Reviewed by Lisa Blohm, PhD, MSN, RN
Life is a juggling act. It can get even more stressful when life throws you a curveball every so often. Most people have experienced long-term stress, including emotional, mental, or physical stress — or any combination of the above. Your body can respond to this stress in a multitude of ways, many of which you can link to adrenal fatigue. Taking supplements for adrenal fatigue is one way to deal with the symptoms. Daily diet and healthy life habits are other ways you can address the symptoms.
So, if you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, don’t lose hope because there are several things you can try to find relief from it.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is not a diagnosis frequently given by most doctors trained in traditional Western medical practices.. It is a term more commonly used by those who practice alternative medicine, such as naturopathy, to describe symptoms linked to stress experienced over long periods.
A great place to start learning about adrenal fatigue is understanding what the adrenal glands do.
The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system in your body. This system is responsible for pushing hormones into the bloodstream. Hormones are messengers that travel to tissues and organs in the human body to help different processes, including metabolism, growth, and development.
There are two adrenal glands, and they are located above the kidneys. Many scientists describe them as the “hat-shaped organs” sitting at the top of your kidneys.
They produce hormones that, when released, aid with the regulation of the following processes:
- Immune system
- Blood pressure
- Stress response
So as you can see, they serve an essential purpose in how your body functions.
What type of hormones do the adrenal glands produce?
Learning about the hormones they produce will give you a better sense of how vital the adrenal glands are. Specific hormones the adrenal glands produce include:
- Androgens: These hormones are responsible for the growth, development, and function of the reproductive organs in both men and women (although women only have them in small amounts). They are converted into sex steroids in other tissues including the testicles and ovaries, where they become testosterone and estrogen. Additionally, these hormones are behind the development of gender-specific physical traits.
- Aldosterone: It helps the kidneys regulate electrolytes like sodium and potassium as well as fluid balance in your body.
- Epinephrine, norepinephrine
- Epinephrine is also known as adrenaline, and when it is released into the bloodstream, it increases heart rate, blood flow, breathing rate, and blood sugar levels. It also increases physical strength.
- Norepinephrine also increases heart rate and blood sugar levels. In response to stress, the adrenal glands produce norepinephrine which narrows blood vessels leading to increased blood pressure. It also breaks down fat and, along with regulating sugar levels, helps provide energy for your body.
These hormones together prepare your body for the “fight-or-flight” response. This preparation occurs when you are faced with a physical or psychological threat. Whether you decide to face the danger or run away from it, epinephrine and norepinephrine get your body ready.
- Cortisol: It is the primary stress hormone, helping the body respond to stressful situations. Cortisol also aids a wide variety of processes and functions in the body, including immune response, metabolism, memory formation, and tissue repair.
High levels of this hormone can result in the following:
- High blood pressure and heart rate
- Poor sleep
- Weight gain
- Digestive issues
- Muscle weakness
- Mood swings displayed as depression, anxiety, or irritability
In response to stressors, an overabundance of cortisol is released by the adrenal glands causing adrenal fatigue. The glands become overworked as it produces these high cortisol levels, affecting their ability to function properly. In other words, the hormones it usually produces aren’t available to the body at the levels required for optimal health. So, extended periods of stress can have a ripple effect throughout the entire body, potentially causing many health issues.
Cortisol production is also affected when you experience adrenal fatigue. Eventually, you may not have enough cortisol in your body. With low cortisol levels, your body can undergo one or more of the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Low blood pressure
Prolonged periods of high or low cortisol can lead to long-term health issues.
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, you may experience some of these common symptoms:
- Fatigue – waking up feeling tired and/or experiencing daytime energy crashes
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Brain fog – difficulty focusing, memory issues, and lack of mental clarity
- Body aches
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lower blood pressure which can lead to lightheadedness
- Weakened immune system (becoming ill more easily or more often)
- Cravings for salty or sweet foods
- Difficulty regulating your mood
Each person’s body reacts differently to stress, so a person can experience any number or combination of these symptoms. There also may be other less common symptoms people experience as a result of adrenal fatigue.
Taking supplements for adrenal fatigue is a way to alleviate the symptoms and help you recover.
