours sleep, wake up and still be tired. I have always loved working out but not anymore, my motivation to get going was zero. I was feeling run down, tired and my immune system was shot.
After going to the doctors, to be told that nothing was wrong I took it upon myself to try and get an answer. As a Personal Trainer I was and am fortunate to have friends in the health industry that are pretty on to it. After a long chat with a friend/wellness coach he suggested that I do some testing on my adrenal glands. And this was the start of what I call ‘the peeling of the onion’
What is stress?
Stress is a response by your body to a stimulus such as pain or fear that interferes with normal physiological function. There are many forms of stress, it may be physical, mental or emotional stress and may be acute or chronic
The Adrenal Glands
These small glands sit on-top of your kidneys and are responsible for manufacturing and secreting many different hormones, including the steroidal hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, estrogen and testosterone. The adrenals affect every single tissue, gland and organ in your body. They also play a role in blood sugar regulation and how effectively your immune system is functioning.
When under any kind of stress it is the job of the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Cortisol’s main function is to increase blood sugar levels, aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure, assist with central nervous system activation and so much more. Cortisol would normally fluctuate throughout the day. Cortisol should normally peak at around 8am and gradually lower in the evening making way for melatonin to rise. Note that cortisol will rise during a stressful event and return back to normal shortly after. Unfortunately due to the society we live in, it is not uncommon to be stressed all the time. It is this chronic stress that leads to high levels of circulating cortisol or even worse still the adrenal glands get so tired they cannot continue to produce high levels of cortisol so they fatigue. Once the adrenals are fatigued this can lead to a whole host of health complaints such as;
- Fatigue and tiredness regardless of how many hours sleep you get
- Difficulty getting going in the morning
- Low energy throughout the day
- Unexplained anxiety and worry over little things
- Hot flushes
- Digestive problems
Nutrition can be a high source of stress to your body. I sometimes have people tell me that they are not stressed and they don’t have a stressful job. Well maybe you don’t have a stressful job but your stress may be significant from the poor food choices that you make. You need to look at both external and internal stressors on the body.
The big question is – what can you do about all of this?
At Functional Wellness we use a protocol that is professional, proven and potent. The protocol we use can be broken down into 5 areas –
also known as The DRESS for Health Success Protocol. Let’s take a further look.
The first thing we need to do is assess your metabolic type. Are you a protein type, mixed type or a carbohydrate type? Based on these findings we can have a clearer path as to what is going to work specifically for you.
Regardless of your metabolic type there are some fundamentals that we recommend. Such as eating a well-balanced diet that focuses on high quality protein from grass fed/pasture raised animals, carbohydrates from vegetables coming from a rainbow of colours and good fats that are naturally occurring in nature
Try and consume food that is organic. Sprayed foods will place a burden on your liver and that stress can place a demand on your adrenals
Add a pinch of good quality sea salt to your foods
After a meal assess how you feel. If you are full of energy and ready to get up and go then you’re on the right track. However if you feel sluggish and just want to lie down on the sofa after a meal then it’s a pretty clear indication the meal or a certain food isn’t working for you.
I cannot express enough the importance of quality sleep. Sleep is the act that our bodies undertake in order to recharge our batteries and allow for healing and regeneration. How sleep affects your hormones is another article for another day. The important thing here is that you are getting enough quality sleep. Below are 5 quick tips on getting a good night sleep
- Invest in some blackout curtains. Any light in your room will prevent the production of melatonin your sleep hormone
- Wind down in the evening. Minimise the usage of blue light. Turn the T.V off at least an hour before bed. If you can, use candles to light the room. Any bright lights will trick your mind and hormones into thinking it’s daytime
- Listen to some relaxing music before bed. Having a bedtime routine is a great way to help you relax and unwind
- Turn off your phone and the Wi-Fi. Any electro-magnetic fields will disrupt your sleep
- Keep the lights off if you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Again any light will disrupt the making of melatonin
Though many people use exercise to de-stress, it is in fact stressful on your body. Now I am not saying don’t exercise but what I am saying is be mindful as to the exercise you choose to do. Scientific research clearly indicates that short bursts of intense exercise is significantly more beneficial compared to long, slow cardiovascular exercises when it comes to fitness, strength and fat loss.
When it comes to adrenal fatigue and exercise the same rules apply…for most part. Depending on how bad your adrenals are fatigued is going to give you a guideline.
Keep your exercise session short. 20-40 minutes is a good place to start
If you’re feeling tired and don’t have any enthusiasm to exercise, then rest or do some gentle exercise. By pushing yourself too hard you will put further stress on your adrenals
Emphasise resistance training over cardio. It’s less stressful on your body and sets you up for better hormone optimisation
The first step in stress relief is to determine who and what are important to you and your life and start to live accordingly. Research has shown us that people who meditate daily are more resilient to stress and have less anxiety
Breathe deeply. Take 5 minutes out every-day to focus on your breathing, Deep breathing will slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure
Be present with yourself and others. This simple action can often help give you a different perspective on life or a situation you’re dealing with
Tune into your body and mind. There are always things that trigger stress for you. By identifying those triggers you can shift your mind-set as to how you respond to those stresses. You have the power of choice and you can choose to get stressed or not
Keep a grateful diary. Being grateful for things can cancel out the negatives in your mind and pull you away from the worries of life
At Functional Wellness we run tests for adrenal fatigue, our most popular test #205 will measure cortisol patterning through the day along with DHEA, estradiol, estriol, testosterone (AM), melatonin (bedtime), progesterone (bedtime). Having the results of cortisol plus the steroidal hormones gives us a much bigger picture and clearer understanding of what you will need regarding your supplementation. This no stone unturned approach allows us to get to the root causes of what is actually going on opposed to just treating the symptom like many others.
If you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue it is really important to get tested. By blindly taking a handful of supplements you could make matters far worse.
Here is a general guide to supplementation
Pregnenolone* – To help restore hormonal pathways. The Pregnenolone we use is formulated from wild yam extraction. Its molecular structure is identical to that which your body naturally produces
DHEA* – To help restore hormonal pathways. Just like the Pregnenolone this bio-identical hormone is formulated from wild yam extraction and mimics the molecular structure that in which is identical to your body
Licorice root extract – If morning cortisol is lower than optimal, licorice root can help extend the life of cortisol
Ashwaganda root – can help to modulate cortisol levels and has been shown to decrease blood pressure and normalise heart rate
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin C – Is an antioxidant that has been shown to prevent the rise of cortisol and subjective stress
Magnesium – Will aid in a restful night sleep and helps play a role in in the function of more than 300 enzymes
This is by no means a complete list, more a very general guide. For further information on hormone testing or how we can help you please visit www.functionalwellness.co.nz for more information
*We only recommend natural hormone replacement therapy. Please also note it can be incredibly dangerous to supplement even with natural hormone replacements without proper testing and analysis from a professional.
Functional Wellness do not diagnose or treat any disease, but instead identify the root cause of physiological imbalances in the body that result in dysfunction.