When trying to self-diagnose, it can be difficult to determine what's ailing you since so many conditions have overlapping symptoms. Such is the case with adrenal fatigue (technically termed adrenal insufficiency) — a condition with symptoms including fatigue, trouble sleeping, an achy body, and digestive issues, according to the Mayo Clinic. While it might be more challenging to pinpoint, there is some bright news once you do: there are a number of ways to fight adrenal fatigue naturally and on your own, so you can get back control of your life.
Because, as the Mayo Clinic explains, adrenal fatigue isn't accepted as a medical diagnosis, it can lead some people to question if it's even really a thing. The term "adrenal fatigue" was coined back in 1998 in a book by James Wilson, and it caught on, explains Medical News Today. While some professionals will argue adrenal fatigue is a made-up term for a condition that doesn't really exist, "adrenal insufficiency" does. This is when the adrenal glands can't function properly and produce the hormones your body needs.
Some believe the cause of adrenal fatigue is constant stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, looking at the research behind adrenal insufficiency, the cause could also be an autoimmune disorder, says the Pituitary Network Association.
Whatever the cause of your adrenal fatigue might have been, there are a few things you can do to possibly alleviate some of the symptoms.
1. Try The Adrenal Fatigue Diet
Of course, at the end of the day, you should eat whatever makes you feel good and follow your own bliss. But if you are interested in altering your diet around adrenal fatigue, there are options available to you. According to The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, this diet includes:
- Avoiding foods you have even a slight sensitivity to.
- Reducing sugar.
- Increasing fat and protein.
- Eliminating caffeine and other stimulants.
- Introducing fermented foods.
The reason this diet is so specific is that is targets your adrenals. For instance, you'd want to avoid coffee because it stimulates your adrenals, and they activate your body's fight-or-flight response as a result. The problem is... there's no reason for your body to be in this state; and every time you drink coffee, you put yourself in that position again and again. It burns your glands out due to overuse, explains Dr. Jesse Chappus.
2. Take All The Necessary Steps To Reduce Stress
"Stress" is a very vague word. When it was first coined back in 1936 by Hans Selye, it was defined as "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change," according to The American Institute of Stress. While the definition has evolved since then, one thing has stayed the same: stress can be any good or bad thing that throws your body off balance.
Note: this doesn't just apply to really awful days at work when your boss yelled at you, you missed a deadline, and you're completely buried. It could also be a really sad movie that left you sobbing, a passionate kiss, getting through a long day on little sleep, or a flight that took you over the ocean — something you hate.
The point is this: to give your adrenals a break, consider all the stress your body goes through on a daily basis, and try to reduce it.
3. Supplement Your Diet
You know by now that because adrenal insufficiency may result from constant stress, it stands to reason reducing stress could help heal your adrenals. Certain supplements have demonstrated the ability to help in this fight. For example, research using animals has found withania somnifera (ashwaganda) could help improve stress tolerance, according to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Other research published in Planta Medica found rhodiola can decrease the cortisol response to stress in burnout patients.
While all of this starts with proper nutrition, supplements can pick up the slack where whole foods fall short.
4. Stay Hydrated
There's an important connection between adrenal insufficiency and hydration. The adrenal glands secret a hormone called aldosterone, which regulates water levels (as well as mineral concentrations), and helps you stay hydrated, explains Body Ecology. Faulty adrenals could lead to dehydration, making it all the more important to drink plenty of water.
The amount of water you drink isn't all that matters. You also want quality water with plenty of minerals. Depending on where you live, tap water may not be the best option. Distilled water typically has a lot of the minerals removed, and purified water might as well, according to the Mother Nature Network. Worst case scenario, you can buy mineral drops to add to your water and improve the quality.
5. Use Essential Oils
Similar to quality supplements, essential oils can also help relieve some of the stress your body goes through. For those who doubt the efficacy of aromatherapy and essential oils, know some promising research has indeed been done. One study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine saw alleviated stress and better sleep in ICU patients who underwent aromatherapy. Another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found aromatherapy massage might help decrease stress and improve immune function in pregnant women.
Whether you apply them topically, put them in a diffuser, or burn special candles, essential oils could help get your adrenals back on track.
6. Practice Patience
Don't scoff, because this is really important. None of the things described above will work if you don't give them enough of a chance. You're not looking at weeks; you're talking about months. Food Matters says six to nine months for minor fatigue, 12 to 18 for moderate, and up to 24 for severe. Adrenal Fatigue Solution says it's typically six to 18 months, although it can be more or less. If you start getting antsy after a few weeks, do not give up. Adrenal fatigue often happens due to stress over an extended period of time. It's thus going to take an extended period of time to reverse it.