Several supplements can help those suffering from the effects of adrenal fatigue. Your body uses up many vitamins and minerals in response to the high levels of stress you may be feeling. Adding supplements to an adrenal fatigue diet will give you the extra boost you need to get relief and help your overworked adrenal glands.
B Vitamins can help the adrenal glands function properly and lessen the effects you feel from adrenal fatigue.
A study found that the presence of stress hormones significantly lowered a person’s vitamin B8 and B12 levels. Although referred to as a vitamin, B8 is also known as inositol and is actually a sugar type that affects moods and cognition. When you have sufficient levels of Vitamin B12, you enjoy several health benefits, including
- Improved sleep and energy
- Helps cognitive functioning
- Aids in digestion
- Gives heart support
- Boosts moods and reduces stress levels
So, a Vitamin B12 deficiency has the potential to cause a variety of health issues. Taking these B8 and B12 supplements for adrenal fatigue can ensure you have enough of these vitamins in your system.
All human cells contain Vitamin B-5 (pyridoxine), and the adrenal glands have particularly high concentrations of it. Vitamin B-5 provides them with the high energy levels it needs to produce hormones. A study revealed that even a single dose of Vitamin B-5 could have a noticeably positive effect on the adrenal glands’ ability to produce hormones.
When you’re feeling stressed, your adrenal glands use vitamin B-6 (pantothenic acid) to produce the epinephrine and norepinephrine hormones. Your adrenal glands use up much of the Vitamin B-6 available to your body when it releases epinephrine and norepinephrine. Lower Vitamin B-6 levels limit your body’s other functions, including the building of neurotransmitters responsible for:
- Feelings of calm/relaxation (GABA)
- Mood stabilization (serotonin)
- Movement and emotions of happiness (dopamine)
Taking B-6 supplements can help stabilize moods and reduce overall stress levels.
Vitamin B Complex supplements are a great way to get multiple B vitamins into your body — all at once!
The adrenal glands rely on a high level of Vitamin C to function optimally, so you should make sure you include it in your adrenal fatigue diet.
The adrenal glands are where you will find the highest concentration of Vitamin C in the human body. Similar to B vitamins, Vitamin C is used up quickly in the adrenal glands when it produces cortisol and stress response hormones.
Using up Vitamin C at a high rate wears out the adrenal glands. It needs more Vitamin C replenished during and after high-stress periods. This necessity of this refill makes it beneficial to take Vitamin C supplements for adrenal fatigue.
Magnesium can help you manage symptoms related to adrenal fatigue.
As your body responds to stress, its magnesium levels decrease. Magnesium feeds the energy centers of cells in your body, including those in the adrenal glands. The lack of magnesium can easily set off the adrenal glands’ stress response, negatively affecting your mood and overworking these glands. So, it’s essential to maintain magnesium levels so the adrenal glands can operate smoothly.
Magnesium can also help you deal with adrenal fatigue symptoms. It can help you battle stress-induced fatigue, allow you to get more high-quality sleep, and rebalance your metabolism. In general, having adequate magnesium levels aids in relaxation, thereby putting less stress on your adrenal glands. Who couldn’t use more rest and relaxation?
Emotional stability can also decline without adequate levels of magnesium. As stress uses up magnesium, it inhibits serotonin from being released. Without enough serotonin, a person can experience emotional imbalances that lead to feelings of depression or anxiety. Avoid the emotional rollercoaster, and the sluggish feeling brought on by inadequate magnesium by taking magnesium supplements such as these:
Taking herbal supplements for adrenal fatigue can also help you lessen the symptoms you are feeling and help with recovery.
We can call this type of herbal supplement adaptogens because they help your body adapt to stress. To be classified as an adaptogen, the herbal supplement should have no adverse side effects.
The following herbal supplements can help you deal with some of the symptoms you face with adrenal fatigue:
- Licorice root: By taking a supplement with licorice root, you help stop your body from breaking down the cortisol released by the adrenal glands. As a result, it fights off decreased energy levels brought on by increased stress levels. This adaptogen also increases energy and endurance while strengthening immunity.
- Rhodiola: This adaptogen helps your body maintain a balanced cortisol level during stressful periods. An overabundance of cortisol can negatively affect your memory, blood pressure, blood sugar, and metabolism. Studies have also shown it helps restore normal eating and sleep cycles after high-stress periods.
