If you constantly feel tired with sleep disturbances, digestive problems, body aches, and nervousness, you could be suffering adrenal fatigue. In this article, you’ll learn how to reverse adrenal fatigue naturally.

But don’t confuse adrenal fatigue with adrenal insufficiency, a medical condition referring to inadequate production of one or more hormones from the adrenal gland. This can be a result of medical or surgical problems.

Adrenal fatigue is considered a milder form of adrenal insufficiency but without the underlying conditions. Adrenal fatigue has often been linked to chronic stress and burnout. Learn more about adrenal fatigue and how to reverse it for health and wellbeing.

What Exactly is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a disturbance in the ability of the adrenal gland to produce the right amount of cortisol at the right time.

It’s a common yet controversial health concern with unspecified symptoms. It often refers to when the adrenal glands have been overworked, leading to a depletion of the cortisol hormone. Cortisol hormone is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands to protect you against stress.

Cortisol is also essential for controlling blood glucose, reducing blood pressure, formulating memory, and regulating metabolism.

In the presence of stress, the adrenals release higher levels of cortisol. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenals overproduce the cortisol to the point of being worn out that they can no longer produce the required amount for normal body processes.

adrenal fatigue charts on white background

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Common adrenal fatigue symptoms include:

  • Craving sweets and salty foods
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Having trouble coping with stress
  • Being overly emotional
  • Brain fog or cognitive problems
  • Poor mood regulation
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Morning fatigue with intermittent crashes throughout the day.
  • Overconsumption of caffeine-containing beverages
  • Weak immune system susceptible to infections
  • Feeling tired after exercise

Severe adrenal fatigue may result in

  • Depression
  • Reduced muscle tone
  • Frequent urination
  • Insomnia

What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?

Any form of excessive stress will increase your cortisol production and cause adrenal fatigue.

Potential stressors include

  • Long-term stress from, for example, the death of a loved one, divorce, terminal illness, or an accident that left you disabled.
  • Exposure to environmental pollution and toxins
  • Prolonged stress due to bad work environment, losing a job, financial hardships, bad relationships, etc
  • Negative thinking
  • Lack of sleep
  • Surgery
  • An unhealthy diet includes sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and fast foods.
  • Inflammation

tired female at work with her head on the desk

Steps on How to Reverse Adrenal Fatigue

1. Follow an adrenal diet

Diet is essential when it comes to restoring or maintaining adrenal health. This includes eliminating those foods that exhaust your adrenals while adding those that replenish them.

Foods you should include:

  • Healthy oils like olive and avocado oils
  • Nuts, including almonds and walnuts
  • Seeds such as chia, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Colorful vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Coconut
  • Whole grain gluten-free carbs

Foods you should eliminate: 

Coffee

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. For most people, it’s a great way to start the day or relax after a long day. But what most people don’t know is that coffee can be detrimental to their body. One of those is the effect it has on the adrenals.

The adrenal glands secrete a variety of hormones, including adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These hormones help us handle stress, regulate our blood sugar levels, and manage our energy levels. When these glands are overworked, however, they can affect the production of these hormones and adrenal functions in general.

One of the main problems with coffee is that it dehydrates you. Dehydration can lead to an imbalance of fluids in your body, which can damage the adrenal glands.

Coffee also contains caffeine, which can affect your adrenals in two ways: First, caffeine can increase your cortisol and norepinephrine levels, causing overproduction of these hormones and causing adrenal fatigue. Second, caffeine can block the absorption of other nutrients that are important for the health of your adrenals.

Caffeine also affects your sleep pattern by keeping you awake and alert, especially if taken in the evening. This prevents you from having good quality sleep that might help your adrenals rest and heal.

So if you’re looking to minimize your risk of adrenal fatigue, eliminate coffee from your diet or at least limit your intake.

Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates can cause adrenal fatigue for a few reasons. First, when you eat refined carbs, your blood sugar levels spike and then crash. This roller coaster ride puts a lot of stress on our adrenal glands.

In addition, Refined carbohydrates such as white flour cause inflammation. The body perceives inflammation as stress, and this will trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

And since refined carbohydrate is something people tend to consume a lot, it often results in chronic inflammation, which constantly puts a demand on the adrenal to release more cortisol, making the adrenal fatigue worse.

