Have you ever felt so exhausted that you just can’t seem to regain energy no matter how much you sleep or how balanced your diet is? If so, you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is when the adrenal glands are exhausted and unable to produce adequate quantities of hormones, primarily cortisol, due to chronic stress or infections. Adrenal fatigue is a term to encompass a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances, low blood pressure, and digestive problems that can occur when adrenal hormones are insufficient.
I’m so Exhausted!
I’ve experienced adrenal fatigue numerous times. In fact, I am currently experiencing an episode and am actually annoyed with myself for not realizing and treating it sooner. I have been exhausted, but more so than my normal exhaustion. I wake up exhausted and there’s nothing I can do to regain energy. I am dragging all day, but then very awake at night and cannot fall asleep. My eyes, hands, and feet get very swollen and puffy. I also get intense salt cravings where all I want to eat is salty chips and popcorn to satisfy this craving. I actually went to the grocery store this morning and wanted to buy a bag of chips to eat for breakfast. That’s how intense my salt cravings can be.
You may be wondering how I figured out that all of these symptoms were actually because of adrenal fatigue. Years ago when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I was also tested for adrenal fatigue, but I did not realize that at the time. I was not diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in a typical way, but rather as the result of my own detective work and with the help of a nurse practitioner I had met through a Facebook group at the time. I had some labs done locally, and she helped me interpret them and I eventually flew to see her in California for further testing and diagnosis. It was during this visit that I did a spit test for cortisol and my adrenal fatigue was detected.
The Answer’s in my Spit!
During the spit test, you collect samples through a 24-hour period in order to see how your cortisol levels change throughout the day. My test came back that my cortisol in the morning was super high, but then be completely depleted and eventually spike up again. It was all over the place. I found out that this is what what causing my salt cravings and irregular sleeping patterns.
By the time I knew it was adrenal fatigue, I was happy that it had a name, but still didn’t really understand how having the diagnosis would help me get through it. With the help of my nurse practitioner, we figured out a regimen that works for me.
She told me to start drinking “adrenaline cocktails” and instructed me on how to prepare them. She said to mix orange (apple or cranberry) juice (preferably, fresh-squeezed, but packaged it okay) with ½ to a whole teaspoon of salt and ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar and then to drink this concoction. The juice provides a quick source of sugar and nutrients, the salt, sodium, and the cream of tartar, potassium, which tend to be lacking during episodes of adrenal fatigue. This cocktail allows all these things to be replaced quickly.
I know what you’re probably thinking: Gross! Who could actually drink that concoction and not get sick? That’s actually a good way to figure out if you have adrenal fatigue. If you suspect you have it, make the cocktail and take a sip. It it actually tastes good to you, you most likely have adrenal fatigue. If it tastes very salty and disgusting, then something else is likely causing your fatigue. Obviously I’m not a doctor, but this is just an at home test that you can try yourself. If you think your suspicion may be correct, contact your doctor and request the spit test to have it confirmed.
Replace and Restore
I usually drink the adrenal cocktail right away when I wake up, as that is when it will help balance the adrenals and give more energy. I few minutes later, I already feel a little better, as if I have just taken a nap. I feel more rested and like I have more energy. Depending on how bad your adrenal fatigue is, you can drink this cocktail up to three times per day. Since I may not know when I’ll have an episode, I usually carry packets of salt with me when I’m out and about and then buy some juice and mix it in. For me, it a very efficient way to balance my adrenals and restore energy. The effects usually last a couple of hours, so it allows me to continue going about my day.
Another supplement that I take to help balance my adrenals is called Ashwaganda. Initially, I didn’t think it was helping, but took it because my nurse practitioner advised me too, but when I stopped taking it for a couple of months, I actually noticed a big difference. I also take B supplements, specifically, B6 and B12, because they help with your adrenals and provide energy. For me personally, I also take supplements to help balance my thyroid antibodies, as they are very high as a result of my Hashimoto’s. This supplement is called Tythrophen PMG. Using this helped decrease my thyroid antibodies, which calmed my body down and made my adrenals not have to work as hard anymore. This combination really helps me recover from episodes of adrenal fatigue.
The final tip I have was also recommended by my nurse practitioner. Before I go to sleep every night, I take 150 mg of magnesium. It helps with sleep as well as helps regenerate your muscles, which also benefits my fibromyalgia. It can also help with migraines, so when I am experiencing a migraine, I will actually increase my dose.
Through the years, I have learned to recognize when I’m having an episode of adrenal fatigue. When I went to the supermarket this morning and bought the bag of chips again intending to eat it for breakfast, I was able to stop myself. I told myself the adrenal cocktail will be better as that will actually help me rather than just trying to fulfill a craving. I’ve learned that intense cravings like this are often because your body is trying to fulfill a need for something missing, in my case, salt and potassium due to adrenal fatigue. When something doesn’t feel right in your body, there is usually a reason. Sometimes it’s necessary to do some detective work to find the cause and give your body what it needs to function at its best capacity.