If we had to pick one issue generating the most frustration among our customers, it would have to be fatigue—not having enough energy to get through the day or in some cases even get started. Today many folks are buzzing around 100 miles per hour, trying to juggle work and family in an increasingly toxic world that often zaps our energy instead of increasing it.
Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.- Hans Selye
If your energy reserves are dwindling, you’re in good company. Chronic fatigue is epidemic today, affecting 2.5 million Americans and seven million people worldwide. (1) Estimates are that between 50 and 75 percent of individuals with low energy have some degree of adrenal fatigue, but are unaware. Everything your body does requires energy, from healing your wounds to digesting your food, breathing and even thinking. Every cell requires glucose for fuel, so your body has put numerous mechanisms in place to ensure a steady supply. One of these is your adrenal system—which can burn out if overtaxed for too long.
Besides adrenal fatigue, the causes of low energy are many and pinning them down can be a challenge. Fatigue can come from a major illness, so it’s always good to have your healthcare practitioner rule out the biggies, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. More commonly, chronic low energy is tied to poor sleep, stress, nutritional deficits, toxic overload, or a combination of those factors.
Other potential contributors include thyroid dysfunction, food allergies, hormone imbalance, metabolic issues, genetic abnormalities (including methylation defects), and chronic infections (viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, etc.) Any of these, along with any sort of ongoing inflammation, can place extraordinary demands on your adrenals.
How to Know If You Have Adrenal Fatigue
The two little walnut-sized adrenal glands sitting atop your kidneys produce hormones to keep your blood glucose in balance. When your blood glucose falls too low, they respond by releasing stress hormones (adrenalin, cortisol, DHEA) to bump it up. So, when you are pulling that all-nighter or grinding through an extra shift at work and you feel a “second wind,” this is your adrenals kicking into overdrive. This system works great—until it doesn’t! Even your amazing adrenals have their limits.
The more stress you experience, both physical and mental, the more energy and resources your body requires to cope. When your adrenals aren’t able to keep up, you feel exhausted, burned out, unable to put one foot in front of the other—and this is known as adrenal fatigue (aka adrenal exhaustion). It used to be that we experienced only the occasional adrenal “rescue”—like when we were forced to outrun a tiger—but today our stresses run around the clock, and unless we’re extremely good at managing them, our bodies may not be able to cope with that level of demand.
As many as 80 percent of adults may experience adrenal fatigue during their lifetimes, yet it remains one of the most under-diagnosed illnesses in the US, particularly among women.
The remedies many reach for— “energy drinks,” sugar, caffeine and other stimulants—may provide a momentary fix but are quite hard on the adrenals and may deplete them even further. A 2011 report in the journal Pediatrics warned about the potential dangers of energy drinks, which included heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death. (2)
Adrenal fatigue develops in three phases. The first is the “alarm phase” in which you enter a state of “hyper-alert” due to a flood of stress hormones, particularly cortisol. In this phase, people typically feel “tired but wired.” The second is the “resistance phase” in which hormone levels begin to fall as the body begins experiencing shortages in precursor materials due to the relentless demand. Typical symptoms might include insomnia, dwindling enthusiasm, or decreased sex drive. This phase can go on for months or even years.
The final phase is the “burnout” or “exhaustion phase.” By this point, the body has completely run out of gas. Hormone and neurotransmitter levels fall very low which has rippling effects throughout the body. Cortisol is low all through the day and night, and people don’t feel energized after resting. The following table outlines some clues that your adrenals are overworked. Do any sound familiar?
|Feeling overwhelmed by stress||Low stamina, slow recovery|
|Always tired, particularly around 7am, 11am and 3pm||“Night owl” syndrome (getting a second wind late in the evening), trouble sleeping through the night, and/or nonrestorative sleep|
|Constantly fighting belly fat (overstimulated adrenals secret high levels of cortisol, which causes fat accumulation around the belly)||Dark circles or bags under your eyes|
|Chronically low blood pressure, low blood sodium levels||Trouble concentrating or focusing|
|Cravings for salt, sugar, or caffeine||Extreme cold sensitivity|
If you suspect adrenal fatigue but want more data, a saliva analysis can be helpful. UNI KEY offers a simple adrenal function testing kit you can do at home. You simply collect your saliva throughout the day and mail it in.
5 Basic Strategies to Reverse Adrenal Fatigue
In order for you to reclaim your energy, think “rest, replace, restore.” You must give your body the rest it needs while replacing what’s been lost, thereby restoring function. Think of feeling depleted as your body’s way of demanding a long-overdue rest. The more comprehensive your interventions, the faster your adrenal glands will recover and your mitochondria will regenerate. If you recall, mitochondria are the little energy powerhouses inside your cells. The following are some basic strategies for getting the lights back on again.
- Improve Sleep
Perform a personal sleep inventory to tune up your sleep hygiene. (3) The hours before midnight seem to be the most beneficial for adrenal rejuvenation, so be in bed by 10pm, and try for at least seven hours of sleep.
- Reduce Stress
Both mental and physical stress contribute to low energy, so it’s extremely important to build your stress management skills. Set aside time to relax each day—escape with a good book, work in the garden, start an exercise routine, take a walk, or whatever works for you. If your adrenals are highly depleted, be careful about exercise and keep it mild, because exertion can add stress to an overtaxed body. Gentle yoga, Tai chi or meditation may be beneficial. (4)
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is an effective self-help tool for managing daily stress, proven to produce immediate effects on cortisol. (5, 6) Acupuncture has also been shown effective. (7) Anything that promotes feelings of happiness, joy, or gratitude will benefit your adrenals!