Also, some refined products are often high in sugar and other additives that can disrupt our natural hormone balance. When our adrenals are constantly being taxed, they eventually become exhausted, leading to adrenal fatigue.

Sugar

Let’s talk about sugar because it’s one of the most damaging ingredients in our modern diet. When you eat sugar and refined carbs like flour, your blood sugar spikes and then crashes—causing you to feel moody, tired, or hungry just an hour later.

That post-meal energy slump is called reactive hypoglycemia, and it causes your adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol (the stress hormone), which can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue or burnout.

Cortisol plays an important role in blood glucose regulation. When your glucose levels are low, cortisol stimulates the release of glycogen or stored sugar from the liver when your sugar levels are high; cortisol regulates it for utilization within the cell and its conversion into energy. 

Consuming sugar will put more demand on the adrenals to release more cortisol, thus exhausting them and worsening the adrenal fatigue situation. How To Stop Sugar Cravings?

To prevent these symptoms from happening, eliminate added sugar from your diet completely.

And remember, sugar hides in a lot of places, so be on the lookout for added sugars in packaged foods and soft drinks; you might be surprised by how many grams are hiding out in seemingly healthy options!

For example, low-fat yogurt contains 11 grams of sugar per serving. Check food labels carefully and limit your intake of sweetened beverages, even those labeled diet.

man on a balance making food choices

Processed foods

It’s not only bad for your waistline—but it can also set off an adrenal cascade. Most processed foods are laden with artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and dyes, all of which have been linked to adrenal fatigue. Meanwhile, junky carbs like white bread and pasta can be hard on blood sugar levels and lead to insulin spikes.

If you suffer from adrenal fatigue symptoms, it’s best to stay away from most processed foods altogether. Instead, focus on eating whole foods that aren’t overly processed or full of additives. Some examples include fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and healthy fats like olive oil or avocado oil. How To Avoid Processed Foods?

Vegetable oils

Not all fats are created equal, and vegetable oil is one you should avoid when dealing with adrenal fatigue. Even though it’s made up of seemingly healthy omega-6 fatty acids, too much omega-6 can cause inflammation in your body.

Hydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, soybean oil, and corn oil are highly inflammatory and may worsen adrenal fatigue. Substitutes For Vegetable Oil.

Instead, opt for coconut oil or olive oil. Both are high in oleic acid, which helps combat stress hormones like cortisol.

The best part is, that you can use these oils in all kinds of cooking without worrying about them becoming toxic at high temperatures as you do with some other oils.

For example, extra virgin olive oil is a great choice for sautéing vegetables or making homemade salad dressings, while coconut oil s great for deep frying.

Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. It’s what gives bread its chewy texture and makes it rise when cooked.

Although many people can consume gluten without any ill effects, a growing number of people are sensitive to it.

Research has shown that those with an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten often develop symptoms of adrenal fatigue. The good news is that removing gluten from your diet can be a simple way to combat adrenal fatigue.

If you suspect that you have a sensitivity to gluten, it’s important to get tested. There are tests for celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergies that can help determine if you’re intolerant or sensitive to gluten.

If you test positive for any of these conditions and continue to eat gluten, it can lead to chronic inflammation in your body, which is another common cause of adrenal fatigue. If you test positive for gluten sensitivity, then eliminating it from your diet should help alleviate some of your symptoms.

Dairy 

Dairy products are among a select few foods that damage your adrenal glands and throw off your cortisol levels. This can lead to fatigue, poor sleep, weight gain, and chronic stress—all of which may make you feel even worse.
In addition, lactose intolerance is a common cause of adrenal fatigue, especially in people with Hashimoto’s disease.

For some, dairy products can trigger an immune response and worsen thyroid function. If you have autoimmunity, it may be best to cut out all sources of dairy.
And if you’re prone to adrenal fatigue or have a family history of it, one of your top priorities should be avoiding all dairy products.

Many people are unaware that eating cheese and drinking milk can deplete their bodies of important minerals, leading to reduced energy levels.

