Do you need 4 cups of coffee, a chocolate bar, and some sugar to even function? Sounds like you’re fatigued. The key question to ask is why!
Fatigue has many causes.
In scientific terms, it means there’s low metabolic energy – your body isn’t able to produce enough energy to keep you going. As a naturopathic doctor, fatigue is one of the primary reasons for visits to my office. I often first assess for deficiencies in the hormonal systems which include the adrenals, thyroid, and sex hormones, with adrenal gland dysfunction being the most overlooked of them all.
Purpose of the Adrenal Glands:
- Support alertness
- Increase metabolism (directly related to energy)
- Regulate blood sugar and ENERGY (cortisol)
- Water balance (aldosterone)
- Repair and rejuvenate cells (testosterone & DHEA)
Adrenal fatigue is one of the main causes of fatigue. If you’ve had a lot of stress in your life, the adrenal glands can get overwhelmed and become dysfunctional. Running an adrenal stress index test (a simple saliva or urine test available through my clinic) is a helpful way to determine if the adrenals are a factor in your fatigue.
Life Stressors that Drain Your Adrenals
Anything that you perceive as stressful is a stressor – it sounds redundant but it’s true. What could be a stressor for one person may not be for another. However, there are common things that cause stress.
- Change in work or home life – like job loss, divorce, separation, death of a loved one
- Chronic illnesses or any health issue that lingers
- The current society stressors of mask-wearing, physical distancing, potential illness
- Planning a big event like a wedding, gala, etc.
- Family challenges – disagreements, children, spouses
In order to see what your adrenal gland is doing, we run a test that’s a snapshot in time. The gold standard test is either saliva or urine samples collected throughout a typical day for you. Blood tests don’t give sufficient information. Your symptoms are then correlated with the results and treatment of the adrenal gland is started if needed, or we keep working to solve the mystery of your fatigue.
My Top 3 Treatments for Healthy Adrenals
#1 Have good daily routines. Hormones love routine! They rise and fall through the day based on the circadian rhythms that are ruled by your waking and sleeping routine as well as the light and dark of the day. Practice getting up, going to bed, and eating about the same time every day, and yes, that means the weekends too. 🙂
#2 Sleep in a dark room. This sends the signal to your body that the adrenal glands’ work for the day is done. Avoid night lights, any lights at night trigger cortisol to increase and disrupts your sleep even more if you’ve gotten up during the night. If you do need a night light, red light is the way to go.
#3 Find healthy ways to deal with stress. Everyone has stress, that’s part of living. Keeping it balanced and having healthy coping mechanisms is the key! Exercise is excellent but also meditating, prayer, gratitude, and nutritious foods help decrease stress.
Incorporating the above treatments into your life will help restore your energy. If it isn’t doing the trick, it just means we need to further assess for other causes of your fatigue. This is where working with a naturopathic doctor makes the difference.
Let me know how this goes. Are you starting to feel more energetic by keeping a routine, sleeping in the dark, and incorporating positive stress coping tools? I’d love to know what works for you!
Dr. Laura Enfield, ND, LAc
Dr. Laura Enfield is a California licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist. She is an expert in helping people with acute and chronic joint pain, digestive issues, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, and thyroid issues.