Although the diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue is not often recognized by those in mainstream Western medicine, it has been recognized by naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, nutritionist and other alternative medical practitioners. It is defined as the hypofuntion of the adrenal glands which secrete vital steroid hormones including cortisol. Adrenal Fatigue comprises a complex of symptoms which include, but are not limited to:
- Fatigue not alleviated by sleep, inability to wake in the morning, difficulty in performing everyday tasks
- Decreased sex drive
- Cravings for salty foods
- Decreased ability to handle stress, low tolerance for stressful people and situations
- Frequent illnesses with increased recovery time
- Lightheaded feeling upon standing
- Depression and lack of enjoyment in life
- Skipping meals or inadequate meals makes symptoms worse
- The need to constantly snack or drink caffeinated beverages to keep going during the day
- Fuzzy head, poor memory
- A spike in energy after 6 pm. Inability to fully wake before 10 am; crash at 3-4 pm.
How does it happen:
From a Chinese Medical perspective, Adrenal Fatigue is the perfect storm. Since the adrenal gland sits on top of the Kidneys, it’s no surprise to me that the Kidneys are the root of this disease. In our medical paradigm, the Kidneys are the “batteries” on which we all rely to keep us going. When these batteries are used up, our life is over. The Kidneys are the root of all Yin and Yang in the body. Yin is everything that is moist, cooling, still, receptive, restful and nourishing in our body. Yang is everything that is dry, warm, active, defensive, dynamic, and building. Yin and Yang generate one another. Remember the Taiji, the symbol of Yin and Yang. Each one has a dot of the other inside of it, they are constantly generating, consuming and balancing the other.
Ironically, Adrenal Fatigue often affects the most driven of people. They work themselves to brink and past the brink of fatigue. These people go, go, go until they burn out their Yin. Think of driving your car at 90 miles an hour and never getting an oil change! Without the Yin, the Yang collapses in on itself and there’s no get up and go left. In addition to overwork, stress and poor diet are usually part of the picture. Stress primarily affects the Liver which in Chinese Medicine is in charge of the free flow of Qi in the body. Lack of exercize, emotional, physical and mental stress cause the Liver to become bound up and stagnant. This is like trying to drive around town with your emergency brake on. See my blog entry, “Your Liver and You” below. Poor diet damages the Spleen. A hypofunctioning Spleen leads to poor digestion, food cravings, a decrease in immunity, foggy head, weight gain and allergies. See my blog entry, “Me and My Spleen” below.
Factors leading to Adrenal Fatigue:
- Stress, lack of relaxation, lack of emotional outlets
- Recent bouts of severe illness, surgeries, injuries, auto immune flare-ups
- Dependence on caffeine and sugar to keep going
- Consumption of poor quality foods including refined carbs, sugar, fried foods, fatty foods
- Emotional traumas such as death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, financial strains
- Lack of exercize
How can I recover from adrenal fatigue?
So, metaphorically, you’ve been driving around town at 90 miles an hour, with your emergency brake on, putting poor quality gasoline in your tank, you haven’t had an oil change in years. This will not a quick problem to fix, but it IS fixable. Here’s my list of changes you can make to feel better. These are good tips for almost anyone dealing with a stressful lifestyle and any level of fatigue.
- Stop overworking yourself! You must slow down and cut back.
- Get weekly acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture boosts your Kidney Yin and Yang, it soothes the Liver to decrease stress, it also tonifies the Spleen to improve digestion and immunity
- Get to be before midnight. Resist the urge to stay up late- even if that’s when you feel most energetic. If you’re really burnt out, you might find you get the best sleep from 7 am to 9 am in the morning.
- Be sure to give yourself breaks throughout the day
- Eat regular meals and snacks. Stop skipping meals!
- Get us to give you a lesson in how to use a moxa stick to tonify your Spleen and Kidneys on a daily basis. This is an easy way to feel better right away.
- Ask us if Chinese Herbs are right for you and your condition. Chinese Herbs improve digestion, relieve stress and boost the adrenals.
- Discover what’s draining your energy, then change your behavior and lifestyle to address them. Are there people in your life constantly bringing you down? Do you hate your job or certain aspects of your job? Are you overusing alcohol, over the counter medicines or recreational drugs? What can you do differently to limit the effect these have on you?
- Exercise lightly and regularly, but not to exhaustion. See your MD to determine the best exercise plan for you.
- Stop smoking, stop using recreational drugs, limit alcoholic beverages
- Improve your diet. A few guidelines:
- Make cooked vegetables one third of your daily intake. Soups and stews are delicious and also easy to digest. Think about making a nice pot on the weekend and enjoying it all week long
- Make whole grains, (but NOT wheat) one third of your daily intake. Millet, quinoa, barley, and brown rice are especially good.
- Limit animal protiens to no more than on fourth of your daily diet. Vegetarians may benefit by adding organic chicken broth, fish, eggs or chicken breast to their diets.
- Limit fruit and do not eat fruit for breakfast
- Limit dairy, wheat, sugar and unrefined carbs!
- Avoid fast food! Avoid deep fried foods, highly spiced foods, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
- Please no coffee, energy drinks, soda, diet soda, fruit juice or cocoa! Try filtered water, herbal tea, green tea and barley tea instead.
- Chew your food well!