The Adrenal Series – Part 2
So now that I have made you wait a week, we can start discussing how you go about healing your adrenals. Now I know it may seem a little unnecessary that I made you wait until my next blog post to cover this part of the topic, but believe me when I tell you that if I had attempted to cover the whole extent of adrenal fatigue diagnosis, and management you would have needed to pack a lunch. So now that we laid the groundwork with respect to most of the adrenal physiology issue, let’s dive in to the particulars of management.
I would like to point out that adrenal fatigue does not have a one-size fits all approach, and it is something that should be managed by a health care professional who knows what they are doing. Healing your adrenals can take a great deal of time and effort, but believe me when I tell you that it is absolutely worth it.
So, let us take a look at exactly how adrenal fatigue is managed.
There are a few different strategies that can be employed when trying to help the adrenal gland replenish itself. There are lifestyle modifications that can be made, nutritional support that can be given, as well as a few other strategies that can help manage overall stress.
We’ll start with the nutritional changes that can be helpful.
Probably the biggest hurdle to healing your adrenals is to make sure that your diet is adequate. You need to make sure that you are eating the appropriate foods at the appropriate times, as well as avoiding as best you can some nutritional stressors. In adrenal fatigue, the best thing you can do is to avoid sugar. Sugar has major impact on our adrenals. When you are in a fight or flight situation, the body increases blood sugar in order to help us respond to the threat. We often times respond to this by eating more sugar. When we eat more sugar, it causes our body to release insulin in response to high blood glucose levels, which in turn lowers blood sugar levels. This will cause our body to want more sugar in about 45 minutes. The trouble is, when your adrenals are exhausted, it may be harder to control the blood sugar levels. This results in more intense episodes of hypoglycemia.
Avoiding sugar will be far more difficult than you would think, and not just because sugar is addictive. When human beings are stressed we crave sugar, but not for the reason that you think. Many species use sugar to convert to vitamin C, which is a helpful vitamin during periods of stress. Humans are not lucky enough to be able to make that conversion, which means that responding to our sugar cravings don’t actually help the situation. So avoiding sugar will be very difficult during periods of adrenal fatigue, but by trying to avoid it you are seriously helping out that tired little gland.
The next thing that you want to avoid is caffeine. I know, not the coffee. I understand your reservations; I too am a big fan of coffee. The unfortunate news is that caffeine doesn’t help your adrenals, it taxes them. Every cup of coffee you ingest stimulates the adrenals, which will put your body back into that fight or flight response. When you adrenals are already tired, that is not a great idea. So in order to adequately de-stress your adrenals, the coffee needs to be minimized at the least. If you do need that cup of joe daily, try to drink only one cup before noon.
The third thing that you want to avoid is hydrogenated oil. Certain oils like canola, soybean, and vegetable oils are very inflammatory. These increase the inflammation response in the body, which can further stress the adrenal glands.
Now, onto the things that you can add to your diet that can actually help to support your adrenal gland. You want to look for nutrient dense food. Nutrient dense food with high fat content, and high fiber content are especially helpful. Food such as fish, coconut oil, avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds are great options for food with a high good fat content. For foods that are not high in fat content you can turn to meat like chicken, and turkey. One of the most important things to add when you are dealing with adrenal issues is Himalayan pink salt, or sea salt. Now I know what you are thinking…isn’t salt bad for me? Not all types of salt are created equal. Pink salt and sea salt are nowhere near as bad for you as iodized salt. In most situations they can actually be helpful.
One of the problems when your adrenals are fatigued is that your body has lower levels of a hormone called aldosterone. Aldosterone plays a large role in blood pressure balance by helping your body reabsorb sodium in the kidneys. When aldosterone levels are low, you aren’t able to retain sodium. This can cause what we call orthostatic hypotension, otherwise known as getting dizzy when you stand up too quickly. Adding good salt to your diet during adrenal fatigue can help keep your aldosterone levels higher, and help to normalize your blood pressure.
Lastly, one of my personal favourite tips to help with adrenal fatigue is to add sliced citrus fruit to your water, or fresh squeezed citrus juice. It helps increase your vitamin C intake, and will help decrease your sugar cravings.
You may also be told to add certain supplements to your diet to help support nutritional changes. Supplements that are particularly helpful in cases of adrenal fatigue are:
-Vitamin B5, and B12
This is by no means an exhaustive list. The healthcare professional you choose to consult may have other suggestions for you including homeopathic remedies, and herbs.
Next, let’s examine lifestyle changes that can be helpful. There are a few notable lifestyle changes that can be made to help reduce stress on your adrenals. Most of them might seem like a bit of a no brainer. The biggest thing you can do is to listen to your body. Make sure that you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Don’t be afraid to take a nap if you find that you need one. One of the hallmarks of adrenal fatigue is the mid afternoon crash, so if you are able to take some time for a nap, do so. Now I know that when adrenal fatigue is bad, you feel like napping all of the time, which can be a little impractical. Just do the best you can.
Make sure that you do your best to eat your meals at the same time every day. This will help your body normalize the release of certain hormones, which can help result in fewer cravings of the salty and sugary foods. Try to add some of the good foods we were talking about in the section above for maximum benefit.
Do your best to get some exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be something intense like cross fit or Insanity, it can be as simple as walking. You just need something to help expend your energy in order to get you on a better sleep schedule. By helping your body expend more energy during the day, you are in a better position to get some sleep at night. This increases your odds of waking up somewhat refreshed. Exercise also helps release endorphins, which help reduce stress all by themselves.
One thing that is of particular interest to me is the use of chiropractic in the management of adrenal fatigue. The adjustment has a direct effect on the brain, and the hormone centers. The chiropractic adjustment also helps to reduce stress on the body. By adjusting areas of the spine that have reduced motion (subluxation), we are helping to release feel good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These hormones not only help you feel good, they counteract the stress response in the body. This is one of the reasons why during periods of high stress, I recommend that patients get in another adjustment or two. I don’t just recommend it to others either, I consciously make sure that I up my frequency of adjustments during times that are particularly stressful in my life. The adjustment helps to change the structure and function of the body by impacting the function of the brain. Of course the adjustment is just one of the many tools that can have a positive impact on the health of the adrenal gland.
I mentioned above that you only want to make these changes in consultation with a healthcare provider that knows what they are doing. My recommendation for nutritional support, and supplementation is to find a health care practitioner who is well versed in adrenal physiology. When in doubt, ask around. I have found that friends are often the best source for information about which practitioners are good, and which ones to avoid.
It can take a very long time based on how long the problem has been lingering. I find that if you are able to employ several strategies at once, you have a chance of decreasing the healing time.
Of course, I feel that my strengths are found in the adjusting portion of the puzzle, and making small nutritional suggestions that will help support what I am trying to do with the adjustment. I have seen patients who have used chiropractic to support all the other strategies used by other practitioners to fairly positive results.
If you are looking for help in trying to manage your stress, you can always get in contact with me. I can help to guide you in the right direction.
*As always, this blog post is meant to inform and educate. I am not diagnosing or treating any conditions.