Are you suffering from Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is the result of prolonged stress resulting in the reduced function of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are vital to our health and wellbeing, and are responsible for hormone production. Prolonged stress leads to reduced adrenal function and subsequent adrenal fatigue due to the over activation of the sympathetic nervous system (see Adrenal Health Part One for more information). The parasympathetic nervous system is the rest, digest, repair and reproduction branch of the nervous system. It is activated when we are truly at rest and is essential for us to feel relaxed. It is during optimal health that our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are functioning properly.
Symptoms of Adrenal fatigue
- Emotional and physical burnout
- Exhaustion not relieved through sleep
- Wired and tired
- Inability to sleep or stay asleep
- Feeling run down or overwhelmed
- Relying on caffeine throughout the day
Our Stress Hormones
Adrenal Health Part One discussed the natural rise and fall of cortisol during the day, however cortisol can also affect you in the evening. As cortisol naturally lowers during the day, by the evening it is low enough for a good night’s sleep. However, if you do not go to bed until late, you may get a second wind, making it harder to fall asleep as cortisol interferes with melatonin and serotonin production.
Melatonin and Serotonin
Melatonin is our sleep hormone; it is responsible for sending us to and helping us stay asleep through the night. Serotonin is our happy hormone and it works synergistically with melatonin; as one rises the other falls, each regulating the other. As the sun goes down, melatonin production increases and serotonin falls. If you are tired but cannot sleep, the decrease of serotonin often leads to the feeling of wanting something more. The brain knows that carbohydrate rich foods promote serotonin production and this is often leads us to search the pantry or poor another glass of wine. Once the sun rises, melatonin decreases and serotonin surges. However, if we did not go to bed until late or did not sleep well, we do not feel rested, causing the need for coffee first thing in the morning.
Tips to support your Adrenal Health
- As you get into bed, spend five minutes focusing on the things you are greatful for, this reflection will increase gratitude and a sense of clarity.
- Make sure you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night and try to go to sleep before 10pm and rise with the sun.
- Commit to regular breathing exercises that are long, slow, and breathe into your stomach instead of your chest.
- Practises mindfulness.
- Undertake low-intensity exercise such as yoga, tai-chi or take a walk in nature
- Switch off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed, to reduce blue light exposure and increase melatonin production.
Herbs to support adrenal health during the evening
Traditionally found in Chinese, Indian and Northern American medicine, Hops have a long history of use for insomnia. Hops decrease feelings of anxiety, restlessness and nervousness, and provides effective relief for cognitive stress. Hops has a significant sedative effect suggestibly through the activation of melatonin, improving quality and quantity of sleep without drowsiness.
Used traditionally for restlessness, irritability and to induce a sense of calm; Lemon balm is an antioxidant, can reduce symptoms of anxiety and is effective for states of insomnia.
Used in Ayuvedic medicine to promote physical and mental health, Ashwagandha is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic and anti-depressant in nature. Traditionally used as an adaptogen, ashwagandha supports the body’s response to both physical and emotional stress. With the ability to reduce heart rate, blood pressure and increase sedation. Ashwgandha is often used to promote rest and relaxation.
Tibetan medicine regards Cordyceps mushroom as a tonic for all illness; due to its profound effects improving sleep habits and digestion. An adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, and immune system regulator, Codyceps helps to produce and balance cortisol, replenish the adrenal glands, and balance the hormonal cascade which leads to the release of cortisol by the adrenal glands, therefore reducing prolonged stress.
Stress can come from a number of sources; financial, emotional, social or even health related. Supporting your adrenal glands is important to help your body cope better during times of stress and support your health and wellbeing. Reducing stress and increasing adrenal health will reduce fatigue, mental exhaustion and enable restorative sleep that will leave you feeling energised for the day ahead. For more information on how the modern lifestyle is affecting our health, take a look at Dr Libby Weavers’ Queenstown Ted Talk.