In fact, many doctors believe that an allergy to dairy is actually an allergy to adrenaline—the very hormone produced by your adrenal glands! So make sure you steer clear of all forms of dairy if you want to overcome adrenal fatigue. Is Milk Bad For You?

Alcohol

If you have high levels of stress in your life, one of your biggest goals should be cutting out alcohol. Alcohol is quite dehydrating and can sap your body of vital nutrients.

Red wine is particularly dangerous as it has been shown to reduce vitamin C and magnesium levels, both needed for proper adrenal function.

In addition, alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling exhausted and hungry an hour later.

In addition, when you’re drinking, you’re more likely to make poor decisions like grabbing a midnight snack or having another drink—both great ways to upset your adrenal system!

Once you cut out alcohol, start replacing it with water. It has zero calories, zero sugar, tastes great, and can help curb your alcohol cravings as well as those for sugary drinks. Dangers Of Alcohol.

2. Reduce stress

Stress is the main driving force behind adrenal fatigue; hence it has to be dealt with. Why Is Stress Management Important?

The best way to manage stress is by moving; Whether it’s walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, gardening, swimming, cycling, or even weightlifting. Any form of movement or exercise will help relax your mind, improve your focus and relieve adrenal fatigue. See Stress Relieving Foods

Here are other things you can do to relieve stress

  • Have a rest when you feel tired
  • Maintain a regular sleep cycle and sleep at least 8 hours a night.
  • Eliminate caffeine and sugar from your diet
  • Avoid staying up late, ideally before 10 pm
  • Maintain a regular food cycle
  • Talk to someone
  • Do something fun that you enjoy
  • Avoid negative people
  • Cultivate positive self-talk

Adaptogenic herbs and spices on a white background

3. Consume adaptogenic herbs     

These are herbs that help the body cope with stress by balancing your hormones and tempering the exhaustion involved.

They include

4. Get enough sleep

Sleep is often an afterthought, but your body needs sleep in order to function at its best. Lack of sleep can cause many problems, including high levels of stress hormones that negatively affect metabolic function.

On the other hand, getting a full night’s sleep every night is one of the easiest ways to treat your adrenals and prevent excess stress from damaging your system.

Aim for seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night, and you’ll feel refreshed and revitalized upon waking up. In addition, you may notice that you have more energy than before once you start getting sufficient sleep on a regular basis.

Also, make sure that you’re avoiding screens for 1 hour before bedtime as they may disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

It might also be helpful to get outside in natural sunlight every day—it helps regulate our internal clocks. How To Sleep Better?

5. Exercise regularly

Not only does exercise improve your hormone profile, but it also increases your energy levels. Exercising regularly can help keep you from having extreme ups and downs in your energy levels and boost your overall adrenal health.

Include aerobic exercise, which will get your heart rate going and bring more oxygen into your body. Strength training is also recommended because it builds muscle mass and helps improve bone density. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity three days a week.

Try to keep those days consistent so you can build a solid habit.

And don’t forget that exercise actually improves your sleep too! Try taking a walk every evening before you go to bed for improved recovery time.

It will not only help you fall asleep faster, but it will also make sure that when you wake up in the morning, you feel energized and ready to tackle your day. Benefits Of Cardiovascular Exercise.

6. Laugh often

Don’t be so serious. Make time for lightness, humor, and joy in your life. Laugh often and learn how to have fun even when you don’t feel like it.

The stress-relieving benefits of laughter are well documented. In fact, research has shown that laughter can significantly reduce levels of stress hormones that trigger cravings and overeating.

In addition to laughing more, consider adding activities such as meditation into your routine—or just breathing deeply for a few minutes each day—to help combat adrenal fatigue.

Final Thoughts

Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome characterized by various symptoms. It occurs as a result of high levels of stress that cause the adrenal glands to overproduce stress hormones to the point of being worn out. This leads to underperformance of the adrenal glands resulting in health issues.

Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include weight gain, tiredness, brain fog, insulin resistance, anxiety, and trouble falling asleep.

To reverse your adrenal fatigue naturally, consume adaptogenic herbs, including whole foods, healthy fats, and colorful plant foods in your diet, and remove anti-inflammatory foods such as sugar and refined carbohydrates. Also, ensure you are getting adequate sleep and managing your stress appropriately.

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