Adrenal fatigue is comprised of a fairly common set of symptoms, which are the result of adrenal gland dysfunction. Here, we describe what adrenal fatigue is, and then we discuss some herbs and nutrients that can assist you in overcoming adrenal fatigue.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue refers to a group of symptoms which occur when the adrenal glands do not function properly. It is associated with intense stress, and can also follow a difficult infection such as pneumonia or the flu. Adrenal fatigue is not an officially accepted medical diagnosis; However, it is widely regarded as a legitimate ailment in the realm of naturopathic medicine.
The mechanism which leads to adrenal fatigue is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is activated by stress, causing the hypothalamus to release hormones. This leads to a hormonal response in the pituitary gland, which travels to the adrenal gland, which in turn responds by producing cortisol. Cortisol is what causes the body to enter the “fight or flight” state. The HPA axis works in a feedback loop, wherein cortisol provides feedback for the hypothalamus to cease stress hormone production. Prolonged stress causes the HPA axis to malfunction, and continue producing these hormones unnecessarily. This constitutes adrenal fatigue.
Many symptoms can result from adrenal fatigue. These include insomnia, thyroid dysfunction, problems with blood pressure, brain fog, cravings for salty/sugary foods, depression, anxiety, and reduced ability to cope with stress. If adrenal fatigue goes on unabated, it can lead to excess weight gain, weakening of the immune system, and accelerated aging.
Supplements for Adrenal Fatigue
Within naturopathic medicine, multiple factors are considered when treating adrenal fatigue. One of the foremost areas of treatment is that of diet and nutrient supplementation. The following list contains some of the supplements most recognized for their ability to help combat adrenal fatigue:
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid (similar to a fat) found naturally in the membranes of cells. A phosphatidylserine supplement is derived from soy. Research shows that it can help normalize the stress response in the HPA axis, thereby regulating cortisol secretion. It does so by regulating the hormones initially released by the pituitary gland, which in turn regulates cortisol.
Vitamin B complex: Multiple B vitamins have been shown to support adrenal health. First, B vitamins support stress hormone production. Studies have shown that vitamin B5 helps support adrenal function, and can reduce hypercortisolism in high-stress environments. Vitamin B12 can help keep the body’s cortisol secretion in line with its circadian rhythms. Lastly, research has shown that vitamin B1 can help prevent functional exhaustion of the adrenal glands.
Magnesium deficiency is related to an overactive adrenal response. Research shows that supplementing with magnesium benefits those who are deficient, by decreasing stress and helping regulate the HPA axis. It can also increase the time asleep in bed, and improve mood, both of which are affected by adrenal fatigue. Magnesium is especially helpful when taken alongside B vitamins.
Panax ginseng is an herbal supplement which has been shown to support a healthy acute stress response of the HPA axis.
It also has the capacity to improve the sensitivity of the HPA axis to cortisol, so that the hypothalamus will not overproduce stress hormones and thus cause adrenal fatigue. Panax ginseng is thought to work best alongside multiple vitamins.
Calcium is a mineral which is needed by the body. Supplementing with vitamin C can be helpful for those with adrenal fatigue. That is because the adrenal glands need vitamin C during stressful periods in order to function. Calcium and magnesium are a healthy combination to take.
If you or one of your family members are experiencing adrenal fatigue, or have experienced it prior to today, then it behooves you to keep one or more of these supplements handy. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking one of these for the first time.