Natural, Holistic Treatment of Adrenal Fatigue
It is possible to reverse Adrenal Fatigue successfully and recapture your zest and energy for life. However, treating Adrenal Fatigue effectively requires healing the entire stress response system, not just the sluggish adrenal glands. This is the key to restoring adrenals and successful recovery.
Adrenal Fatigue affects the whole body because it is an imbalance in the stress response system. It’s important to understand this connection in order to understand how to reverse adrenal fatigue.
Understanding Your Stress Response System
The stress response system includes three important system:
- The Limbic System
- The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis) which is part of the Endocrine System
- The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
All three systems must be rebalanced to restore adrenals. But healing Adrenal Fatigue effectively all starts with repairing the damage that’s taken place at the brain level.
The Limbic System
The limbic system of the brain is the “CEO” of your stress response system. It’s the region of the brain in charge of keeping all of our organs running. It controls many of our “autopilot” functions, such as temperature regulation, sleep-wake cycles, and appetite and hunger signals.
One of the most important jobs of the limbic system is making the subconscious decision for your body to be in fight-or-flight mode when necessary. Once that decision is made, it simultaneously triggers both the nerve and hormone sides of the stress response. Then, the adrenal glands pump out stress hormones.
HPA Axis (Hypothalmic-Pituitary-Adrenal)
The hormone side of the stress response is referred to as the HPA Axis (Hypothalmic-Pituitary-Adrenal). The hypothalamus and pituitary sit just under the limbic system in the brain. They are responsible for triggering the adrenals to release cortisol.
ANS (The Autonomic Nervous System)
The Autonomic Nervous System (or ANS) consists of a network of nerves that control your organs. They also send signals to your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline.
It helps to think of the ANS as having two wires from your brain that travel to every organ in the body. One wire is a “fight-or-flight” and the other is a “rest-and-digest.” These functions oppose one another; the ANS can only fire off one wire at a time. When a person is stuck in fight-or-flight mode, the body is hyper-focused on survival and nothing else.
Different Manifestations of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue can have many variations. Effective treatment of adrenal fatigue requires identifying whether the HPA Axis or the ANS is more out of balance. This requires a case by case assessment.
When a patient displays a rapid heartbeat while under stress, it is primarily the result of an imbalance in the main fight-or-flight nerve to the heart, and therefore, an ANS issue. But another patient who suffers from low blood sugar, which results from a cortisol imbalance, has a predominantly HPA axis issue.
Nerves are inherently different from hormones. Thus, individual assessment and treatment is essential to healing Adrenal Fatigue.
All that said, you absolutely cannot affect one of these systems without affecting the other. They work together intimately. Effective healing will both prioritize the healing as well as work on all three systems at once.
Fight or Flight: The Limbic System in Overdrive
The limbic system’s job is to assess your environment consistently, both internally and externally. It first receives information—or stimuli—through the blood supply or sensory nerves and perception. It then filters that stimulus through your past experiences and belief systems. Then it determines whether the environment is safe or if there is a possible threat
When the limbic system perceives a threat, it tells the adrenals, via the HPA Axis and the ANS, to get busy flooding our body with stress hormones. These stress hormones are adrenaline and cortisol, and they help our bodies mobilize and kick in our fight-or-flight response.
The adrenaline and cortisol tell your heart to beat faster and give you the oxygen you need to avoid danger. They increase blood sugars for energy and prepare your muscles for whatever is coming your way, no matter how big or small the threat.
Most Adrenal Fatigue patients have an over-sensitive Limbic System that inaccurately assesses the environment, perceiving threats everywhere.The fight or flight response is life-saving when it is turned on for a truly threatening situation. But if it’s triggered by more trivial stressors, the constant flood of adrenaline and cortisol causes tremendous wear and tear on your body.
Modern Life and Stress
Adrenal Fatigue is due to an overstressed system — but what’s the source of this stress?
Our limbic system evolved thousands of years ago. The scenarios humans commonly faced then were often immediately life-threatening: potential starvation, wild animals hunting us down, and environmental changes we could not control.
But today, our lives are full of so many “little” stressors. From packed schedules to stressors we can’t control, like environmental toxins, our limbic system is constantly working overtime. Even the “normal” life changes we face can cause unnecessary stress. For example, a promotion to a higher job position, although a positive move, is often perceived as a stressor to our limbic system.
