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Is it Normal to be This Tired? (Adrenal Edition) by Ginny Isbell, PharmD

The question is “is it normal to be this tired?” If you are asking this question the answer is most likely no. Let’s look at a few more questions to see if this Adrenal Edition is for you. Are you chronically tired? Do you have trouble waking up before 10:00 am? Are you extremely tired in the afternoon? Do you get your best work done late at night? Do you often need to lie down or rest after a period of stress? Do you (women) have increased PMS or menopausal symptoms? Do you get sick more often than you used to (especially respiratory infections)? Have you recently developed more allergies and food sensitivities? Do you drive yourself with caffeine and sugar? Do you crave salty foods? Are you experiencing increased irritability and decreased ability to concentrate? Are you less social than you once were? Have you experienced multiple or ongoing stressors? If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, then no it is not normal to be this tired, but yes there is something you can do about it.

Many of the above symptoms are the result of multiple stressors over a long period of time. These long term stressors can result in the inability of our adrenals to respond to the stress we experience daily. Our adrenals are small glands that sit on top of our kidneys. The adrenals produce aldosterone (regulates sodium and potassium levels), epinephrine/norepinephrine (secreted in response to emergency situations), androgens (DHEA) and cortisol to name a few.  The main hormone we will look at is cortisol. It regulates blood sugar, helps us respond to stress, has anti-inflammatory actions, and helps the immune system.

What happens to the adrenals to cause this decrease in function? STRESS!  Our adrenals must respond to all types of stress – physical, emotional, and chemical by increasing the secretion of cortisol. The more stress we experience the harder the adrenals have to work to keep up. So lack of sleep, fast food, caffeine,------- and pushing oneself to do more all affects the adrenals. Eventually it catches up and the adrenals can no longer produce the amount of cortisol needed to appropriately respond to stress. There are ways we can test cortisol levels. A Saliva test can be completed to show our cortisol levels at different times throughout the day. When we do not have the correct balance of cortisol we become tired having to push through daily activities, many people will start driving themselves with sugar and caffeine to keep up with daily responsibilities.

So now that we know about stress and our adrenals what can we do to increase energy? There are many lifestyle changes that are needed to support adrenal healing.  Most people will need more protein and less carbohydrates in their diet.  Symptoms often decrease after removing refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats, chocolate, sugar, and caffeine from the diet. Adding sea salt to the diet can also help. It is also important to get plenty of rest. This includes mental and emotional rest as well as sleep. It is usually best to try to get to sleep before 10 PM and if possible to sleep in until 9 AM.  It is also helpful to spend time with friends and laughing. Exercise is an important to recovery, but it needs to be a less stressful form of exercise such as walking. Competitive exercise can cause more stress and a worsening of symptoms. It is important to minimize stress as much as possible. This means having to sit down and figure out where you are spending your energy and determining which of these activities are the most important. Also look at what activities give you more energy. Spend some time daily just for you, reading positive books and participating in religious activities can help.

There are multiple supplements that can help aid in restoring adrenal health. It is important to supplement with B vitamins and Vitamin C.  If symptoms of poor digestion are present digestive aids can be use so that food can be properly broken down and absorbed. Food must be absorbed to get the nutrients into the cells. Magnesium is another supplement that helps the adrenals recover. There are also multiple herbal remedies that support adrenal function including licorice, ashwagandha, and Ginseng that may be beneficial. In some cases adrenal glandulars can be very beneficial to help increase adrenal activity. As always we can not look at one hormone without looking at the rest of them. We must achieve optimum balance of cortisol as well as estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, and thyroid hormones in order for optimum results. The adrenals do take time to heal. The time can range from 6 months to 24 months for complete recovery. For more information on the adrenals I would like to recommend Dr. James Wilson’s book Adrenal Fatigue. Also, we will be glad to answer your questions concerning the adrenals and assist you in determining the best nutritional supplements for you. Ask one of our associates if you would like to schedule a consult with one of our pharmacists.