Modern life can be busy, crazy, and stressful. And too many people take any symptoms that arise as just part of the package. But feeling tired, and stressed, or having trouble sleeping should never be taken as normal. Instead, they are signs that something is wrong that you need to address. Adrenal fatigue seems to be becoming more and more common every day, and this is probably mostly due to the busy lifestyle that modern life demands. But if you’re like most people and are looking for a better way, there is one. That's why I share the story of how I healed from adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is related to the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol, the "stress hormone," along with more than 50 other essential hormones. The body’s cortisol levels are particularly important during times of stress. Adrenal fatigue can present in a cluster of symptoms like fatigue, body aches, nervousness, sleep issues, and digestive problems. While these symptoms can have many other causes, their relationship with stress and the adrenals is based on the theory that chronic stress or illness can overburden your adrenal glands, making them less effective in producing necessary hormones.
When you’re under stress, the adrenal glands produce cortisol, which impacts how every circuit and organ in the body functions as part of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. This stress response helps you respond to stress by fighting or running and helps minimize any damage that you may experience.
But the NEM stress response is only meant to be active for short periods of time. With chronic stress, it becomes overused. The ongoing high demand for cortisol can cause the adrenals to become fatigued, a state that can get worse over time if not corrected.
This can become what’s known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), a troubling and chronic condition that can leave you debilitated and looking for help. There are several different stages of adrenal fatigue as well, each of them with their own symptoms and problems, which tend to get worse and may even become life-threatening once you’re in the final stages.
When thinking back to how I healed from adrenal fatigue, the key role of the Hormonal Circuit is one of the first things that comes to mind. The Hormonal Circuit consists of the adrenal glands, the thyroid gland, and the ovaries in women or testes in men. It’s responsible for the maintenance of most of the hormones in the human body, so it’s easy to see why it’s so relevant to AFS.
These three components are closely connected, so as one declines in health, the others follow. In this case, as the adrenals become fatigued because of overuse, the thyroid and sexual organs follow suit. This can result in hormonal imbalances, where there’s too much of some of them and too little of others. This results in a tangle of troubling symptoms from infertility to cold intolerance, weight gain, PMS, and unusual hair growth.
Correcting these imbalances isn’t easy. You can’t just take hormones and expect the problems to go away. In fact, taking hormones often just worsens the underlying problem as it acts as a mask and allows the problem to worsen underneath.
To put it bluntly, healing from adrenal fatigue means taking a functional medicine approach. That is, seeking out the underlying issues, the adrenal dysfunction and causes, while still paying attention to and addressing the external symptoms. This can be a difficult and convoluted process, so make sure you have expert help along the way.
Adrenal fatigue is very individual, and your symptoms may be different from everyone else’s. However, there are some commonalities with this condition. The most common complaints are:
There is no specific test to identify AFS. However, when you go to your doctor with adrenal complaints, they may recommend a variety of tests. One of the most helpful is a saliva cortisol panel. This test looks at your cortisol levels throughout the day, which gives a good overview of how your adrenals are functioning.
Now we can get to how I healed from adrenal fatigue. To be honest, this was a long process, so you shouldn’t expect to feel back to normal in a few weeks unless your symptoms are very mild. Healing from adrenal fatigue can take up to two years, so be patient with yourself, work with your doctor to determine a plan you can stick with, and try a few different strategies to see what works for you.
Some of the most helpful strategies are:
A caring and knowledgeable healthcare practitioner should be your first stop when you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue. They will be able to perform a full medical exam to discover what’s wrong with your body and eliminate other causes.
However, the provider that you choose must be aware of AFS and its effects on health. When you have AFS, your body can have a lot of different things going wrong, and a conventional approach may leave you unsupported or feeling even worse than before. Often, conventional medicine addresses symptoms, but not the root cause of the problem, which can even cause new problems while leaving the main problem unmanaged.
A practitioner who’s aware of AFS can help you design medical interventions that are designed specifically for your body and its overall condition. Just make sure that you’re very cautious when adopting any new medical strategies such as medications. Medications are very powerful substances that can cause additional stress, which can be detrimental to your adrenal health. So, they should be used sparingly and only when absolutely essential.
Some medical interventions that can be helpful in your recovery process are:
A poor diet is a key cause of adrenal fatigue. That’s why making changes to your diet can be so helpful in your healing process. Here are some effective dietary changes that you can make:
Today’s sedentary lifestyle can be a major cause of stress as well as issues that cause additional stress such as blood sugar instability and weight gain. That’s why it’s important to exercise. But it’s equally important that you do not over-exercise, as this will cause more stress and can even bring on an adrenal crash.
Instead, try gentle forms of exercise such as:
When I think back to how I healed from adrenal fatigue, what really stands out are the lifestyle differences. Life can’t be all hustle and busyness; it has to have periods of rest too, and this was an essential element of the healing process.
Setting asides periods of time where you just relax and let your mind and body rest is incredibly important. Here are some ideas to help you relax if you aren’t the type to just sit there:
If you can’t get all the nutrients that your body needs from your food, then it can be helpful to take supplements. However, make sure you work with a doctor who’s aware of AFS before you take this step, to avoid taking a mess of different supplements that could negatively impact your health or your adrenals.
Some helpful supplements for adrenal care are:
There are also some adaptogenic herbs that can be very helpful when healing from adrenal fatigue. However, these herbs are very powerful and should be used with caution at all times as they can cause side effects, interactions with other medications, and paradoxical effects. If you’re interested in this approach, talk to your doctor about:
Sleeplessness is almost a badge of productivity these days, but this habit can be extremely harmful. Sleep is absolutely essential for every part of your body. It is the time when your body rests and heals any damage from the day, and without it, everything from your mood to your heart, brain, and energy levels will be negatively impacted.
So, to heal your adrenal glands, you need to sleep more. This might mean:
Conventional medicine is just starting to understand how vital gut health is for overall health. Issues like a poor diet, stress, and overuse of certain medications can cause gut dysbiosis or an overgrowth of bad bacteria, leading to a leaky gut or issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Poor gut health has far-reaching consequences for your overall health too. It causes inflammation, which can lead to serious health threats. And because the brain and gut are closely connected through the vagus nerve, when your gut is unhealthy it directly impacts brain health, which can lead to mental health issues as well as poor memory and concentration.
Some ideas to improve your gut health are:
The answer to how I healed from adrenal fatigue isn’t a simple one. This is partly due to the complexity of the body and partly due to the fact that everyone’s journey and condition are different.
What this means is that you need to take control and be an equal party in your ongoing health and recovery. And here’s where you can start:
For more help with your adrenal fatigue healing journey, the Dr. Lam's Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Program, you'll be guided through the different stages of adrenal fatigue, and learn tailored approaches to combat each stage effectively. The course offers comprehensive advice on incorporating specific supplements, selecting beneficial foods, and practicing exercises that aid in recovery, ensuring participants are well-equipped to address their adrenal health. The program is meticulously designed to help individuals avoid the pitfalls that Dr. Lam encountered during his own recovery journey, thereby optimizing the healing process for everyone involved.
Healing from adrenal fatigue isn’t a set path. Everyone’s condition is different, and so the recovery path is different as well. The key to starting on this journey is to find a medical practitioner that you trust and who’s aware of how complex and individual this condition can be.