Are you frazzled, harried, anxious, grumpy and tired, yet also completely restless and unable to unwind and fall asleep? Or perhaps you find yourself caught in a cycle of needing to stimulate yourself during the day with caffeine and sugar and then sedating yourself at night with alcohol or sleeping tablets? If these adrenal fatigue symptoms sound familiar, then you’re what I call a ‘tired but wired adrenaline junkie’.
Or perhaps you are at the other end of the spectrum: constantly tired, unmotivated, listless, depressed and always battling a flu or a cold sore? If so, as a results of taxing your adrenals too hard for too long, you’ve run out of juice. If this is you, then you are a ‘burnt out adrenaline junkie’.
Those in the second category were once in the first category, maybe even for years, but eventually their fast paced life caught up with them.
At one point, burnt out adrenaline junkies could work a 70 hour weeks, socialise, and party on the weekend all on next to no sleep but now, they can’t even get out of bed.
Why? Their adrenaline supply has run out and they are suffering from adrenal exhaustion. They may also have bouts of panic attacks, palpitations and anxiety. They try their usual tactics of coffee and stimulation, or anti-depressants, but alas, those old tricks no longer work, their adrenal glands have nothing left to give and they are simply flogging a dead horse.
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Plus, their immune systems are often so worn out with the constant chemical cocktail of stress hormones, that they can no longer keep up with their job of defending the body – and viral infections, chronic fatigue syndrome and recurring colds start to appear.
This is adrenal fatigue.
We all know behavioural practices such as yoga and meditation can do wonders to reduce stress, however physiological support is also needed to calm and nourish the adrenal glands and restore healthy nerve functioning.
How to recover from adrenal fatigue if you’re ‘tired but wired':
(Read this if you’re burnt out also, though targeted tips are listed for you further below)
You need to stop pushing your body so hard, otherwise you’re headed to burnout-town and full-blown adrenal exhaustion.
Kick the coffee, alcohol, sleeping tablets, cigarettes, energy drinks, sugar (which includes high GI foods such as white flour, white rice, potatoes, honey and concentrated fruit juice) to the curb, right now. Also avoid supplements like guarana and mega-potency B vitamins.
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As for natural stress relief, what you need is what we herbalists call sedative nervines, herbs that gently calm the body and restore normal nerve function.
Various adrenal fatigue supplements are available. I recommend going to a herbalist who can mix together a liquid tonic including herbs such as:
And maybe a little Siberian ginseng during times of acute stress to get you through – but go easy on the ginseng and give your body regular breaks as it too can be a little stimulating (e.g. six weeks on, six weeks off). If sleep is a problem you could also try valerian or zizyphus.
Additionally, your magnesium stores are probably running on empty.
Surefire signs of this are irritability, muscle cramps, tremors and twitchy eyelids. Magnesium repairs the protective coating around your nerves, rather like re-insulating a live wire, and when you get your levels back to normal you feel so much better able to cope with life. Easily absorbed forms are magnesium orotate and magnesium citrate. Stay away from magnesium oxide, it is not readily absorbed. Also, powders and liquids are assimilated better than tablets.
Now, although I do not recommend mega-potency B vitamins, moderate strength B vitamins can be very beneficial in giving you the extra energy you require without taxing your adrenals. So invest in a good B-complex or multivitamin and read the label. If most of the B’s are listed as 50 to 100 mgs, it’s too strong for you! Go with a sensible dose of 10 to 20mg (with the exception of some B vitamins such as B12 which is listed in micrograms as you only need tiny amounts).
Adrenal fatigue recovery is possible. If you follow the above advice, you will start to calm down a bit and build your true energy reserves as opposed to “fake” energy from adrenaline. As you balance out, start to implement all the relaxing behavioural therapies you were too wired to try before.
Get into a good sleep pattern. Unwind on the weekends. Practice self care and don’t focus on work or achievement so much. Exercise regularly. Take up yoga and meditation, schedule in annual or bi-annual retreats, find hobbies that relax you such as floatation tank therapy, ultimately simplifying your hectic lifestyle.
How to recover from adrenal exhaustion if you’re ‘burnt out':
If you happen to be in the second category and have already hit a brick wall and are thoroughly burnt out, you can turn it around, but it will take time.
As well as making physiological changes, you will most likely have to do some soul-searching and re-examine how and why you got into this position in the first place. Is this the lifestyle you really want? Are you forcing yourself to live up to some unattainable ideal of perfection or achievement? Whatever it is, it isn’t worth it, you need to take time and space to heal yourself, and change your lifestyle so you don’t ever get into this scenario again!
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Just like the tired but wired adrenaline junkies, if you want to overcome adrenal fatigue you need to stop flogging yourself with caffeine, sugar, stimulants, excessive work and junk food. B vitamins and magnesium will help you too. But rather than sedative nervine herbs, you need what we call adrenal tonics – one of the best natural remedy for adrenal fatigue – these are herbs that will nourish and tone your overworked stress glands. Good choices are:
Adrenal burnout treatment will take time. If your immune system has become compromised due to long-term stress then herbs such as Echinacea, Codonopsis and Astragalus will help to keep your defences strong. Adding shitake mushrooms to the diet is also beneficial.
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Bear in mind that natural substances like herbal medicines take time to work. Unlike orthodox drugs that produce almost immediate effects, herbs work slowly by restoring healthy organ function. So give yourself at least 3 months to allow your adrenal glands to heal. Some people will need longer if they have had many years of stressful living. But rest assured, you can overcome adrenal fatigue and live a less stressful life – if you choose it.
Now it’s your turn, ask me any questions and tell me via the comment section below – have you, or are you, suffering adrenal fatigue? What are you going to do on your path to recovery today? I can’t wait to hear from you.
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Sharee James is a naturopath and a yoga and meditation teacher dedicated to helping people like you to live your life with more calm and less struggle. You can start now with her free cheat sheet, 'Stress-Less: 10 Quick & Easy tips to Help You Slow Down, Find Calm & Enjoy the Moment' (grab it now at http://www.ashimaliving.com/freecheatsheet).
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Thanks for the interesting read Sharee
You are very welcome, glad you found it interesting
Hi Sharee, if you eat these foods, such as oats and licorice, can that help at all, or does it need to be in herbal form? And for how long would you recommend taking a herbal tonic and how much should it cost? Thank you!!!
Great question, but unfortunately no, eating oats and licorice does not help: 1, because it is the greens of oats and the roots of licorice that are medicinal and, 2. a tincture or powdered tablet/capsule is a very concentrated form of the active ingredients in the herbs. I would say a liquid tonic will probably be around $35 – $40 depending on the size, but you can probably find a good adrenal formula in tablet form for around $25 at your local health food shop. They may not have all the exact herbs I have recommended in the article, but there are many others that are also good for stress. Hope that helps!
Whoops, forgot to answer you on how long to take it for – I would say if the stress has been chronic, a good 3 to 6 months to really rebalance your system. if you are taking Siberian Ginseng, it is good to take rests from that one, say 12 weeks on and 2-3 weeks off.
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