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London Nutritionist Rosie Whiteway

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Adrenal Burnout? Tired of feeling tired?

Adrenal fatigue/adrenal burnout often occurs as the result of long term stress.  According to James Wilson (author of “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”), chronic stress and lifestyle affect the body’s ability to recuperate from physical, mental or emotional stress.  We live our lives at such a fast pace often taking little time to stop and enjoy life; to relax and to calm down that eventually the body begins to suffer.  Stress affects the body in many ways but specifically the adrenal glands as this is where the stress hormone cortisol is produced.  Whilst traditional doctors do recognise that adrenal disorders do exist such as Addison’s disease which occurs when the adrenal glands become damaged and cannot work sufficiently, adrenal fatigue is not recognised by the mainstream medical profession, mainly due to the fact there have been insufficient research studies on the subject.

 

Adrenal fatigue/adrenal burnout often occurs as the result of long term stress. According to James Wilson (author of “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”), chronic stress and lifestyle affect the body’s ability to recuperate from physical, mental or emotional stress.  We live our lives at such a fast pace often taking little time to stop and enjoy life; to relax and to calm down that eventually the body begins to suffer.  Stress affects the body in many ways but specifically the adrenal glands as this is where the stress hormone cortisol is produced.  Whilst traditional doctors do recognise that adrenal disorders do exist such as Addison’s disease which occurs when the adrenal glands become damaged and cannot work sufficiently, adrenal fatigue is not recognised by the mainstream medical profession, mainly due to the fact there have been insufficient research studies on the subject.

 

What do the adrenal glands do?

 

The adrenal glands are 2 small glands which sit on top of the kidneys and secrete steroid hormones such as cortisol, DHEA, oestrogen and testosterone and are vital for life, health and vitality.  These essential glands help us deal with stress.  They largely determine your body’s response to a perceived stressful event.  In more primitive times this was essential for running away from a wild animal and a very effective response however in modern times this stress response can be triggered during the day for all sorts of situations such as an argument at work, missing the train, getting stuck in car traffic and this puts the adrenal glands under pressure to work a lot more than they were designed too. 

 

In periods of long-term or profound mental or physical stress the adrenal glands can go into overdrive but eventually they will become exhausted. The result is that hormonal levels of cortisol & DHEA in the blood stream become imbalanced.

 

And so the cycle begins...

1. Stress burns more nutrients- leading you to become deficient in vitamins and minerals.  In particular B vitamins are very helpful for dealing with stress and these get used up quickly leading to poor energy.  Magnesium known as nature’s tranquilizer for its ability to relax the body is often depleted very easily.  Low magnesium can be associated with anxiety, muscle tension, constipation and in particular poor sleep.

2. Digestion slows down or is inhibited- when the body is in a state of fight of flight all attention is taken away from digestion and so this process takes a back seat.  A range of digestive problems then follow.

3. Poor absorption of nutrients -due to impaired digestion and the fact that the body is in a state of stress all the time.

4. Compromised immunity-you are more likely to pick up bugs and get sick if you are constantly on the go and depleted of basic nutrients.

5. Less ability to adapt and cope with stress – you body seems to find it harder to deal with day to day stressors.

 

The Symptoms

The symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be wide ranging and could be indicative of another health condition therefore it is helpful in the first instance to see your GP and rule anything else out.  The biggest symptom of adrenal fatigue is tiredness, which persists no matter how much sleep you get.  It is a feeling of exhaustion that is hard to shift and often results in reaching for caffeine/sugar to pick yourself back up. 

  • Feeling tired; struggling to wake up in the morning

  • Low or fluctuating mood

  • Food cravings

  • Anger &/or irritability

  • Anxiety/feeling on the edge

  • Poor sleep

  • Fat around midriff

  • Hungry all the time

  • Craving for salt or salty food

  • Drowsy during the day

  • Mid afternoon slump that is only helped with caffeine/sugar

  • Decreased mental and physical energy

  • Frequent colds/infections

  • Low mood

  • Emotional instability

  • Digestive difficulties

  • Alcohol and food intolerances

  • Cravings

  • Lowered sex drive

  • Poor memory/concentration

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Get a second wind after 9pm and can’t then sleep until around 1/2aA simple saliva test which checks levels of DHEA and cortisol in the body can be very helpful at identifying if you are suffering with adrenal fatigue.  Testing will be discussed during the consultation and ordered for you.  Test kits are dispatched directly to yourself.  You complete the test at home and return it directly to the lab.  I will receive and interpret the results and provide advice and recommendations based on this.