- Eleuthero: Like licorice root, this adaptogen aids in the regulation of cortisol levels during stressful periods. By doing so, eleuthero helps you bounce back from stress-related symptoms while minimizing fatigue and regulating blood sugar levels. In general, eleuthero tends to provide a more uplifting feeling during stressful times.
- Ashwagandha: This powerful herbal supplement touts many health benefits. Ashwagandha improves the overall functioning of the adrenal glands, helping your body deal with stress by balancing hormone levels and increasing energy. This adaptogen has an overall calming effect.
- Important note: While ashwagandha offers a variety of helpful benefits, individuals with auto-immune disorders, thyroid disorders, or those with an upcoming surgery should practice caution as you may experience adverse effects. In these cases, we recommend consulting with your doctor or naturopath whether ashwagandha is right for you.
Consider adding herbal supplements to your adrenal fatigue diet. There are supplements available that include both vitamins and herbal ingredients to help your adrenal glands function properly:
Add the optimal foods to your adrenal fatigue diet to allow your adrenal glands to recover and give your body the nutrients it needs to combat the symptoms.
Including specific foods in your daily diet can also help you combat adrenal fatigue symptoms.
Eating foods with higher concentrations of the vitamins and minerals outlined above is a great place to start. The idea is to maintain the levels of nutrients that your body depletes during stressful times.
Although you should include the following recommended food types in your diet regularly, they are essential if you decide to follow an adrenal fatigue diet.
- Protein: Lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts
- These proteins increase energy levels and not blood sugar levels.
- Healthy fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocados.
- Healthy fats help with hormone production and healing.
- Vegetables: Leafy greens and colorful vegetables
- Kale, swiss chard, and spinach are high in magnesium.
- Colorful vegetables are healthy forms of carbohydrates that provide a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
- Fruits: Low sugar fruits; avoid citric fruits
- Fructose and potassium can negatively affect the adrenal glands.
- Those suffering from adrenal fatigue tend to have an unbalanced pH and lean towards acidic already.
- Superfoods – Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia, coconut, avocadoes
- These superfoods are easily digested and promote healing.
The specific foods listed are just examples. Many other foods fall into one of the five categories above, and you could include them in your adrenal fatigue diet.
Remember, it’s also vital to stay hydrated. Water helps your body deliver the nutrients to where they’re needed. You want to make sure your body is getting the maximum benefits from all those healthy foods and supplements you include in your adrenal fatigue diet!
There are also things to avoid in your diet to prevent aggravation of symptoms.
You should avoid the following foods or ingredients if you are experiencing adrenal fatigue:
- Processed foods, including meats such as cold cuts
- Sugar (including artificial sweeteners)
- Hydrogenated and vegetable oils (soybean, canola, corn, vegetable)
- Allergenic foods that include dairy, gluten
When you cut out these types of foods, be sure to replace them with foods that fall into one of the five categories in the previous section. Treating adrenal fatigue through your diet doesn’t mean eliminating the amount of food you are eating. It’s about making more healthy choices that will address your adrenal fatigue symptoms.
Besides your diet and supplements for adrenal fatigue, healthy habits are essential in recovery.
Here are three habits to implement in your life if you are dealing with adrenal fatigue:
- Get enough sleep. Go to bed at a reasonable hour! That of course varies according to individual schedule, but generally it’s a good idea to call it a day anywhere from 9 pm to 11 pm. Some say a wave of cortisol is released later in the night, which can upset your sleep cycle.
- Make rest breaks a priority throughout the day. A rest break doesn’t necessarily mean a nap. It calls for you to step away from your work or any stress-inducing activity. If you choose to exercise during your rest break, select low impact or yoga. High-intensity workouts can prevent your body from producing adequate energy.
- Change your mindset and live a balanced life. Identify the stressors in your life and try to eliminate them. If you can’t eliminate all of them, be sure to set aside time for more enjoyable activities that aren’t stress-inducing. Listen to what your body is telling you and rest if you are tired.
There are many things to consider when addressing your adrenal fatigue. The Wellness Consultants at The Healthy Place can help you choose supplements for adrenal fatigue. Fill out the contact form, use the chat function on our website, or give us a call at one of our locations.