What Does an Adrenal Fatigue Treatment Plan Involve? Ask Our Experts
Do you find yourself unusually anxious, getting dizzy upon standing, or so exhausted that you struggle to stay active for more than a few hours at a time? You could be experiencing adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands are small, walnut-sized organs that sit on top of the kidneys and produce hormones that help the body deal with stress. When you experience prolonged periods of stress – whether physical or emotional – the adrenals can become overtaxed (“fatigued”) and fail to regulate hormones properly. Following an adrenal fatigue treatment plan will help you heal your adrenal glands and recover your energy, resilience and endurance.
Understanding Adrenal Fatigue
Whenever we are exposed to stress, our adrenals pump out adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones to fuel the body’s fight-or-flight response. When the stressor has been resolved, the body returns to normal daily function. But all too often in our modern society, we find ourselves constantly inundated by stress. Many of these stressors are things we are not even aware of, such as food sensitivities and environmental toxins such as mold and chemicals. Other stressors include:
- Emotional trauma (such as the death of a loved one)
- Insufficient sleep
- Lack of exercise
- Too much exercise
- Poor diet
- Problems at work or in relationships
- Working too much
Adrenal fatigue occurs in three stages. During the initial phase you find yourself feeling “wired and tired” as surges of cortisol make you very alert but also make it difficult to sleep. High cortisol levels often lead to insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain.
By stage two, the adrenals can only produce cortisol in spurts, creating bursts of energy followed by crashes of extreme fatigue. People in stage two often find themselves waking up early in the morning (around 3 a.m.) unable to fall back asleep. The body also begins producing cortisol at the expense of other hormones, which is why DHEA, testosterone and other sex hormone levels begin to drop.
Lastly, you enter burnout. The adrenals produce little to no cortisol, leaving you extremely fatigued no matter how much sleep you get. It is difficult to perform everyday tasks and anxiety and depression are common.
The full range of adrenal fatigue symptoms includes:
- Body aches
- Brain fog
- Cravings for salty or sweet snacks
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Decreased libido
- Digestive problems
- Dizziness and light-headedness, especially upon standing
- Exercise intolerance
- Hair loss
- Hormonal imbalances
- Insomnia/disrupted sleep
- Mood swings
- Suppressed immune system
- Unexplained weight changes
5-Step Adrenal Fatigue Treatment Plan
Reduce stress – Because chronic stress is the main cause of adrenal fatigue, it is important to take steps to decrease your stress levels. This could involve gentle exercise (such as walking or yoga), gardening, doing something creative (such as painting or puzzles), unplugging from electronic devices, or deep breathing exercises. It may also involve lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy work/life balance, ending toxic relationships, or seeing a therapist to process your grief.
Practice good sleep hygiene – Getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night is one of the best things for adrenal health. Because our sleep-wake cycle is controlled by cortisol, you will need to create (and keep) a regular bedtime to retrain your body. Go to bed by 10 p.m. to avoid the cortisol surge that occurs when you stay awake past 11 p.m.
Exercise wisely – High-intensity workouts can actually worsen your adrenal fatigue by stressing the body. Instead, focus on light exercises, such as yoga, walking and short weight-training sessions.
Eat regular meals – Large, rushed meals cause blood sugar spikes that stress the body. Instead, eat small, regular meals throughout the day (especially breakfast). Eat nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest, such as avocado, leafy greens, whole grains, legumes and nuts, eggs, lean meats and fish. Avoid foods that can further stress your adrenals, such as caffeine, sugar and sweeteners, carbohydrates, processed or fast foods, soda and alcohol.
Consult a functional medicine doctor – Adrenal fatigue treatment plans aren’t one size fits all; they need to be tailored to your individual case. Functional medicine doctors, like Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM, use targeted adrenal fatigue treatment plans that include lifestyle and dietary changes, natural supplements and plant based nutraceuticals. They also evaluate your health holistically in order to identify underlying causes of your adrenal fatigue (such as hypothyroidism, mold exposure, or a food allergy).
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, call Anchor Wellness Center at (832) 246-8437 and schedule a consultation today. As a Board Certified physician in Family Medicine, as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra can help you regain your energy and restore you to optimal health.