- Adopt an Adrenal-Friendly Diet
Diet is one of the most important factors for improving energy and restoring adrenal function, but it’s often the most overlooked. Remember how imbalanced blood sugar triggers the adrenals? When blood sugar rises, your pancreas responds with a big bolus of insulin, which drops blood sugar too low and makes your adrenals respond with a flood of stress hormones.
To avoid these blood sugar surges, stay away from nutrient-deficient and chemical-laden processed foods, GMOs, sugar, refined grains and excess carbohydrates that spike blood glucose. Even “healthful” whole grains and plant-based starches such as potatoes and corn can break down quickly, sending you on a blood sugar rollercoaster that weakens your adrenals.
Vegetables, fruits, high quality proteins (hormone-free, pasture raised eggs, beef, lamb, poultry, fish, seafood, tofu, tempeh), as well as beneficial fats (flaxseed oil, coconut oil, avocados, olives, hemp seeds, etc.) are the cornerstones of an adrenal-friendly diet. Protein is essential for keeping your metabolic fires burning, so include about 20 grams of high quality protein with each meal. An excellent on-the-go protein is a smoothie made with a clean protein powder like Fat Flush Whey Protein or Fat Flush Body Protein, which both provide the recommended 20 grams of protein per serving.
- Replace Essential Minerals
When your body is fighting exhaustion, minerals get depleted including sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium. This is why so many with burned out adrenals crave salt! Cortisol causes sodium retention and potassium excretion, which affects body pH. (8) Incorporating one quarter to one teaspoon of sea salt into your diet each day will help balance your cortisol.
Potassium can get out of whack and trigger blood sugar issues, so eat plenty of potassium rich foods, and consider supplementing with some potassium chloride or cream of tartar (one-eighth to one-quarter teaspoon daily). If you have kidney issues, check with your healthcare practitioner before using a potassium supplement.
- Balance Your pH
Notice that we didn’t say alkalize. The idea that you should constantly alkalize your body in order to prevent disease is a myth. The goal instead is pH balance. The truth is, you can become sick when your blood is too acid OR too alkaline. Allergies, arthritis, osteoporosis and other health problems are all symptomatic of imbalanced pH.
As your cells produce energy, a number of different acids are generated. Acid-alkaline imbalance damages tissues and compromises your immune system, which is why your body has several mechanisms that continuously buffer and stabilize pH. Excess acidity is not good for the body, but excess alkalinity has risks as well. A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry discusses the health risks of high alkalinity (alkalosis), which includes brain and respiratory dysfunction, and even cell death. (9)
Processed foods, meat, dairy, and grains tend to be acidifying, whereas plant foods are alkalizing. Greens and green drinks are loaded with alkaline-forming compounds, including chlorophyll.
We tend to be more acidic when under stress (“sympathetic dominance”) but more alkaline when relaxed (“parasympathetic dominance”). Sympathetic dominance is best supported with alkalinizing foods like fruits and vegetables, whereas parasympathetic dominance is better supported by acid forming foods, such as red meat. We also tend to become more alkaline as we age. The bottom line is, if you adopt an adrenal-friendly diet, your body will assist you in maintaining good pH balance.
Top 3 Energy-Igniting Supplements to Combat Adrenal Fatigue
The above diet and lifestyle changes can go a long way toward improving your energy, but a few strategically chosen supplements can also be helpful in restoring adrenal function. Here are our top three:
- Powdered Greens
We’ve already mentioned protein powders, but powdered greens are a great way to bump up your energy while also improving your nutrient intake and detoxification. Greens contain chlorophyll, which has a very similar chemical structure to hemoglobin except that an iron molecule is at the center of hemoglobin whereas magnesium is at the center of chlorophyll. One study found eating greens enables your mitochondria to produce more ATP when exposed to sunlight. (10) Chlorophyll also has strong antioxidant and anticancer effects. UNI KEY’s Daily Greens Formula contains 11 energizing supergreens in a powder that mixes easily in smoothies, water or another beverage of your choice.
- Adrenal Glandulars
If adrenal fatigue is your issue, then taking an adrenal glandular extract that carries the DNA/RNA blueprint of the adrenal gland can facilitate healing and repair by providing the building blocks your body needs. It’s essential that any glandulars come from clean and healthy animal sources. UNI KEY’s Adrenal Formula contains bovine adrenal, spleen and liver glandulars, along with important revitalizing nutrients including vitamin C, pantothenic acid, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin A, and tyrosine for thyroid support.
- Ultra H-3
Ultra H-3 is a unique procaine formulation that works its magic by repairing old and damaged cell membranes so that they absorb nutrients more efficiently and are able to rebuild themselves, from the inside out. Ultra H-3 is one of UNI KEY’s most popular supplements with numerous people reporting increased energy, improved sleep, better mental clarity, relief from aches and pains, faster healing, and even increased libido. Ultra H-3 has the effect of increasing overall well-being.
There is Hope!
Whether you are battling chronic fatigue or just experiencing a little energy slump, rest assured there are things you can do feel young and energetic once again. You’ve learned about the importance of stabilizing blood sugar to take the pressure off of your adrenals, as well as how to recognize signs you may be teetering on the edge of adrenal fatigue. Don’t wait until your adrenals reach full burnout! Making some adjustments to your lifestyle—in terms of diet, sleep, and stress management—may be all you need to get the fires burning again.