So you’re tired of feeling run down, depressed, and overall just not like yourself. You think maybe there might be something to this idea of adrenal fatigue after all, and you definitely want to avoid all the health problems related to adrenal fatigue. So, what’s next? Are you stuck with low energy and all those other life sucking symptoms forever? Is this just another diagnosis to put in your medical history and struggle with for the rest of your life? Not hardly. There are LOTS of ways you can restore your adrenals and get your vitality back.
This is probably the absolute most important thing you can do for yourself. You need your rest! I know this can be quite difficult depending on your life circumstances, but if you want to recover from adrenal fatigue, you have to slow down your pace. Even if you just start going to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual, every little bit helps. When you’re sleep deprived, your adrenals have to pump out more cortisol to try and keep you awake, and that just perpetuates the cycle of adrenal fatigue. Do whatever you need to do to get some sleep. Cancel your weekend plans, send the kids to Grandma’s for an afternoon, and take a nap. Start saying no to all the activities and demands for your time that aren’t absolutely necessary. You don’t have to do this forever, but while you’re in the recovery phase, think of all those extra requests as withdrawals from your internal bank account. Take a power nap in the afternoons when you’re tired rather than making yourself stay up. Sleep in when you can instead of getting up and working in the garden or cleaning the house or whatever it is you usually do. Rest isn’t all sleeping, either. Enjoy a quiet afternoon in the house, relaxing with a good movie or a book or some other peaceful activity. Everyone’s life is different, so this will look differently for everyone, but without finding more time in your schedule for rest, you won’t be able to recover. (If you have difficulty sleeping, check out this post for some useful tips.) Believe me, if you don’t start resting now, you will eventually get to the point where your body will force you. Make the choices now when you’re still in control, and not when you suffer a complete adrenal collapse.
Avoid caffeine and sugar.
This is one of the hardest things to do while you’re recovering from adrenal fatigue, but you have to break the cycle somewhere. The caffeine and sugary foods you’ve been using to prop yourself up during the day are actually taxing your adrenals even more. Start slow if you have to, try mixing decaf coffee in with your caffeinated in increasing amounts. Eat fruit instead of sugary processed foods, at least that way you’ll be getting some important nutrients. But you won’t be able to decrease your dependence on stimulants unless you start resting, so don’t overlook that very important step!
Don’t be afraid of salt.
Just like we’re scared of saturated fat these days, we’re also scared of salt. We’ve been told it’ll give us hypertension. That’s true, if you’re consuming lots of sodium chloride in processed foods and eating junk. But sea salt is very healthy for you, it has lots of essential minerals that your body needs for everything from immune regulation, digestion, reproductive health, and healthy adrenals. People with adrenal fatigue often have low blood pressure anyway. When I first went to see an oriental medicine practitioner, my blood pressure was a shockingly low 90/70. One of the most helpful tips she gave me was to increase my intake of sea salt, and to even drink some salt water in the afternoons when I felt the most fatigued. Half a teaspoon of finely ground sea salt stirred into a cup of room temperature water proved to be a surprisingly effective tonic for boosting my energy levels, and got me through the rest of my day at work. Gulp it down if you have to, but try it at least once to see if it helps!
Get some help.
When my adrenals hit their breaking point, it ended up with me passing out at work. Thankfully it was during a staff meeting and not while I was with a patient, but it shook me up nonetheless. I got help from a DOM (diplomate of oriental medicine), who put me on a 6 month long protocol to build my adrenals back up. The first step was completing a salivary adrenal test, which gave me my cortisol levels in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, and at midnight. I was shocked to see that my levels in the midafternoon were as low as they were at midnight when I was usually asleep. After getting my results, she put me on some plant based supplements that acted similar to cortisol and helped support my body while my adrenals recovered. I noticed a substantial difference rather quickly, and after 6 months, I felt like myself again and was able to come off the supplements, though I continued to follow the rest of the advice that I’ve put forward for you in this post. If you feel like you’re near your breaking point, or just want to recover your vitality faster, you may want to seek some outside help. It was definitely worth it for me.
Selye, H. The Stress of Life. 2nd edition, McGraw-Hill, 1978.
Shayne, V. Whole Food Nutrition: The Missing Link in Vitamin Therapy, 2000.