Are you constantly tired and reaching for a second or third cup of coffee for a pick-me-up? Do you hit the snooze button three or four times before finally dragging yourself out of bed?
Fatigue can be correlated to so many different underlying causes but one that Naturopathic or functional practitioners commonly investigate are the adrenal glands.
We have two adrenal glands, which are located just above your kidneys. Adrenal glands are responsible for so much - including energy, libido, blood pressure, and mood. They don’t receive much attention from conventional practitioners, but they play an integral part of a Naturopathic approach to your health.
Healthy adrenal glands produce an important hormone called cortisol. In the morning, Cortisol is high to wake you up. It then slowly decreases throughout the day. It is at its lowest in the evening allowing you to sleep. It can dip at various points during the day – particularly common is 2-4 p.m. when people have the “afternoon slump.”
Chronic stress can have a significant impact on how much cortisol your body makes and even when it makes them. If the stressor(s) are not resolved, cortisol’s daily pattern of secretion maybe become altered.
Changes to such an important hormone can have a significant impact on your health and quality of life. It causes fatigue and yet you may have difficulty sleeping, it can heighten anxiety, lead to weight gain (especially around the belly) and eventually contribute to chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
Does any of this sound familiar? Thankfully, there are many effective ways to give your adrenals a little TLC and improve your energy.
7 Ways to Heal Your Adrenals and Improve Your Energy
Adequate and regular sleep
So many of us are cutting ourselves short of sleep. You’re busy – work, fun, kids, t.v. … life can make getting enough sleep a challenge. Yet, we need adequate sleep to restore our adrenal glands and feel our best each day. Most of us need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Listen to your internal clock; know how much sleep you need and make it a priority.
Exercise is restorative and invigorating to the adrenal glands. It can also boost endorphins (happy brain chemicals), relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and prevent illness. It can be as simple as a brisk walk, gentle yoga, a run, a dance class, but to get the most out of it, it should be fun. Finding some form of sustainable exercise that you enjoy will increase your energy and make all the difference in your life.
Nutrient Rich Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Eat a plant-based diet, rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy fats that leaves out excess sugars and processed foods! This will provide your body with adequate vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants to not only fuel your adrenal glands and energize you, but to reduce inflammation, the common denominator in all disease.
As discussed above, chronic stress will have a detrimental effect on your health and life and, when it is significant enough, it will alter the function of your adrenal glands. Finding a sustainable way to deal with your stress can be revolutionizing. Eliminate it whenever possible - say no to things that aren’t necessary or don’t make you happy and reduce your exposure to people who are draining to you. Mindfulness, meditation, prayer, laughter, time away (even just a few minutes), time in nature, and exercise will help with the stress you can’t just will away!
Speaking of time in nature, studies show just getting outside will reduce stress, which can in turn support adrenal health. It can also help with seasonal affective disorder, improve blood pressure, help your immune system and improve your mental clarity. Being outside while you exercise is an added bonus.
Tulsi tea (Holy Basil) is supportive of adrenal health and can be found in your local co-op or Whole Foods. Rooibos teas are nutritive and Dandelion Root tea can be energizing.
you can speak with your functional/Naturopathic practitioner about adrenal tests. There are a number of companies that offer the four-point saliva test. This test will capture your diurnal cortisol pattern which will help to provide you with more adequate results and thorough recommendations.
Life is stressful, but you can take control. Start with prioritizing regular, adequate sleep. Once you’ve done that choose one or two things from the list above, whichever ones feels right for you and keep it going. It’s tough to live the life you want when you’re tired. If you need more support, consider reaching out to your local licensed Naturopathic Doctor for a thorough evaluation.
Dr. Maureen Dunn