Adrenal exhaustion; 16 Symptoms, Cause + Treatment

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14 Best Tips To Remedy & Prevent Overstrain

Do you sometimes feel so exhausted that you can’t go on?

Are you still tired after a good night’s sleep?

Do you crave coffee, soda or junk food to keep going?

If you recognize these symptoms, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.

Purpose of this article: Living with a constant feeling of fatigue is very exhausting. In this article we examine whether adrenal exhaustion could be the cause. We do this on the basis of expert explanations about adrenal exhaustion and an extensive description of the symptoms.

The tips at the end of this article can help you prevent adrenal exhaustion and restore your adrenal glands. On the basis of the stress test at the bottom of this article, you can determine whether you suffer from adrenal fatigue.


What exactly is adrenal exhaustion?

The term “adrenal fatigue” was coined in 1998 by Dr. James Wilson , a naturopath and expert in alternative medicine. He describes it as a syndrome that results from stress to the point that the body can no longer perform optimally.

According to Wilson, people who suffer from adrenal fatigue show no physical signs of illness but do feel extremely tired.

Sleeping often does not help to overcome this fatigue. Cravings for sugar or carbohydrate-rich foods is also a typical symptom of adrenal fatigue.

However, many other symptoms can also occur. You will learn about it later in this article.

First let’s take a look at what exactly adrenal glands are and what their function is in our body.


What are the adrenal glands?

The adrenal glands are two small organs on top of the kidneys. Their main function is to make hormones.

Cortisol

A person cannot live without cortisol. This hormone influences your sleep and wake rhythm, your memory, your ability to concentrate and your mood. In addition, cortisol affects your metabolism, your heart and blood vessels, your skin, your connective tissue, your muscles and joints. Cortisol also plays an important role in your immune system.

Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone. With physical or psychological stress, the amount of cortisol in your body increases. That’s good because it allows your body to protect itself in dangerous situations. However, a continuous production of cortisol due to chronic stress, for example, is not so good. Why this is so will be discussed later.

Cortisol in your adrenal glands

aldosterone

Aldosterone is a hormone that regulates salt and water balance in the body.


Androgens

Androgens play a role in growth and sexual development.


Adrenaline and noradrenaline

Adrenaline and noradrenaline are stress hormones that play an important role in the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. This defense mechanism of the body is activated when your body senses that danger is imminent.

Adrenaline in adrenal glands

What goes wrong with adrenal exhaustion?

Earlier in this article you could read that the adrenal glands produce more cortisol when your body feels that it is in danger. Great, because that way you stay alert!

The same goes for adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones are also produced by the adrenal glands when your body feels threatened. Also great because adrenaline and noradrenaline ensure that you can react faster in dangerous situations.

Adrenaline and norepinephrine are also neurotransmitters. Noradrenaline, in particular, transmits signals through your central nervous system to your adrenal glands to produce even more stress hormones.

Noradrenaline in a test tube in adrenal glands

When there is danger, a lot of hormones accumulate in your body. And that’s good when there’s real danger.

But when you experience chronic stress, your body also thinks it is in danger. As a result, your adrenal glands are constantly producing a large amount of stress hormones.

You can imagine that your adrenal glands have to work very hard when you experience stress. This can cause them to become completely exhausted and then we speak of adrenal exhaustion.

And that can have a lot of harmful effects on your body and mood.

Adrenal glands in the body

Symptoms of Adrenal Exhaustion

Cortisol is a stress hormone, but it also performs other important tasks in your body. Cortisol also has a regulating effect on your blood sugar level.

If you don’t get enough cortisol in your body due to the exhaustion of your adrenal glands, your adrenal glands will stimulate the liver to produce more glucose.

Glucose is an important fuel for your body. Glucose deficiency can cause many of the problems typical of adrenal fatigue.

Common problems include:

  • Sudden cravings for sugar or carbohydrate-rich foods – so-called ‘cravings’
  • A general tired feeling
  • Reduced Productivity
  • Trouble falling asleep and getting up
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • palpitations
Dizzy woman due to adrenal exhaustion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Concentration problems
  • The feeling that you are not quite there (a kind of fishbowl feeling or ‘brain fog’)
  • A changing mood
  • The onset and/or worsening of allergies
  • Problems with your immune system (you get sick more often)
  • Decreased libido
Man with reduced libido due to adrenal exhaustion

Cause of Adrenal Fatigue

Any form of stress causes your adrenal glands to produce extra stress hormones.

Possible stressors in adrenal fatigue include anxiety and psychological tensions from relationships, work, or other situations. Chronic stress , in particular , promotes adrenal exhaustion.

However, adrenal exhaustion can also develop after traumatic experiences or periods of intense grief.

Woman holds her hand to her forehead and looks sad

Do you recognize symptoms of adrenal fatigue in yourself? Do not ignore this and take action !


What to do with adrenal fatigue? 7 treatment tips

Tip 1. Maintain healthy eating patterns

Have you ever considered that when you sit down at the breakfast table, you haven’t eaten anything for about 12 hours? The energy level of your body is therefore at a fairly low level because your blood sugar level has dropped considerably.

A healthy breakfast is always important, but especially if you suffer from adrenal fatigue. Try to have breakfast before 10 am and avoid as much sugar as possible during breakfast. Go for products with slow carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread and (unsweetened!) dairy products. These ensure that your body can handle it for a while.

Pattern of food

Earlier in this article, you learned that if you suffer from adrenal fatigue, you can have a shortage of glucose in your body. That is why it is important to maintain the level of glucose in your body throughout the day.

After all, if your blood sugar gets too low, you’re more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks. Therefore, eat several small and light meals a day instead of one or two large meals.

