Chronic stress causes disease, mental illness, poor habits, and decreased life satisfaction. It affects the brain and body by putting the body into a long-term protective mode against unforeseen threats. Short-term this is great because it protects you, but it contributes to burnout, depression, and anxiety in the long term. In addition, long-term stress can contribute to numerous health problems; this article includes the best home remedies for adrenal fatigue.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Many say that “adrenal fatigue” is not an actual condition but rather Addison’s disease, adrenal insufficiency, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction.
Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction is what most refer to as adrenal fatigue. HPA dysfunction causes a wide range of symptoms, but it’s essentially the body’s response to an overload of stress. HPA dysfunction could be because of trauma, nutrient deficiencies, or lack of knowledge of coping with perceived threatening or stressful situations.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Around 50% of patients who suffer from hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction report experiencing childhood trauma. Childhood trauma increases the risk for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) 6-8 fold. Early life trauma impacts the brain development of the subiculum to adversity. (Stephens & Wand, 2012)
Oxidative stress is another factor that can contribute to dysfunction, and this causes stress, environmental toxins, poor diet, etc.
Cortisol can also lead to unhelpful habits by promoting habit-based learning, which can contribute to reinforcing a bad habit. Unfortunately, stress is not something that disappears, but we can balance our cortisol response and improve our thoughts and behaviors to deal with stressful situations more healthily.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue symptoms and burnout include symptoms like:
- Low motivation or energy
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Caffeine, sugar, or carbohydrate cravings
- Anxiety and depression
- Inability to focus
- Frequent illness, poor immune health
How to Test For Adrenal Fatigue
There is a saliva analysis that you can receive the kit at home and send to the labs and have your results emailed to you. A research-backed company called Life Extension offers this service for many different blood and urine tests, allowing you to get an extensive review of what is going on inside your body. You can also talk to doctors and wellness specialists there for free and have them review your results with you.
Calming Home Remedies for Adrenal Fatigue
Home remedies can be a combination of things you already have at home or, in our case, even things you have within you! These are easily accessible tools to help you get your strength and energy back.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is not so much of a home remedy, but there are small changes you can make at home. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a technique used by mental health professionals to help clients overcome poor habits, depression, anxiety, etc. Utilizing different cbt worksheets can be useful for correcting unhelpful thinking, and this is a very effective treatment for improving adrenal fatigue or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction. (Papadopoulos & Cleare, 2012)
Mindfulness focuses on being present and not worrying about anything else around you. You can focus on nature if you want but mainly on breathing techniques, doing a body scan to see if you are holding onto any tension, and focusing on the present moment. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is done with the help of a mental healthcare provider, and it allows you to go further in-depth on how to utilize mindfulness every day.
Most people have cellphones these days and would highly benefit from downloading some guided meditation apps. Meditation often utilizes mindfulness and allows you to focus on bringing yourself back to the present. I prefer to use meditation apps because they help me drown out unhelpful thoughts that may cross my mind and distract me while trying to focus on the present and be grateful for it.
Essential oils are concentrated oils with an aromatic fragrance and therapeutic benefits. For example, lavender is a calming oil that is great for insomnia and anxiety. Orange oil is a pleasant, energizing scent. Combining these two is helpful because individuals with cortisol production issues have too much at night and not enough in the morning.
The use of these two different essentials can be an excellent combination for daily use if applied topically or inhaled by sniffing it on the back of your hand or through the use of a diffuser.
10-30% of the population suffers from insomnia, and up to 50-60% in some people. According to the DSM-V (diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders), the criteria for insomnia is issues sleeping for at least three nights or more per week for longer than three months. Insomnia is a neglected health condition with significant long-term effects, including increased stress response, anxiety, depression, heart disease, cancer, etc.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body at night; however, melatonin can also be supplemented. For example, artificial lighting can suppress melatonin production, caffeine consumption late in the evening, etc. One of the issues with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction is that it causes cortisol levels to be higher at night, which suppresses melatonin production.