Causes?

Here are some common causes of adrenal fatigue:

 

  1. Poor diet

  2. Lack of sleep

  3. Working too hard

  4. Emotional trauma

  5. Lack of exercise

  6. Too much exercise

  7. Prolonged period of stress at work/home

  8. Pushing yourself too hard

 

What can you do?

If you have adrenal fatigue then it is about looking at your lifestyle overall and how you can change because in order to get better you need to do something different.  As a Nutritional Therapist I work with clients to support them through this process.  Here are some tips to help you right now: 

  1. Clean up your diet to remove the foods that cause stress and inflammation (sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and caffeine) and add in lots of good fats, antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables and good sources of protein.  Protein is really important to help fill you up, balance blood sugar and provide important amino acids.  Adrenal fatigue and poor blood sugar management go hand in hand and good protein really helps this.

  2. Good sleep - creating a good bedtime routine and removing stimulus in the hour before bed.  Ideally winding down around 9pm with the aim of being in bed at 10pm. You need at least 8 hours sleep at night.

  3.  Cut down on caffeine – caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands and often masks the exhaustion so you push your body harder.  By addressing the adrenal fatigue you can start to feel better and reduce the need for caffeine.

  4. Disconnect – cut down on phone, tablet, pc use and do not take you phone to your bedroom at night.  Ideally stop using all technology in the hour before bed.

  5. Exercise – take up gentle exercise if you are not doing any.  Excessive exercise does not help adrenal function and can make it worse.  Aim for 30minutes, 3 times per week.  Good exercises:   30 minutes cycling (ideally a leisurely cycle in nature and not cycling as a commute to work), yoga, walking.   Exercise can be excellent for calming the body down.

  6. 10 minutes of mindfulness per day.  There are hundreds of apps out there that have guided mediation.  It can feel hard to do but in reality it is a tiny part of your day to take for yourself with no distraction.

  7. Manage stress – what is going on in your life that is causing the stress and how can this be modified?  Do you need some sort of talking therapy to help you through this difficult time?  There is nothing wrong in asking for help and we do not have to just struggle on ourselves.  The BACP is the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy and if you are thinking of counselling then anyone you see should be part of this association.  See link here: https://www.bacp.co.uk/about-therapy/we-can-help/ 

  8. Nutritional supplements – there are many that can help and support your body.  With anyone I see I am looking at the bigger picture of your health to get to the root cause, so what may be right for one person is not necessarily right for another.

  1. Vitamin C – the more cortisol that is used the more there is the need for Vitamin C

  2. B vitamins are specifically helpful for managing energy production and dealing with the adrenal processes in the body.

  3. Magnesium to help energy production within adrenal glands, to calm the body, relaxes and aid sleep.

  4. Herb – Liquorice Root (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) is an anti-stress herb known to increase energy, endurance and vitality.  This is liquorice root and not regular liquorice you buy at the sweet shop.  Caution: it is not recommended for individuals with high blood pressure.

  5. Herb - Ashwaganda root & leaf (Withania somnifera) – is prescribed as a tonic for all weakness and is regarded as a rejuvenator.  It is also an adaptogen which helps the body function to a more normal level. 

  6. Herb – Siberian Ginseng Root (Eleutherococus senticosus)- it is used to help support and rejuvenate adrenal function, increase resistance to stress and normalize metabolism.

  7. CAUTION: Please note this list is for information only and I would not recommend you purchase these products without discussing your health needs with a qualified practitioner first.

I specialise in adrenal fatigue in my clinic and I am happy to help you.  I would advise you book my package which contains an initial and follow up consultation.

 

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