Try to have lunch between 11 and 11:30 am. Your body has usually used up the energy supply from your breakfast around this time.

Family sits down to eat

It is best to eat a nutritious and healthy snack between 2 and 3 pm to avoid the glucose dip that usually occurs between 3 and 4 pm.

It is best to have your evening meal between 5 and 6 o’clock in the evening.


Tip 2. Watch your diet

The busier you are, the less often you cook healthy. That is the first reason why you often go for quick snacks or unhealthy ready meals.

A second cause is that stress itself entails a greater desire for sugar- and/or carbohydrate-rich foods. Such foods have an ‘immediate rewarding’ effect on the brain that makes you feel better for a while.

Also check out this TedX video by Mia Nacamulli about the effect of food on your brain:

Carbohydrates and sugar do indeed make you feel good. However, that disappears just as quickly as it appeared, so that your energy level quickly drops again.

Slow carbohydrates are digested more slowly by your body. Your body takes energy from it and releases it gradually.

As a result, you get fewer high and low peaks in your blood sugar level. Slow carbohydrates are mainly found in whole grains, legumes, vegetables, some fruits, quinoa, bulgur and dairy products.

Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. Alcohol and caffeine remove moisture from the body, causing your body to dehydrate faster.

The body experiences this as a stressful event, which makes your adrenal glands work extra. That is why it is so important to drink enough water.

Hand rejecting alcohol and cigarettes

Tip 3. Get a good night’s sleep

If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, you often feel extremely tired. Even if you go to bed on time, you still don’t feel completely rested when you wake up.

You may not think about it, but just like you need sleep to recuperate, your organs need rest to recover from the day’s labor.

A good night’s sleep starts before you go to bed. You may find it very enjoyable and relaxing to watch a series before going to bed or even to check your social media in bed. These are very unhealthy habits because your mind does not come to a complete rest.

Woman is sleeping in bed

You actually need a physical relaxation response in your body to stop the production of the stress hormones in your adrenal glands. Get some fresh air or take a short walk before going to sleep. Not too long and too intense because this will just get your adrenal glands back into action.

Meditation exercises or letting your mind relax for a while are also great ways to prepare for a good night’s sleep.


Tip 4. Stay fit

Regular exercise helps to prevent adrenal fatigue. The more you exercise, the more cortisol is removed from your body. This allows your adrenal glands to do their job properly and not get them exhausted.

Woman doing push-ups

In addition, regular exercise also releases happiness hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. These have a favorable regulation on your cortisol levels and they simply make you feel happier, making you more resistant to stress.

Now I understand very well that if you feel constantly tired you don’t feel like it or even don’t find the strength to move at all. Try to get off that couch anyway, but take it easy in the beginning.

Exercise and exercise, but do it in moderation. If you exercise too much, your body will just produce more cortisol and your adrenal glands will work so hard again. Do not exercise for more than an hour a day and avoid stressful competitive sports.


Tip 5. Dietary supplements

Adrenal exhaustion is often accompanied by deficiencies in the vitamins, minerals and essential building blocks your body needs to function efficiently. Adrenal supplements and anti-stress supplements can help with this.


Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins for repairing your adrenal glands. In addition, it has also been scientifically proven that vitamin C reduces the negative effect of stress on your body. It also helps with fatigue and anxiety.

Different fruits with vitamin C

Citrus fruits are vitamin C bombs. However, the problem is that they also contain a lot of sugars. And that is not so good if you suffer from adrenal exhaustion. Eliminating citrus fruits from your food list completely is not necessary, but be moderate with it.

To maintain the vitamin C level in your body, you can take vitamin C tablets.


Vitamin B

There are a total of eight different B vitamins. Especially the vitamins B3, B5 and B6 improve adrenal function. They also encourage a good night’s sleep.

Vitamin B supplements are certainly a good idea to maintain the functioning of your adrenal glands.

Plate with B3 and food next to it that has vitamin B3

Magnesium

Magnesium is often referred to as the anti-stress mineral. This mineral is often considered a natural muscle relaxant and allows your body to relax.

Virtually everyone who suffers from adrenal fatigue is deficient in magnesium.

Stress is one of the main causes of magnesium deficiency, but the more stress you experience, the more magnesium you consume. So you end up in a vicious circle.

It is not always easy to get all the magnesium your body needs from your diet. Taking magnesium supplements can help you with this.

Foods Containing Magnesium

Tip 6. Avoid stress

The tips above can help you avoid adrenal fatigue or recover from adrenal fatigue. But it also remains important to tackle the root cause of adrenal exhaustion. And that’s stress!

Avoid stress as much as possible and deal with stress in the right way. However, I realize all too well that this is not always easy.

Today we are inundated with impressions and a lot is expected of us. We should try to combine our private life as well as possible with our professional life and we want to perform as well as possible in both areas.

Woman with hands in her hair and work for her at the desk

Keep in mind that this is not possible and that it is not possible.

It’s okay to:

  • to be less of a perfectionist.
  • to be less strict with yourself.
  • to take a little time out.
  • be more assertive and not let yourself be walked all over.
  • to say ‘no’.
  • to spend precious ‘me-time’ with yourself
Woman with smooth tea sits on her terrace among plants

Tip 7. The Stress-free secret

I saved the best tip for last. Do you want to learn more about how dangerous stress is for your body? Want to avoid falling prey to adrenal exhaustion? Do you suspect that your adrenal glands are indeed already ‘overworked’? Then do our free Stress test right away 

As soon as you have taken this test you will receive the e-book ‘The Stress-Free Secret’ in your mailbox completely free of charge. In this ebook you will find many other tips on how to live a stress-free and healthier life.

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