Adrenal fatigue is an imbalance driven by chronic stress, and it’s so important to discuss. These days, people are facing more stressors than ever before, and so adrenal fatigue is becoming a more common problem. Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is poorly understood by many and often not even recognized as a “real” diagnosis by mainstream medicine. Because of this, adrenal fatigue is often misdiagnosed as a mental health condition or burnout. And while it’s true that adrenal fatigue may look like extreme exhaustion or depression, there are also real hormonal imbalances at play here.
It’s important to understand the mechanisms behind adrenal fatigue in order to restore balance to the body. There’s no magic pill to cure adrenal fatigue, but it can be resolved when the body is given the conditions to self-heal. At F8Well, many of our patients have supported their adrenal health by using our holistic approach that leverages the body’s innate healing capacity.
What Exactly Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is also known as HPA axis dysfunction. The HPA axis consists of hormonal and neurological pathways involving the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. Think of your HPA axis as the orchestrator that signals certain hormones to keep the body in a state of balance. The HPA axis plays a huge role in supporting energy levels and stress regulation. In particular, the adrenal glands are responsible for releasing adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) when the body is in a state of fight or flight.
Thanks to your adrenal glands, your body is well-equipped to handle acute episodes of stress. However, chronic stress can disrupt the HPA axis. Chronic stress is like slamming the gas pedal on the adrenals, as they’re forced to work harder to keep pumping out stress hormones. When the body is in a constant state of fight-or-flight, certain healing and reparative processes can’t occur. As a result, the HPA axis can get stuck in feedback loops and become dysregulated over time.
Adrenal fatigue usually occurs in stages. At first, when the adrenals are constantly pumping out stress hormones, anxiety levels may be high. As the HPA axis becomes more dysregulated, the adrenals essentially “tire out”, unable to continue producing stress hormones in such high volumes. Eventually, stress hormone production drops off and then flatlines, causing extreme fatigue.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is an imbalance driven by stress hormones and HPA axis dysfunction, often caused by a combination of chronic stressors. Stress is more than just an emotional response. Physical imbalances can also cause a release of stress hormones and HPA axis dysfunction.
The causes of adrenal fatigue are usually a combination of these diet and lifestyle factors over time:
Chronic stress and anxiety
Frequent blood sugar fluctuations
What Are the Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?
The HPA axis is involved in so many different processes in the body, so adrenal fatigue can have a wide-ranging impact on the body and brain. Symptoms can also vary depending on what stage of adrenal fatigue you’re in.
Some of the most common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
Fatigue, despite getting enough sleep
Energy crashes throughout the day
Sleep disruptions or trouble falling asleep
Poor stress response or mood regulation
Cravings for sugar and salt
Increased dependence on caffeine and other stimulants
Low blood pressure
Blood sugar fluctuations
A compromised immune system and getting sick more frequently
What does adrenal fatigue treatment look like?
There’s usually no quick-fix solution for adrenal fatigue. However, the body has an incredible ability to heal itself and come back into a state of balance – you just have to make sure you’re providing the right support. The amount of time it takes to find relief from adrenal fatigue can vary depending on the severity of the imbalance.
- Stress management
Your body has important healing pathways that can only take place in a state of rest and relaxation. If you’re living in a constant state of fight or flight, your adrenals won’t have the resources to heal themselves. If you have a high-stress job, family situation, or lifestyle, it may feel impossible to relax. You can use techniques such as mindfulness and meditation to help manage your stress better.
- Good nutrition
The health of your gut microbiome can impact HPA axis function. Consuming unhealthy foods or inflammatory foods can disrupt gut health, cause inflammation, and contribute to adrenal fatigue. In order to support your gut and adrenal health, make sure you’re eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet. It may be necessary to cut back on sugar, refined carbohydrates, excess alcohol, and trans fats. Magnesium and B vitamins are essential for adrenal health, so make sure that you’re consuming enough of these (or supplementing if necessary).
- Balance your blood sugar
Most people are unaware that blood sugar fluctuations can cause stress in the body – but it’s true! Blood sugar swings cause a cascade of reactions, activating the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline. In order to prevent this, you want to keep your blood sugar between 85-110 mg/dL as much as possible. This is why we often don’t recommend fasting for our patients with adrenal fatigue. To keep stable blood sugar, it’s important to eat meals at regular intervals throughout the day, with a healthy balance of carbs, protein, and fats.
- Get enough sleep & support your circadian rhythm
When healing from adrenal fatigue, it’s essential to get enough rest. In severe cases, it may even be necessary to take some time off work or cut back on your responsibilities. HPA axis dysfunction may disrupt circadian rhythm, making it difficult for you to maintain a regular sleep schedule. You can help support your circadian rhythm by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Other supportive practices include exposing yourself to sunlight within the first hour of waking and avoiding blue light in the evenings.
- Address other infections and imbalances
HPA axis dysfunction may be caused or worsened by chronic infections, toxin exposure, autoimmune conditions, or other hormonal disorders. If you’re healing from adrenal fatigue, it’s important to test for and treat these imbalances as well.
How F8 Does It Better
At F8 Well Centers, we’ve supported many of our patients support their adrenal health using the Galyardt Method. We’re committed to finding the root causes of your adrenal fatigue, and we use comprehensive lab testing to help us do so. After uncovering the root causes, we’ll come up with a plan to address diet, blood sugar imbalances, and any other lifestyle factors. Our practitioners will meet with you on a weekly basis to help keep you on track. We also know that the brain plays such an important role in stress management, which is why we use brain mapping and Neurofeedback sessions to retrain the brain into healthier patterns.
If you think you may have adrenal fatigue, know that you don’t have to walk your healing path alone. At F8 Well Centers, we’re here to support you, so don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment!