Did you know that almost everyone struggling with thyroid disease also has some form of adrenal fatigue? When the adrenals become taxed, this tells pituitary to slow down the thyroid (and in some cases speed things up). If you struggle with thyroid disease, it’s important you take steps to heal the adrenals so the rest of your endocrine system can return to homeostasis.
Here are some common symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
A tendency to be a night person
Having difficulty falling asleep
Waking up in the middle of the night with difficulty falling back asleep
You’re a slow starter in the morning
Feeling keyed up and having trouble calming down
Low blood pressure
Headaches after exercising
Clenching or grinding your teeth
Chronic low- or middle-back pain
Difficulty maintaining chiropractic adjustments
Craving salty foods
Chronic fatigue or getting drowsy often
Seasonal or chronic allergies
Pain on the medial (inner) side of the knee or knees
Needing to wear sunglasses
Dizziness when you stand up
Difficulty losing weight
Gaining weight around the waistline
Getting upset or angry easily
Doesn’t that sound like “modern life?” No wonder people are having so many endocrine issues!
What do the adrenals do?
The adrenal glands are the body’s emergency system. When the body is under chronic stress, the adrenals will send out cortisol into the bloodstream. Over time, chronic cortisol output can weaken the endocrine system, immune system, liver, digestive system, and brain. It can also cause the thyroid to slow down (aka hypothyroidism) and in some rare cases, it will speed up (aka hyperthyroidism). So, if you are wanting to reduce your thyroid symptoms, start with healthy adrenal glands.
What do you eat?
While a lower carb diet is fabulous to reduce inflammation and many symptoms of thyroid disease, eating this way for too long can put stress on the adrenals and cause hormonal imbalance. So it’s important to get good, healthy carbs into your diet each day such as: potatoes (make sure to eat with plenty of butter), root vegetables, peas, properly prepared legumes or gluten-free grains (if you can tolerate them), apples, pears, berries, and beets.
I like Dr. Christianson’s idea of eating one golfball-size portion of carbs at breakfast, two golfball-size portions of carbs at lunch, and three golfball-size portions of carbs at dinner. Using this method, dinner should be the largest meal of the day. And most importantly, don’t stress about your food. Do the best you can, and let the rest go.
Can you get tested for Adrenal Fatigue?
The best way to get test for adrenal fatigue is via a saliva cortisol panel. The panel looks at your cortisol patterns throughout the day versus a blood test that only tests at one time during the day. Seeing the pattern of cortisol during the day will give you and your practitioner a good idea of whether adrenal imbalance is a factor for you.
As you read the list below, remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint. Fully healing the adrenals usually takes a minimum of 6-9 months and for some it can take up to 12 months. The good news is that even making just a few changes can help you feel better within weeks or even days.
Here are 20 Steps to Heal Adrenal Fatigue:
1. As soon as you wake up, drink a glass of water along with 1/4 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt. Then, throughout the day, have a pinch of sea salt with each glass of water and also use it to season your food. Daily total consumption of about 2 teaspoons of Celtic sea salt is a good place to start. The 80+ minerals in the salt will help nourish the adrenals and endocrine system.
2. Eat breakfast within one hour of waking. If you wait any longer than this, it can cause your blood sugar levels to decrease too much and your adrenals can start producing excess cortisol.
3. Eat regular meals throughout the day and include some protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fat in each meal. I know this is a simple step, but skipping meals can put a strain on the adrenals.
4. Remove all processed foods from your diet. Processed foods are a stressor on the body, and the goal is to remove stressors as much as possible to help support the adrenals.
5. Only do low-impact exercise like walking, pilates, gentle yoga or stretching. High impact exercise puts strain on the adrenals, especially when the adrenals are already fatigued. If you’re having trouble losing weight, I know this can seem counter-productive, but I’ve seen clients lose weight by resting and following the steps I’m listing here.
6. Sit down to eat each meal and eat slowly. Don’t eat on-the-go, when you’re stressed, driving, etc. Here’s an entire article to help you understand the importance of eating in a slow and relaxed state.
7. Diffuse essential oils throughout the day to help you feel more relaxed. If you can’t diffuse the oils, put a drop or two on the bottoms of your feet or on the spine twice a day to help lower stress levels. In fact, this study found that inhaling lavender essential oil can decrease cortisol levels. That’s good news for the adrenals!
To learn exactly which oils are best for adrenal fatigue and how to use them, sign up to take my free online masterclass titled, “Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue”. It’s just 45 minutes and you’ll walk away with all sorts of new ideas!
8. Spend more time outdoors. Getting fresh air and being in nature helps reduce the stress response in the body.
9. Avoid intermittent fasting or a super low-carb diet right now. While IR and a low carbohydrate diet can be very helpful for many health issues, I don’t recommend it when there is adrenal imbalance because it can create additional stress on the body. Here’s a video on the topic.
10. Know that you’re in this for the long-haul. It takes a minimum of about 6-9 months to balance the adrenals and for some people it can take up to a year. Having a long-term mindset can help you achieve the goal of adrenal balance. Be patient and kind with yourself.
11. Take an epsom salt bath a few times a week (or each evening, if you can). When you’re stressed, the first mineral your body burns through is magnesium (this is why so many people are magnesium deficient!). Soaking in a bath with 1 cup of epsom salts and a few drops of your favorite essential oil will help you relax and replenish your magnesium stores.
12. Go to bed by 9pm each night. Honestly, the best way to heal your adrenals is with sleep.
13. Consider taking B Vitamins – I recommend Cataplex B from Standard Process.
14. Try an Adrenal Tonic that contains adaptogenic herbs – Our office carries an adrenal tonic we mix in-house. It contains ashwaganda, licorice root and rhodiola. It’s immensely helpful for calming the body.
15. Drink plenty of filtered water each day. Drink 1/2 your weight in ounces is a good goal — a 160-pound person should drink about 80 ounces of water per day. Hydration is really important for the endocrine system. Without the right amount of water, the body can’t transport the necessary nutrients and hormones to the cells properly. So, please make sure you’re getting enough water.
16. Eat as many fresh organic vegetables as possible at all three meals with some healthy fats. There is no limit on vegetable intake.
17. Include protein at each meal – get these proteins from meat, poultry, wild seafood, eggs, etc.
18. Eat magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium-rich foods help support the adrenal glands. Foods such as dark leafy greens, fatty fish, avocado, and soaked nuts, seeds and legumes are all good sources of magnesium to include in your diet throughout the week.
19. Eliminate all caffeine. I know this is a hard one, but your adrenals will thank you! Here’s a post about how I kicked the coffee habit — with step-by-step instructions for you.
20. Take one day of rest each week. While it’s popular to “hustle”, that kind of daily mentality can lead to all sorts of health issues and will strain the adrenals. Take a day each week to rest. Turn off your phone, get outside, or just sleep all day if that’s what your body needs. It’s ok. God set the example by taking a day to rest, so I order my week that way, too!