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Adrenal Fatigue & What To Do About It

Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.

Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.

But what happens when they become “overworked?”

You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?

Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body’s “fight or flight” response.

Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body’s normal reaction to stress.  Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.

After a short time, the flight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.

But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?

It wouldn’t feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) “rush,” anymore would it?

And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?

They’d get fatigued, right?


Do I have adrenal fatigue?

When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.

Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

First off, I have to tell you that there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognised by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.

However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).


What to do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.

Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tonnes of ideas about how you can reduce your stress. My favourites are meditation, walking in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or taking a bath.

Of course, I also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So go ahead and do it.


Conclusion

Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.

Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.

The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or even a lovely bath.

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Is salt bad for you?

Salt Is Bad For You, Right?

Is Salt Bad For You?

The NHS, world health organisation, UK government guidelines and most conventional healthcare providers will insist that salt is bad for you and that you can only benefit from restricting salt as much as possible. They tell us that the problem with processed foods and fast food is the salt and fat! Fat is a whole other topic that I won’t go into right now, but let me tell you that it is not the salt that you need to worry about.

So why has there been so much drama about salt? Well, old, poor quality and biased research indicated that too much salt caused high blood pressure in a small percentage of the population. As it turns out, the salt sensitive among us become desensitised to salt when sugar intake is reduced. Consequently, salt has been demonised ever since. There has been very mixed research results since leaving everyone understandably confused.


Here’s the science behind how sugar causes salt sensitivity:

High sugar= increased cortisol= insulin resistance = increased salt sensitivity= increased blood pressure on high salt diet. 

Also: Insulin resistance can lead to fructose begin formed in the brain from glucose= increased ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone)= increased cortisol (as above)


So Should We Just Restrict Salt Anyway?

No! Some of the few helpful findings from this early research was that severely salt restricted diets actually lead to an increase in blood pressure and in some cases heart failure and even death! The important fact that has been completely ignored is that we actually need salt; or sodium, which is an electrolyte and essential for life.

Salt is required for many physiological functions and, therefore, lack of salt will mean your body performs sub-optimally.

Physically you might experience salt inadequacy or deficiency as:
– fatigue
– muscle cramping
– muscle pain
– brain fog
– poor exercise recovery
– sugar and or salt cravings

These are symptoms that I see in my clients frequently. If said clients eat well (few processed foods) and also doesn’t consume much salt, then I get them eating more and very often the symptoms disappear.  Interestingly, it’s those who eat very cleanly (meaning very few takeaways and processed foods) that are most at risk of developing salt deficiency. Add to that a good exercise routine and lots of water and you’re almost certainly deficient! Did you know that you will lose around 2g of salt per hour of exercise! If you’re someone who is prone to sweating you’ll be losing even more.

Dr DiNicolantonio, cardiologist and author of the fascinating book ‘The Salt Fix’, outlines many reasons why restricting salt intake is detrimental to health. Here’s just a few complications restriction can cause:
– high bad (LDL) cholesterol
– low good (HDL) cholesterol
– high triglycerides
– hardening of the arteries
– inflammation
– reduced kidney function
– insulin resistance
– increased cortisol (a stress hormone)
– increased risk of blood clots
– increased heart rate
– sugar cravings & increased appetite
– weight gain
– fat retention
– fatty liver
– increased anxiety

If you have tried eating cleanly but haven’t managed to correct some of the above stubborn issues, try adding a little more salt to the diet.

How Much Salt Should You Have?

Dr DiNicolantonio has concluded that between 3-6g daily of natural salt (rock salt or sea salt, not chemical salt) is optimal. Your individual need will vary greatly depending on your activity level, food choices and over factors like stress. Also, conditions like chronic kidney disease can make you a salt waster, meaning your kidneys struggles to retain salt. In this instance, you would likely require a greater intake of salt. I recommend consulting a functional medicine practitioner (that includes nutritional therapists and some private doctors) if you have serious medical condition.
It can be difficult to measure your salt intake but there is an easy way of determining whether you need more salt.
The body regulates salt intake in the same way it regulates water intake. If we need water we feel thirsty. If we need salt then we will crave salt or salty foods. Sometimes though, sugar cravings can mask the salt cravings. So if you’re finding yourself craving sugar this could be another sign of salt deficiency. I personally find that sugar cravings are banished almost instantaneously after having a pinch of salt.  Salt makes vegetables taste better too so a good way to start is to add salt to your vegetables. This should help you to consume more vegetables too!

Here’s one final pearl of wisdom, your body strives to keep an ideal balance between sodium and water. If you are salt deficient you’ll likely struggle to drink enough water!

Further Reading…

I cannot recommend enough the book ‘The Salt Fix’ by Dr DiNicolantonio. He takes you through how we are salty beings and how we have evolved from the salty sea. He discusses the research in-depth and takes you through human physiology and  fascinating case studies.

 

weight loss braintree

Case Study: Fatigue and Bloating

Tracey, age 36, Mum of one and living with partner.

Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.

 

Health concern(s):

Feeling tired all of the time and suffering with frequent constipation and bloating.

 

Reason for Contacting Louise Digby Nutrition

Had previously tried seeing her GP Read More

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