Therefore, getting circadian rhythms back to normal can balance cortisol and melatonin production.
Lavender, Chamomile, Valerian, or Passionflower loose leaf teas give you another natural way to calm your mind and body. Drinking small amounts of lavender throughout the day can keep you relaxed, and you can increase your consumption at night to help ease you into a peaceful sleep.
Valerian increases the quality of sleep and helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Passionflower is an excellent addition for individuals who have insomnia.
Energizing Home Remedies for Adrenal Fatigue
There are two sides to adrenal fatigue: anxiety, stress, insomnia, and racing thoughts. The other side is the afternoon crash, the inability to wake up in the morning, the soreness, and the lack of motivation to enjoy the day. This condition can be devastating for many individuals and can feel like a vicious cycle of trying to create balance in your body.
Adaptogenic herbs work wonders in calming the mind and body and energizing them. Adaptogens such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Holy Basil, and Ginseng communicate with the body to bring it down if we are too heightened and give it energy if it is running low. It is best to stick to an adaptogen or an adaptogen supplement for 1-2 months before entirely judging its effects. You can purchase these herbs in capsules or extracts or loose-leaf teas.
Vitamins & Minerals
B-vitamins are in foods such as brown rice, eggs, meat, nuts, and dark leafy greens. There are many b-vitamins, so many people supplement with a b-complex to increase their amount of the most common b-vitamins. Almost all b-vitamins play a role in energy production.
For example, niacin (vitamin b3), also known as niacinamide, is the precursor for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. This antioxidant helps minimize the effects of oxidative stress on the brain and body.
Biotin synthesizes the breakdown of fatty acids from fat in foods to utilize it as energy.
Vitamin and mineral deficiency can play a significant role in overly active stress responses and a lack of energy. When your body is under stress, it can use up vitamins and minerals rather quickly and contribute to deficiencies that make it harder for you to cope with stress.
Low amounts of iron, vitamin b-12, and folate cause anemia, resulting from malabsorption, drug or alcohol usage, or low consumption.
Vitamin C is needed to create carnitine, an amino acid, and cofactor responsible for minimizing muscle soreness and aching.
Magnesium increases the use of ATP for energy production, calms the body, and reduces the stress response. Magnesium taken for anxiety can help with suppressed energy and burnout and support the body's relaxation when needed.
A lack of oxygen in cells and muscles can cause fatigue; this is why exercising is so helpful in fighting fatigue.
Anemia causes low levels of hemoglobin which carries oxygen to the brain and muscles, which require as much as 3.5 ml of oxygen per minute.
Dark leafy greens are oxygen-rich, and they help increase cellular oxygen, providing you with more energy. Supplement with chlorophyll, greens supplement, or some dark, leafy greens to your smoothie or plate can help increase available oxygen.
When B12 levels are low, the body does not have what it needs to replicate red blood cells at the required rate. It also slows down the activation of folate and decreases the production of red blood cells, causing our bodies to be unable to transport oxygen throughout the body. (Tardy et al., 2020)
These home remedies for adrenal fatigue are things you can do or find at home to help you begin feeling like yourself again. Having a daily reminder that you are burnt out, overly stressed, and anxious can be tiresome; here is your opportunity to begin healing. Minimize nutrient deficiencies, learn how to calm our minds, only give attention to beneficial thoughts and utilize essential oils to jump-start your adrenal function today.
Stephens, M. A., & Wand, G. (2012). Stress and the HPA axis: role of glucocorticoids in alcohol dependence. Alcohol research: current reviews, 34(4), 468–483.
Tardy, A. L., Pouteau, E., Marquez, D., Yilmaz, C., & Scholey, A. (2020). Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue, and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients, 12(1), 228. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010228
Papadopoulos, A., Cleare, A. Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis dysfunction in chronic fatigue syndrome. Nat Rev Endocrinol 8, 22–32 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrendo.2011.153