Treating Adrenal Fatigue with Functional Medicine
Suffering with Adrenal Fatigue? Read below how Functional Medicine can help you.
How Can Functional Medicine Help with Adrenal Fatigue?
Your adrenal glands have the job of controlling how you respond to stress. This is not an enviable task because for many people stress is a large part of life.
Some stress is useful because it’s your natural response to danger, and it helps keep you motivated and focussed. Your body has developed mechanisms to deal with stress.
Adrenal fatigue refers to the condition where your adrenal glands can no longer respond appropriately to stress.
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
Physical or emotional stress causes changes to your body. Your adrenal glands pump out the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline to enable you to react to a crisis. These hormones allow extra blood to reach your muscles and make energy available so you can run away if you need to. At the same time, other functions like digestion take a back seat.
The problem is, stressors are often now ongoing and happen one after another, meaning your adrenals are constantly pumping out stress hormones. Stress may be so normal for you, you don’t realise it’s there.
Over time, if stress hormones don’t fall as they normally would once the stressful event has passed, your stress response isn’t able to turn off. If cortisol has been elevated on an ongoing basis, it can cause you to feel ‘tired but wired’, as well as leading to weight gain, irritability, food cravings, concentration difficulties and headaches, while creating imbalances in sex hormones by decreasing progesterone levels.
Over time with all the extra work your adrenal glands may become fatigued. This is also known as adrenal exhaustion or burnout, and it usually follows many years of continual stress. Adrenal fatigue is not simply a problem with your adrenals, it involves your brain’s communication with your stress glands, too.
Stress can come in many forms – overloading your body with poor quality food, food intolerances, environmental pollutants, excessive exercise and getting too little sleep are all stressors in themselves.
Symptoms Caused by Adrenal Fatigue
Decreased secretion of stress hormones can cause some or all of the following symptoms, as the body’s systems for rest, repair and digestion go awry.
- Exhaustion, even when you’ve managed to sleep; difficulty getting up in the morning, needing caffeine to keep you going, and typically having an energy slump mid-afternoon
- Frequently picking up infections
- Depression, anxiety
- Sleeping problems, often having trouble falling or staying asleep
- Nonspecific aches and pains
- Allergies and autoimmune conditions
- Poor memory and concentration
- You can’t lose weight no matter how hard you try
- Cravings for salt, sugar or carbohydrates
- Low libido
Conventional Treatment of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is often not recognised by conventional medicine. Because of this, you may have been searching for the cause of your ill-health for many years. Some people feel like they’re going crazy when they’re told their symptoms, often appearing unrelated or vague, must be all in their head because no other cause can be found for them.
Testing for Adrenal Fatigue
Because conventional medicine doesn’t always recognise the existence of adrenal fatigue, you most likely won’t be offered any tests other than those to rule out other health conditions.
Functional medicine practitioners assess adrenal function by looking at the levels of your stress hormones. Cortisol should be released in different quantities depending the time of day, so looking at the amount of cortisol in your saliva at different times, we can see how your stress glands are responding.
Functional Medicine & Adrenal Fatigue
If your adrenals are fatigued they may need increased amounts of specific nutrients, such as B vitamins and Vitamin C. Certain herbs can be useful to support adrenal function.
Lifestyle will play a large part in your recovery, with the aim of reducing stressors. Sleep hygiene is very important, and you’ll also be equipped with the tools you need to manage your response to stress such as relaxation techniques, breathing techniques and gentle exercise.