Check Your Adrenals! Red Flags and Remedies for Fatigue

April 2024 | Dr. Madelein Shafferman

Adrenal Fatigue

How do you know if your adrenals need a little TLC? Are you constantly feeling wired but tired? Battling sugar cravings? Dealing with brain fog or stubborn belly fat? Struggling to cope with stress like you used to? Finding yourself easily startled or frequently irritated? If you’re nodding along, it might be time to check in on your adrenals.

In this blog, we’ll explore the pivotal role of your adrenal glands, their unique relationship with your thyroid and ovaries, common symptoms of adrenal distress, and practical at-home strategies to nurture your adrenals, maintain healthy cortisol levels, and optimize adrenal function!

What Are Your Adrenals?

Your adrenal glands, which resemble small, triangular-shaped hats on top of each kidney, play a vital role in regulating various bodily functions. These glands are crucial for managing stress, blood pressure, metabolism, immune response, and more.

The adrenal glands are composed of two parts, each responsible for producing different hormones. The inner medulla releases adrenaline and noradrenaline in times of stress, triggering our fight or flight response, while the outer cortex produces cortisol, our primary stress hormone. Cortisol’s influence extends far beyond stress management — it plays a pivotal role in metabolism, blood pressure regulation, and even your sleep-wake cycle.

When your adrenal glands are underperforming, this can affect nutrient absorption, hindering our ability to convert fats, proteins, and carbs into energy, and in turn slowing metabolism. On the contrary, overactive adrenals can disrupt the balance of water and salt in your bloodstream, causing blood-pressure spikes. Keep an eye out for unexplained weight fluctuations, persistent fatigue, or digestive disturbances too — these red flags may be signaling adrenal distress!

What Are Your Adrenals?

The 3 Besties: Adrenals, Thyroid, and Ovaries

The adrenal glands are best friends with your thyroid and ovaries (or testes)! They work together endlessly and rely on each other for harmony. If one is disrupted in any way, the others will try to compensate.

For example, if your thyroid is suboptimal, your adrenals and ovaries will try to pick up the slack. The thyroid hormone ‘T3’ directly affects your energy, metabolism, and reproductive health. Low levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with the release of an egg from your ovary, and can make your periods light, heavy, or irregular. Additionally, cortisol can impact thyroid production, delay ovulation, and cause irregularities in your cycle.

If one bestie continuously falls short, eventually your other organs will get too taxed and more symptoms will arise. The longer they overwork, the more care and attention they’ll need to bounce back. We need these three amigos to pull equal weight and work together!

Signs of Adrenal Distress

Adrenals

  • Feeling wired and tired
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Unable to cope with stress
  • Easily startled
  • Irritated often

Ovaries/Sex Hormones

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irregular periods
  • Lots of PMS symptoms
  • Low libido (men and women)
  • Fatigue (men and women)
  • Abnormal hair growth and loss (men and women)

Thyroid

  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Dry skin
  • Hot or cold intolerance
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Goiter/enlarged thyroid
Adrenal Support

Ways to Support Your Adrenals

Building a sturdy foundation for adrenal health involves a multi-faceted approach! Picture adrenal support as a pyramid; At the base, we want to focus on lifestyle components. These truly shape the foundation of your adrenal and overall health! From there, we can add supporting factors like specific nutrients and supplements, and if medications are absolutely needed, we can utilize them to fortify your pyramid of adrenal support.

Lifestyle Components

  • Quality Sleep: Sleep is crucial for restoring adrenal health, repairing all bodily systems, and producing the hormones needed to function optimally — so prioritize sticking to a bedtime routine and getting 8 hours of quality sleep nightly. [Want to improve your sleep habits? Check out my Strategies to Sleep Better!]

  • Stress Management: We often live such busy lives and can be oblivious to what our stress really looks like — But chronic stress can wreak havoc on our adrenal glands! The first step is to identify what your stressors are, so you can take steps to limit their impact! Employing stress management strategies like regular exercise, hydrotherapy, meditation, and deep breathing can help to boost your mood and energy, promote better sleep, and regulate your adrenals.

  • Strong Support System: Having the right people on your team can make all the difference. Surround yourself with friends and family members who take the stress out of your life, encourage healthy habits, and positively support your goals. Additionally, working with a healthcare professional who assesses your whole health picture and can help you to achieve optimal adrenal function and improve your overall health.

  • Good Nutrition: Processed foods, refined sugars, and excessive caffeine can stress the adrenal glands — not to mention, they lack the essential nutrients necessary for optimal adrenal function. On the other hand, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fresh fruits, and vegetables are nutrient powerhouses, jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that not only nourish your body but also support adrenal health.

Specific Nutrients

  • Electrolytes: Our bodies need salt and here’s why! Aldosterone is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands that functions to regulate blood pressure and electrolyte balance in the blood. When blood pressure is low, aldosterone is released to help the body retain water and salt, which in turn helps to increase blood volume and raise blood pressure. Electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium are essential for maintaining proper hydration and supporting your adrenal glands.

  • Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for our overall health! When it comes to supporting adrenal function, this mineral helps to regulate cortisol levels, impacting our blood pressure, memory, mood, and energy. Incorporating magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, beans, lentils, fatty fish, bananas, and avocados in your diet can support your adrenal glands and alleviate symptoms of adrenal fatigue.

  • Vitamin C: Excess cortisol, whether caused by adrenal imbalances or chronic stress, can contribute to increased oxidative stress in the body. Vitamin C not only plays an essential role in producing cortisol, but is a key antioxidant which combats free radicals (unsteady molecules that can harm healthy cells) and lowers oxidative stress on the body. Supporting the body with Vitamin C can help to ensure our adrenal glands have adequate levels to produce and regulate cortisol.

  • B Vitamins: B vitamins help your body convert food into energy. Specifically, Vitamin B5 (also known as Pantothenic Acid) is involved in the production of Coenzyme A, a molecule essential for converting glucose into energy. Our adrenal glands require higher concentrations of pantothenic acid to function optimally and produce hormones like cortisol! Since B Vitamins are water-soluble and are not stored in the body, it’s important to regularly consume foods rich in these nutrients.

Herbal Support

Adaptogens are herbs or natural plant substances that help our bodies manage and recover from stress. Specifically, adaptogens like schisandra and rhodiola can help support the function of your adrenals by regulating cortisol levels, optimizing energy and combating fatigue, and protecting against oxidative stress.

Glandular Support

Sometimes your adrenal glands need a vacation. Adrenal glandular supplements derived from animal sources can provide your own adrenals with the concentrated nutrients and compounds it needs to restore function. With that, it’s essential to consult with a well-versed healthcare provider before using glandular extracts — We want to make sure you are taking the right kind at the right dose, to optimally support your body!

Medication

Medications are a short-term tool, not a long-term solution. We want to encourage the body to create cortisol on its own. Additionally, medications like corticosteroids, opioids, SSRIs, and some anti-fungal treatments can negatively impact adrenal function. Certain medications may be helpful to mandate cortisol output, but we would want to support the body with the rest of this pyramid to achieve optimal adrenal function.

Support Your Adrenals Today!

Address Your Adrenal Health Today!

Listen to your body — it often whispers clues when things aren’t right. If you’re feeling constantly fatigued, craving sugary or salty snacks, and struggling to manage your stress, we want to uncover the underlying problem and get this addressed!

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t stress. At ISAIH Natural Medicine, our comprehensive approach is designed to nurture and restore balance to your besties: the thyroid, ovaries, and adrenals! Simply schedule an appointment with our team today — We’ll build the foundation of support together.