If you suffer from adrenal exhaustion, which is a common cause of chronic tiredness, then you can help yourself with a combination of lifestyle changes and supplements.
WHY IS THERE NEED FOR ADRENAL SUPPORT?
In conditions of chronic and unrelieved stress, the adrenal glands (two small glands the shape and size of a hickory nut which sit on top of the kidneys) are likely to get exhausted. This has serious consequences for the health of the entire body and is likely to cause extreme fatigue. Because the immune system is usually compromised in cases of adrenal fatigue, opportunistic infections and cancer are more likely. Other effects include: raised risk of heart attack and or stroke, poor digestion, fluctuations in moods, loss of libido and mental changes such as problems with cognitive thinking.
So it is vital to get treatment for adrenal fatigue as soon as you can. At the same time, if you can do some of these ‘self-help’ measures, you are likely to recover faster:
Most of stress is caused not by events themselves but by the meanings we give to them. Try to reframe your circumstances in as favorable a light as possible, and remind yourself that nothing lasts forever. Adopt an attitude of forgiveness to yourself and to others as far as possible. [Please see Dealing with stress and tiredness for more details]
Nurture your sleep
Try to get as much high quality sleep as possible. Plan your time so that you don’t have to compromise on the number of hours of rest that you take. [Please see Sleep and tiredness for more details]
Relaxation is key to overcoming stress and returning your adrenal glands to optimum functioning.
Making nutrition a priority in your life will pay huge dividends. [Please see Tiredness and food for more details]. Avoid stimulants, particularly caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and sugar.
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD BE TAKEN IN CASES OF ADRENAL EXHAUSTION?
Bear in mind that most ‘mainstream’ medical practitioners don’t recognize adrenal exhaustion. Because of the way they have been taught, they tend to see the human body as either having a diagnosable condition (such as Addison’s disease, where the adrenal glands fail) or being well. They are less able to detect slowly deteriorating chronic conditions where the body is under stress, but the symptoms are subtle and sometimes vague as can be the case with adrenal exhaustion. This means you may have to find a doctor who understands this subject well and is in tune with treating it before you can make any progress.
Although finding a good doctor may be tough to do while you are ill, it will nevertheless reap rich rewards in terms of your recovery. This is especially important because adrenal supplementation cannot be self-administered, but must be medically supervised.
WHAT HORMONES ARE INVOLVED WITH THE ADRENAL GLANDS?
The adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones. Cortisol and adrenaline are important as is DHEA, which is often called the ‘mother hormone’ because it is the precursor to many other hormones in the body, notably testosterone (male hormone) and estrogen (female hormone).
The production of DHEA is diminished both by stress and age. When the adrenal glands are stressed, they tend to ‘steal’ from DHEA to produce cortisol which is essential for life. But DHEA is also crucial in another way because it stimulates the immune system by enhancing the production of molecules such as Interleukin-2 and by opposing the immunosuppressive effects of other hormones.
DHEA is not easy to supplement. There are 3 ways:
- By injection – which is rarely used nowadays.
- Orally – this works fast but is not so good because it is broken down by the liver, thus putting further strain on the body. Additionally, this route does not produce the constant therapeutic levels of DHEA which are necessary.
- Topically –possibly the most effective way. DHEA made into a cream or liquid which can be given beneath the tongue or massaged into the skin. It goes straight into the bloodstream (avoiding the liver).
DHEA must be very carefully given because it can potentially encourage several cancers to grow (e.g. prostate cancer and estrogen dependent cancers), so it must be prescribed by a doctor who has carried out the relevant tests before prescribing the hormone. It is also thought to be less effective in women than in men because it can produce side-effects such as increased aggression.
Other hormone supplements which may be given include cortisol, progesterone and pregnolene. Cortisol may ‘rest’ the adrenal glands because then they are released from the task of constantly making cortisol which, as we have seen, is vital for life. But giving it straight can suppress the natural production of cortisol, making the body dependent on an outside source. For this and other reasons, cortisol is usually given for a short period of time with adrenal cell extracts. Other supplements, which are useful, include progesterone and pregnolene. Pregnolene is a precursor to DHEA and giving it in this form, rather than DHEA, allows for the wisdom of the body, which can then choose which hormone it needs to create.
OTHER SUPPLEMENTS AND NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT
Siberian and panax ginseng are both useful in the treatment of adrenal exhaustion. A diet that is high in potassium will also support the adrenal glands to recover. Vitamin C seems to aid adrenal recovery as does Vitamin B complex (Vitamin B group).
Please, see Herbs for fatigue to find out more about natural solutions for tiredness.
Recovery from adrenal fatigue can take quite a long time, but every step counts.