Each time we’re stressed, cortisol and adrenaline flood the whole body, including the limbic system itself. Thus, our limbic system, by its own doing, is swimming in stress hormones, and it becomes chronically overstimulated and even trigger-happy. When you’re consistently in fight-or-flight mode, your body never has a chance to come down, reset, and heal.
How Adrenaline and Cortisol Cause Adrenal Fatigue
When the limbic system is overstimulated, the adrenal stress hormones begin to do damage to the limbic system itself. The more time passes, the more this increases the body-wide drain and dysfunction. How long were we designed to run from a predator? How long can our bodies hold out? Not long.
But these constant daily—sometimes hourly—stressors are always firing cortisol and adrenaline. We get “stuck” in a chronic stress response and become increasingly sensitive to our environment.
We start to over-interpret our world as stressful. Things that wouldn’t have stressed us in the past now trigger our stress hormones, which feels like panic or anxiety. We can’t seem to get our bodies out of fight-or-flight mode…even at the grocery store.
This causes a vicious cycle of a chronic stress response, even when there are no stressors present.
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The Sooner You Treat Adrenal Fatigue, The Better
The longer your chronic stress response is off-balance, the more each of the body’s global operations can be thrown into chaos. Chronic overstimulation of the limbic system—and as a result, the rest of the stress response—has detrimental effects on the body.
Adrenal Fatigue is directly related to the burden of chronic stress on the body. It can manifest many ways, but here are some of the most common symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:
- Low energy levels
- Body-wide aches and pains
- Unwanted weight gain
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Intensified mood swings and irritability
- Slowed digestion and GI dysfunction
- Worsening menopausal symptoms
- Beginning thyroid disorders
Healing Adrenal Fatigue Effectively
What Other Adrenal Fatigue Treatments Are Missing
Most practitioners chase symptoms and pay no attention to the underlying cause. They provide a band-aid solution to what is essentially a deep, infected wound in your stress response system.
Of course you have digestive, immune, and reproductive system problems; when your body is stuck in fight-or-flight, it suppresses these very systems. But the root cause of these symptoms lies in restoring the adrenals.
A quick approach to Adrenal Fatigue will never work. Why? The actual adrenal gland dysfunction is only part of Adrenal Fatigue.
Other doctors or healers may even offer supplements or diets that provide “adrenal support.” However, these types of quick fixes do not treat the whole of the stress response system, which also needs specific attention and repair.
The Goal: Calming an Overworked Limbic System
To heal Adrenal Fatigue completely—and for good—we must focus on the function of the entire stress response system, and we must do it at the same time.
As discussed earlier, the stress response system involves the brain (the limbic system), nerves (the autonomic nervous system), and hormones (the HPA axis). You wouldn’t try to heal one part and leave the others unwell, would you?
When we treat the root cause of Adrenal Fatigue, your limbic system begins to calm and repair. It will no longer constantly trigger your adrenals. As a result, you’ll begin to feel a lift in energy levels.
How to Reverse Adrenal Fatigue
A holistic and effective approach to healing adrenal fatigue includes all these factors:
- Saliva and blood testing to assess your body’s unique needs
- Nuanced evaluation of test results, alongside a full analysis of symptoms and individual history and health background
- An individualized supplement regimen
- A “Stress-Less Diet” with smaller portions, regulated fat-protein ratios, and more regular mealtimes
- Stress-reducing routines and exercises
- Lifestyle modifications that allow your body to slow down
- A guided approach to calming any food sensitivities
- Treatment of symptoms while healing the stress response system at its core
This is the general protocol we follow in my Adrenal Fatigue healing program. Effective Adrenal Fatigue treatment is different for everyone, because everyone’s body is unique genetically and biochemically. Each patient experiences slightly different symptoms and which must be addressed accordingly.
Depending on your symptoms and body markers, the stress response system must be targeted from a variety of angles.
Life After Effective Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
Most people who’ve been suffering from Adrenal Fatigue for a long time can’t imagine getting their life back. But we’ve seen many patients do the rewarding work of holistically treating Adrenal Fatigue—and healing their bodies for good!
You can feel energized, pain-free, inflammation-free, and enjoy a comfortable weight, easy digestion, fewer allergic reactions—and so much more. It just takes dedication to adhering to an individualized plan for treating Adrenal Fatigue.