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Some Women Are Running on Adrenal Fatigue and Don’t Know It (+ Ways to Reverse It)

Feeling like you’re running on empty these days? Well, you actually might be. Dr. James Wilson notes in his book “The 21st Century Stress Syndrome” that up to 80 percent of adult Americans suffer some level of adrenal fatigue.

And among those 80 percent? You will find many mothers–you just might be one of them if you’re constantly feeling drained. Whether you’ve been told you are experiencing adrenal fatigue or you think it might be the reason you’re feeling burnt out, here’s a possible reason why. We’ve got all the information on adrenal fatigue in moms right here for you. 

What Is Adrenal Fatigue?

First, it’s important to note that the specific term “adrenal fatigue” is not a widely accepted medical diagnosis. There is a lot of controversy in the medical field on if this term should be used at all. It’s more known among the alternative group of medical professionals like holistic doctors, acupuncturists, Chinese medicine practitioners, and naturopathics. Commonly, you will see adrenal fatigue being interchanged between “adrenal insufficiency” and “adrenal disorder.” In this article, we are going to refer to it as adrenal fatigue.

In order to know what adrenal fatigue is, you need to know what adrenals are. The adrenal glands are small organs that sit on top of your kidneys and play a role in dealing with any stress you experience. They are most commonly known for producing a stress hormone called cortisol when your body is under distress. 

Our bodies are really good at handling short-term stress levels. But when we experience prolonged stressors, are constantly in a state of fight or flight, and/or have anxiety daily, some alternative medicine practitioners say that adrenals can become fatigued from constantly working. These long-term stressors are said to deplete your cortisol and lead to negative side effects like decreased sex drive, hair loss, low energy, and more. 

Causes of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is caused by extended stress on the nervous system and body. But stress isn’t just feeling anxious. David Okonkwo, MD, a board-certified physician in New York, says “As it’s aggravated by stress, [adrenal fatigue] can occur due to sleep deprivation, emotional and mental stress, hormonal changes, and lack of personal care.” Essentially, all forms of stress the body goes through can have an effect on the adrenal glands.

Why adrenal fatigue in moms is common

Since adrenal fatigue is linked to excessive amounts of stress, there’s no wonder it’s very common in moms. Sleep-deprived, balancing roles as a mom, sometimes a partner, sometimes a career, laundry, tantrums, dishes–it can be a lot. 

There is no doubt moms experience some form of stress on the daily. Add breastfeeding on top of it all? The majority of your vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats are being transferred to your baby. Mom’s adrenals commonly get burnt out working overtime. And unfortunately, this can cloud your brain and possibly make motherhood less enjoyable.

Signs of Adrenal Fatigue and Burnout

When you’re in a constant state of fight or flight and your adrenals become burnt out, you’ll start to notice some issues arising over time. But what exactly does adrenal fatigue feel like? Amy Myers, MD, a functional medicine physician and New York Times bestselling author lists these symptoms of adrenal fatigue on her patient blog:

  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Body aches and muscle pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Salt and sugar cravings
  • Shakiness or lightheadedness after skipping a meal
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Low libido
  • Infertility
  • Hair loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Seasonal allergies

Experiencing any of these adrenal fatigue symptoms? A great place to start is by seeking a trusted doctor-patient relationship and discussing your symptoms with them. They may suggest testing and/or give recommendations on diet and lifestyle changes to help you feel better.

Managing Adrenal Fatigue

Getting on top of adrenal fatigue quickly is critical to avoiding worsening complications. Adrenal glands that are overworked need extra care to get back to normal. Luckily? Okonkwo says adrenal fatigue is reversible. Here are a few ways you can support healthy glands and get them back to optimal function.

Nutrition

Stay away from caffeine. I know, that can be a hard one–especially for moms. But caffeine activates stress and triggers the production of cortisol. That’s the exact opposite of what you want to do. Instead, Okonkwo encourages eating omega fatty acids-rich foods, lean protein, leafy greens, and staying hydrated. Other examples of food include:

  • Lean meats: beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, and venison
  • Fish
  • Oysters
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Spinach

Supplements & vitamins

Your adrenal glands need extra nutrients when fatigued. And sometimes keeping up with a full nutrient-packed diet is challenging–especially for busy moms. Supplements are a great additive to your adrenal healing routine. Myers suggests the following vitamins, supplements, and herbs for supporting your adrenals.

  • Vitamins B & C
  • Magnesium
  • L-Tyrosine
  • Rhodiola Rosea
  • Panax ginseng
  • Eleuthero
  • Ashwagandha

Lifestyle changes

Think about ways you can reduce stress in your life. Giving yourself some time to relax or finding new ways to cope with stress is critical in reversing adrenal fatigue. Here are some ways to stay in the moment and reduce daily stress.

  • Meditation – meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. Set a timer at the same time each day to take 10 minutes and meditate. A meditation app like Calm can help you get started if you’re new to the practice. 
  • Yoga – this is a powerful activity that can help you find peace amidst the chaos. By focusing on deep mindful breathing and engaging in gentle movements, you can activate the body’s relaxation response and release hidden tension within muscles. Another plus? Yoga encourages you to be present in the moment, letting go of daily worries. 
  • Deep abdominal breathing  – also known as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, abdominal breathing is a technique that involves expanding the abdomen as you inhale and contracting it as you exhale. This form of breathing is great at helping with stress reduction and relaxation.
  • Increasing sleep – this can be a tough one for moms, but finding ways to get a little more rest can do wonders for your adrenals. When your little ones go to bed, try swapping the TV time and scrolling through your phone for some zzzs instead. And if you have the option, have your significant other, family member, or a sitter watch your kids for a few hours while you take a nap a few times a week.

Adrenal fatigue affects many moms, and it’s often overlooked. The demands of modern life, juggling multiple responsibilities, and motherhood pressures can affect our bodies and mental health. This chronic stress can disrupt the delicate balance of our adrenal glands, leading to adrenal fatigue. And if you feel like you’re running on empty, there’s a good chance you actually are.

It is not selfish to take care of yourself. If your adrenals are fatigued, it can be helpful to shift your focus on healing yourself through nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle changes until you recover. 

Think of it like this: Taking the time to heal is an essential investment in your long-term health and happiness. You can’t pour from an empty cup–or fatigued adrenals.