There is a lot of misleading information about what it takes to recover from adrenal fatigue, but this is not a disease that simply needs some prescribed medications. It is something that needs an approach that is the right one for you.
Let’s at least clear up a few of these adrenal fatigue myths so that you can feel empowered on your recovery journey and take the necessary steps to regain your energy and vitality.
Myth No. 1.
I Just Need to Find out What Supplements to Take
While the right supplement at the right time can be helpful, the wrong supplement at the wrong time can be harmful.
If you are dealing with mild adrenal fatigue, a general supplement may be helpful, although many people at this stage do not realise they have any issues with adrenal fatigue going on.
If your symptoms are more moderate or severe, please don’t just take a supplement “off the shelf” because someone in a forum or elsewhere has said it’s worked for them.
You are unique, and you have unique things going on in your system. For example, some people deal with major anxiety symptoms with adrenal fatigue and others don’t. Some supplements will help with anxiety, some will make them worse.
Additionally, there may be other health issues going on for you in addition to the adrenal fatigue symptoms. Any supplements you take need to be a gentle trial and error process to see if they are right for your unique system.
The more severe your symptoms are, the more gently you need to tread in terms of what supplements to take, and the more important it is to work with a health practitioner who understands adrenal fatigue and has had experience in working with people on this.
Myth No. 2.
There is no such thing as Adrenal Fatigue.
The mainstream argument on this is that the adrenals don’t get fatigued. And yes I believe this to be true. However, if you can get beyond the term “adrenal fatigue” you will come to understand that this is really about the signs and symptoms that have come about from stress hormones being released from the adrenal glands far too often. This is a very physiological response in the body, nothing woo-woo or cuckoo about it.
At the root of adrenal fatigue symptoms is “the stress response” which starts in the brain (the amygdala), and this sets off a chain of events which signals the stress hormones to be released from the adrenal glands.
Many health practitioners prefer to use terms such as “adrenal fatigue syndrome” or “adrenal dysfunction”. Please note that it is not the adrenals that have a dysfunction (as in the case of something like addisons disease), it is the release of too many stress hormones, too often that causes the issues.
I’m Feeling Depressed and Anxious. My Doctor has told me I need to take an Antidepressant and Antianxiety medication.
This can be a very sensitive topic, but it’s really important to understand the reasons why you may be depressed or anxious.
One of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue is that your mood can become affected because of the imbalanced way that the stress hormones are being released into your system (as talked about above). Symptoms such as depression and anxiety can result.
Dr Michael Lam in his book “Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome” (p.214) explains that
“We live in a world where symptoms are often classified as disease. Controlling symptoms is often confused with “curing” the disease. In the case of adrenal fatigue syndrome, this common approach frequently ends in disaster.
Suppressing symptoms with various prescription medications is the norm. Unfortunately, most medications have side effects. Needless to say, this practice stresses the liver and the adrenals, and many with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome never fully recover when their treatments are based on prescription medications, which can range from steriods to antianxiety drugs to sleep medications.”
The type of depression or anxiety associated with adrenal fatigue needs to be distinguished from someone who is dealing with depression or anxiety from other causes. While there are certainly times when someone may in fact benefit from an antidepressant or antianxiety medication, depression or anxiety as a knock on effect of adrenal fatigue is not usually one of them. If in any doubt, speak to your health practitioner.
I have noticed time and time again, that when I feel more stressed, I feel far greater levels of depression than I normally would. When I am relaxed and in a good place, my mood is much more balanced.
Take note of how your own mood is affected when you feel stressed. You know your body better than anyone. If you are concerned, please find a doctor or psychologist who is experienced in this, to help you distinguish what it is that you really need. Always play a role of working in parternship with your health provider, rather than simply expecting them to “fix” you.
Myth No. 4.
I have gained body fat around my stomach. I need to do more cardio exercise, so I can get it off.
Chronic and constant stress responses in the body create a release of more stress hormones, more often. One of these stress hormones is cortisol. When there is too much cortisol pulsating around the body, one of the effects is that the body goes into a protective mode, with more body fat being stored, especially around the middle.
Doing more cardio exercise is not the answer. Cardio exercise will raise your cortisol and in a healthy, relaxed state that is good, but in a body that is stressed with an overabundance of cortisol pulsating around, that is a further stress and drain.
Dr Alan Christianson in his book “The Adrenal Reset Diet” (p.117) explains that
“As long as you are stressed, do not log hours on the treadmill. Prolonged and frequent high-intensity aerobic exercise will only make things worse. Anything above half your maximum effort will cause substantial elevations in cortisol levels. As a consequence, this will block fat loss, even though you might be burning more calories. To keep your cortisol levels in check, also avoid prolonged bouts of being sedentary.”
Instead, what you need to do is activities that are calming and restorative on your system. You may need some time to adjust your thinking on this one, but activities like easy to moderate walks or restorative yoga will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and allow you to release more calming hormones and in turn lower your cortisol levels.
When your nervous system is given the chance to come back into balance, so too will the way your hormones are being released. And, the excess body fat will begin to fall away.
Continuing to push and strive and exercising at a high intensity will keep your cortisol levels too high, and the body fat will likely stay on.
Listen to your body. Please be gentle and patient with yourself in the process. You may need to take the restorative and more gentle activities to the extreme end for a while.
You know your body better than anyone. Listen to what you are feeling. As Cheryl Richardson (Hay House Author) has always said, “Don’t go to the hardware store for milk”. By this I mean, get support from practitioners who understand adrenal fatigue.
I wish you well on your continued journey.