Adrenal exhaustion is one of those buzz terms that floats around health circles and the internet. If you Google “why am I always tired?” chances are that somewhere along the way, adrenal exhaustion will pop up. We read the symptoms – unrefreshed after a long sleep, tired throughout the day, relying on coffee and chocolate – and we think “Yep, that’s me! My adrenals must be ruined.”
However, the truth is though that there are hundreds of reasons why a person might feel fatigued. These include iron deficiency, low B-vitamin status or a lack of exercise to name a few. So navigating the maze of what’s what can be tricky. So here are a few truths about the adrenal glands, what they do and some easy steps to make sure they are running as they should.
So what are these ‘adrenals’? The adrenal glands are two little glands that sit on top of the kidneys and release – among other things – cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline: the stress hormones. Cortisol is probably the one that gets most airtime on blogs and social media, but cortisol is not always the bad guy it’s made out to be. It’s actually essential for that ‘get up and go’ feeling in the morning. But unfortunately it’s also a ‘fight or flight’ hormone that we rely on too heavily throughout our workdays to get stuff done.
With excess stress, caffeine, and late nights, we demand that our adrenals produce more and more cortisol. Until, as the theory goes, we can’t do it anymore and cortisol production drops off, leaving us adrenally exhausted. In truth, this is very rare. Just think about it this way: if a bus was coming at you, could you jump out of the way? If your answer was ‘yes’ then you are still capable of producing stress hormones. In reality, what I see more often is a mild adrenal fatigue. Or a disrupted ‘cortisol wave’ where cortisol is high when it should be low and low when it should be high. This is more than enough though to have a serious effect on your mood and your general wellbeing.
So how can you protect your adrenals and ‘hit reset’ when their rhythm is a little out of whack
Licorice root is known to nurture and strengthen the adrenals. So sip on plenty of licorice tea to reinvigorate those tired glands. However, avoid licorice if you have a history with high blood pressure.
The adrenals are the biggest reservoir of vitamin C in the body. So it makes sense that we should eat lots of vitamin C-rich foods, such as broccoli, berries, and kiwifruit, to boost our vitamin C stocks. Vitamins B5 and B12 are important too.
We want to have high cortisol in the morning, but it should be lowest by nine or ten o’clock at night when we should be heading to bed. Promoting good sleep and moving our bedtime earlier is important for healthy adrenal function. Have trouble falling asleep? Valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, hops and chamomile are all good herbal medicines for bedtime.