Fatigued?10 ways to replenish your reserves
If you find yourself drinking coffee while alternating eating sweet and salty foods, your energy plummets after lunch, and you feel as though you have to struggle to maintain a good mood and have good sleep, then you may have something commonly referred to as adrenal fatigue.
The background story with adrenal fatigue usually involves a person who has a history of burning the candle at both ends or has had chronic exposure to extreme stress, or both.
Adrenal fatigue can cause myriad health problems. At the root of those is endocrine (hormonal) disruption that often starts with imbalanced cortisol levels. which may lead to further imbalances in estrogen, testosterone, progesterone and other hormones.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue can include (but are not limited to) allergies, exhaustion, fibromyalgia-like pain, chronic lower back pain, low libido, insomnia, infertility, food cravings, mood swings and gastrointestinal problems.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the concept of adrenal fatigue is related to the kidney organ system. In TCM, the kidneys are our root source of energy and provide vigor for life.
I like to use the analogy that we are all born with a tank of gas (“kidney qi”). As we move through life, we utilize the gas in our tank for energy. Just like in a car, our gas tanks must be replenished to keep moving forward.
Unlike a car, the body has mechanisms in place to keep moving on an empty tank, at least for a while. It can march forward on fumes and when the fumes are gone, it starts to eat its own gas tank.
By the time you are eating your own gas tank for survival, you have a pretty big hole to dig yourself out of. However, it can be done. It requires an investment of time and energy and diligent focus on replenishing your energetic reserves.
So how do you do it? You decide to put yourself and your health first. Here are some general ideas to get the process started:
1. Simplify and prioritize your life. Life coaching and behavioral health services can be helpful in this area.
2. Meditate and practice qigong/tai chi. Meditation quiets the mind and calms the nervous system, bringing the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems together to work in harmony with one another.
There are helpful meditation apps and guiding meditations online. Qigong/tai chi is a form of meditation that can cultivate qi/energy.
3. Avoid coffee, sugar and other stimulants that artificially increase energy and weaken adrenal function.
4. Eat regular meals at consistent times each day to stabilize blood sugar and help your body know that it can depend on you for nourishment.
5. Exercise, but do not overexercise. Learn to listen to your body and do what makes you feel good.
6. Seek advice from a health care provider who recognizes the concept of adrenal fatigue. Practitioners who practice functional medicine can prescribe saliva tests which accurately measure cortisol and sex hormones throughout the course of one day.
“One advantage of saliva testing over blood or urine testing is that saliva testing can be done at several specific times during the day. It is noninvasive and is best used to evaluate hormone balances related to adrenal function,” says Joseph Ellerin, an acupuncturist, homeopath and functional medicine practitioner.
7. TCM practitioners can analyze your system for individual diagnosis and correlating treatment plans using Chinese herbs, acupuncture and specific dietary recommendations.
8. Eat healthy fats such as coconut oil, coconut milk, grass-fed butter and organic olive oil.
9. Eat lots of dark green leafy greens, such as kale, chard and seaweed.
10. Take adaptogens. Adaptogens are plant-based substances that can change the way the body physiologically responds to stress in a less draining way.
In today’s society, recharging our energetic reserves sometimes seems to be looked down upon. Yet, to have ultimate productivity and ideal health, we need ample rest and nutrition. It is that simple.
Admittedly, simple does not equal easy, but you can do it. Choose you. Get better. Enjoy your life.
Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine.
Learn more at hhacumed.com, or call Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions at 256-8449.