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Can’t get moving in the morning without a hefty dose of caffeine? Can’t keep going during the day without still more caffeine? The problem might not be your hectic schedule and a lack sleep. You could be suffering from adrenal exhaustion, a consequence of our stress-filled 21st-century lives.
You have two adrenal glands, each located on top of your kidneys. They release a variety of hormones that help maintain biological balance in response to stress. The more stress you experience, the harder your adrenals work to protect you. When stress is chronic—such as work, traffic, and difficult relationships—the body ramps up production of cortisol, which helps buffer against the stress.
Adrenal exhaustion develops when the body can no longer make sufficient amounts of cortisol, leading to fatigue. Over the long run, adrenal exhaustion can weaken your body’s responses to bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitical infections. It can also precipitate chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, and it may also increase your long-term risk of cancer.
Conventional physicians rarely diagnose patients with this health problem, except in cases of Addison’s disease, the most severe type of adrenal exhaustion. So if you’re feeling some of the symptoms(see below), chances are that you’ll obtain a more accurate diagnosis by going to a naturopathic or nutritionally oriented physician.
Three specific vitamin supplements can help with adrenal exhaustion.
| B-complex | The B-complex vitamins are antistress nutrients. Take a high-potency supplement that contains at least 50 mg of vitamins B1, B2, and B3. The dosages of other vitamins in a B-complex supplement will fall into place, though there will be differences between brands.
| Pantothenic Acid | The body needs this B vitamin to make adrenal hormones, and people with adrenal exhaustion usually need more than the amount found in high-potency B-complex supplements. Try 500 mg extra of pantothenic acid twice daily.
| Vitamin C | Vitamin C helps make adrenal hormones. Take at least 1,000 mg three times daily.
There are also several herbs that can help you recover from adrenal exhaustion.
| Licorice root | This is the most important herb for adrenal exhaustion. But you have to choose the right supplement. Whole licorice extract contains glycyrrhizin, which helps the body restore normal cortisol levels. So avoid deglycyrrhizinated products.
| Ashwagandha | Ashwagandha can help people dealing with fatigue from chronic stress. Take 500 mg daily.
| Rhodiola rosea | This adaptogenic herb helps your body cope with stress and fatigue. Take 200—300 mg daily.
| Eleutherococcus senticosus | This adaptogen can also help protect against stress. Take 200—300 mg daily.
More to Consider
In addition to vitamins and herbs, consider these options for adrenal exhaustion.
| Adrenal-cortex extract | These supplements contain minute amounts of adrenal hormones and are safe compared with prescription glucocorticoid drugs. Still, it is best to get a confirmed diagnosis (e.g., by a nutritionally oriented MD or ND) and seek a physician’s guidance before using an adrenal cortex supplement.
| Eating habits | When you’re stressed, it’s particularly important to emphasize quality protein and high-fiber vegetables while minimizing processed foods. Eating style is also important. Stress sets the stage for wolfing down foods, particularly fast food. Instead, linger over a healthier meal.
| Sleep | Getting sufficient sleep is crucial for recovering from adrenal exhaustion. At night, start preparing for sleep by turning off the television and dimming the lights at least one hour before bed. To promote sound sleep, remove ambient light sources, such as nightlights. And make sure that you go to bed early enough to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
It’s also important to reduce your consumption of caffeine in coffee, black tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks. People often feel captive to their caffeine addiction, but caffeine withdrawal might actually be easier than you think. As you recover from adrenal exhaustion, you’ll find that you have less need for caffeine as a stimulant. You may not entirely stop drinking coffee, but you will likely be able to reduce your consumption to just one or two cups of weak coffee in the morning and none in the afternoon or evening.
Do you have adrenal exhaustion?
If coffee consumption is any indication, millions of people may be suffering from some degree of adrenal exhaustion. And if you can't imagine living without at least some coffee, you may be on the verge. Although fatigue may be a symptom of many different health problems, fatigue coupled with other symptoms can point toward adrenal exhaustion, including:
Other Factors in Adrenal Exhaustion
Stress isn't the only culprit in adrenal exhaustion. Regular use of oral, topical, and intranasal cortisone-containing drugs can suppress normal adrenal function. So can antifungal drugs and some anticoagulants, such as warfarin and heparin. Low sodium levels and dehydration are also potential causes. In addition, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, allergies, yeast infection, and hepatitis seem to increase adrenal exhaustion risk.
Ridge crest herbals adrenal fatigue fighter is a combination formula for optimal adrenal health and energy levels with B-complex vitamins and herbs, including ginseng and ashwagandha.
natural factors womensense adrenasense adrenal formula is, as the name implies, designed to promote adrenal health in women. It's an herbal blend that includes rhodiola, Siberian ginseng, and ashwagandha.
maximum living vita-sprout multivitamin is a great option for those looking to strengthen adrenal health: It's loaded with B vitamins and also contains licorice, which has been shown to boost adrenal health.
solaray mega b-stress provides therapeutic amounts of B vitamins, including pantothenic acid, and vitamin C (1,000 mg). Three capsules daily is the recommended dosage.