If you read my blog, you may notice that I have a tendency to bash western doctors, I come down hard on our local healthcare options, and I am very vocal about my mostly negative experiences thus far. Dr. Roberts is everything that I LOVE and is everything that is right with healthcare! If you are a patient of his, you know how incredible he is. And if you aren’t a patient of his, then I would recommend that you pay him a visit some time. Adrenal Fatigue is a matter that is close to my heart. It was something Dr. Roberts hit on long before anyone else was to discover it, and I am happy to say that I am currently being treated for it by my alternative doctor in Tennessee. We are blessed to have him in Lebanon with us. It is my honor to feature him as a guest blogger on The Southern Well Nut!
So you are an overachieving female. All your life you’ve never taken the easy way out and always been someone to be counted on to get the job done. You made it through college or worked your way up in your chosen career, married, have 2-3 kids, you are between 30-50 years old, and everything appears to be going great. You are a trusted employee and the glue that holds your family together. However you have a secret. You’re so tired.
Because you are a strong woman and everyone counts on you, you would never admit this to anyone. But you can’t deny the symptoms. When you sit down it becomes harder to motivate yourself to get up and do anything, even if it is something you enjoy. You begin to wonder if you are getting early onset Alzheimer’s disease because you can’t remember anything and are always in a state of brain fog. You know exercise would help but exercise actually makes you feel worse while everyone else brags about how much better it makes them feel. You are craving sugar which gives you a brief but short lived burst of energy until you crash again. Weight gain around your midsection is becoming an issue regardless of how much you diet or exercise. Your libido is not what it used to be. Even if you sleep through the night you don’t feel rested. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get out of bed in the mornings whereas before you would spring out of bed. Your sleep is interrupted because you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep or night sweats keep you awake. Also, why am I getting anxiety? You ask yourself is this the result of just getting older or am I already going through menopause?
The good news is that your symptoms are likely not from premature menopause or aging, but the result of two little glands sitting on top of your kidneys working too hard. These little glands are called your adrenals and they have been overworked for the last few years and are now rebelling on you. Your adrenals have many functions but one of the primary ones is to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is released in response to stress or a low blood sugar situation. As a general rule, cortisol will raise your blood sugar and give you that get up and go feeling. It is the opposite of melatonin, so cortisol should be high in the morning to get you going and low in the evening. Whereas melatonin is low in the morning and high in the evening to help with sleep.
During the night you will get small amounts of cortisol being released to keep your blood sugar at an appropriate level to keep your brain alive. When the adrenal glands are so beat up that they can no longer produce cortisol, they will release the backup hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine and that is the reason your sleep has become disrupted. So instead of releasing cortisol at night, your adrenals release adrenaline and norepinephrine flooding your blood with glucose (same thing occurs when fighting a tiger, i.e. fight or flight). When this occurs you will wake up and have difficulty getting back to sleep. After you fall back to sleep, the cycle will repeat itself a few more times during the night resulting in you having to drag yourself out of bed in the morning. Since the adrenaline is still circulating in your system, you won’t be hungry either (who wants to eat breakfast while fighting a tiger and with no sleep).
One of the precursors to making cortisol is called pregnenolone. Unfortunately, pregnenolone is also a precursor to estrogen. Because keeping your brain alive is more of a priority than making a baby, your adrenals will “steal” the pregnenolone at the expense of your estrogen. This will result in you getting all the symptoms of an estrogen deficiency. Hence the brain fog, forgetfulness, and hot flashes. In this estrogen deficient state, your body will try to do what it can to produce estrogen. Guess what else can produce estrogen, belly fat. This is why women gain weight after they go through menopause or have their ovaries taken out.
Since your ability to effectively manage blood sugar is now compromised, you are starting to crave sugar for the energy. You are trying to exogenously manage your glucose levels via sugar intake. Eating something sweet will give you a short lived burst of energy (just like cortisol raising your blood sugar) until you crash again and are looking for something sweet. This is why the combination of caffeine and sugar in a soda works well for you, albeit temporarily. The sugar raises your blood glucose and the caffeine stimulates a little bit of a cortisol release from the already beat up adrenals (kind of like beating a dying horse).
The body is also very reliant on cortisol production for effective exercise. Therefore when you do exercise hard you are once again calling upon the adrenals to fire and beating the dying horse again. Replacing the glycogen stores in your muscles is impaired causing you to have a hard time recovering from exercise. This is why exercise makes you feel bad but everyone else feels good.
So now that we know the cause of your issues how can we help it? One of the best things that has worked over the years to help heal adrenal fatigue in about 80% of the cases is the following concoction: mix ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar with a ½ cup of orange or pineapple juice and drink at bedtime for eight weeks (I would recommend pineapple juice over orange juice if you have an acidic stomach). Cream of tartar is actually the residue found in the bottoms of wine barrels and has a high potassium content. Potassium has a net positive effect of helping to heal the adrenal glands. The orange or pineapple juice helps to stabilize the blood glucose levels at night to inhibit the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine. After five to ten days of doing this you will experience that you are waking less at night, having less night sweats, and waking more refreshed. After two weeks, generally your energy and endurance will begin to improve. This cream of tartar mixture works remarkably well.
Since chronic stress is the main reason your adrenal glands have become fatigued in the first place, anything you can do to reduce stress can help. Studies have shown that deep breathing and meditation can help. When you take a deep breath, oxygen reaches into the lower parts of your lungs to stimulate receptors that feedback to the adrenals telling them to relax. When stressed, your breathing is shallow and the receptors in the lower parts of your lungs are not stimulated. There is a plethora of meditation and breathing techniques but I like to keep it simple. I’m a fan of six second box breathing in which you inhale deeply through your nose for six seconds, hold it for six seconds, exhale for six seconds, and hold again for six seconds before repeating. This works quite well and can be done for a few minutes daily.
The above approach won’t work for everybody but does work for the majority. Adrenal fatigue can get very complicated and sometimes requires supplemental interventions to help move folks to better health. But give the cream of tartar mixture and deep breathing a try and see what it does for you.
Dr. Jeff Roberts, a 1998 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic, has practiced in Lebanon, KY for 18 years.