Adrenal Fatigue and Bee Pollen
How superfoods like bee pollen and royal jelly can help deliver you from the depths of adrenal fatigue and burnout
As a Holistic Nutritionist, I'm getting asked about a rather new phenomenon called adrenal fatigue more and more frequently. It doesn't surprise me one bit.
It seems to me that pretty much everyone is stressed out these days. Don’t get me wrong, a little stress is okay and we need it – it's just when it starts to creep in and take over our life that it one ends up with adrenal fatigue and you really start to suffer, along with the people around you.
How Stress Affects Us
Cortisol is one of the main hormones that the adrenals produce. The adrenals also produce other hormones such as DHEA, androstenedione, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
Cortisol gets us up in the morning and keeps us sharp and able to handle our day. Problems begin to occur when we expose ourselves to chronic stress over long periods of time. Do any of the following describe you?
- Road rager
- Parent of young kids and a lack of sleep
- Financially stressed
- Enduring relationship or family stress
- Type “A” personality
- Inability to say “no"
When we are in this chronically stressed state, it is only a matter of time before we start to experience the negative health effects of this. For example, I know when I am on the limit because I can’t sleep, my moods change, I get night sweats, I get irritable and I don’t want to talk to anyone!
These are the early warning signals that you badly need take a 'chill pill' and begin to support your adrenals with rest, nutrition and proper supplementation.
What are the Adrenal Glands?
The adrenals are the stress glands (they sit right above our kidneys) and work with all the other glands, especially the thyroid. Because they work together as a team, both need to be in good working order to maintain homeostasis (balance) within the body. Unfortunately, stress is the culprit for many disorders because it can block many other processes from happening in the body.
This is because during stress the body goes into “fight or flight” and enter our natural preservation mode storing fat, shutting down any other non-life threatening processes in order to survive. Over time, this nonstop state of “fight or flight” leads to a mountain of health problems.
Symptoms of Adrenal Stress
So how do you know, beyond your intuition, if you have significant adrenal stress? I've compiled a comprehensive list below. You may experience some or all of these if you have adrenal fatigue. Use it as a starting point but know that you may have other symptoms not included in this list.
- You crave salty foods
- You have insomnia in which you fall asleep but wake up several hours later and can’t go back to sleep
- You feel exhausted when you wake up in the morning and fatigue is not improved with sleep
- You lack energy and libido
- You feel like you are pushing yourself through the day just to survive
- Little stressors make you feel anxious and angry
- You suffer from recurring infections
- You have chronic respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies
- You take longer than you should to recover from sickness
- You have low blood pressure and may feel faint when you stand up quickly from a sitting position
- Depressed mood and you may lack interest in things that used to make you feel happy
- You need coffee or other stimulants
- You have extreme hot flashes, night sweats, or PMS
- Your memory seems to be failing and you may feel like you have cotton in your head
- You are exhausted by walking up the stairs or doing simple tasks
- You feel like you are dragging yourself through the day, but wake up after dinner
- Your face and neck look suntanned, but you haven't been in the sun
What Happens to Your Body in a Stressed State:
When you are in a chronically stressed state, a cascade of hormonal changes begin to take place which often result in thyroid and estrogen dominance issues. These in turn lead to additional health problems. It really is like a snowball rolling downhill. Unfortunately, your health is the snow ball.
- The liver needs to produce more cholesterol to make hormones which results in increased cholesterol.
- You produce more Cortisol. Increased Cortisol inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3 thyroid hormone (active form)
- This results in low thyroid (not fun – this is when you gain tons of weight, have ZERO energy, hair falls out, no libido, infertility, cold all the time)
- When under stress, progesterone is used to make more cortisol. This results in increased estrogen levels because progesterone is not keeping estrogen levels balanced.
- This results in estrogen dominance which can lead to fibroids, cysts, cancers, irregular periods, PMS, out of control emotions and more
- If you're in Menopause, the adrenals take over as the ovaries decrease production. If the adrenals are exhausted, the worst symptoms of menopause will occur like major hot flashes, forgetfulness and mood swings.
Living in a state of chronically elevated cortisol levels is a recipe for disaster. Research now correlates chronically elevated cortisol levels with the following:
- Memory problems
- Breast cancer
- Poor sleep quality
- Blood sugar problems, decreased DHEA,
- Fat accumulation, compromised immune function, bone loss and heart disease, Alzheimer’s, inflammatory conditions, osteoporosis.
If you're living with adrenal fatigue, the last thing you likely want is something else to do or worry about. Ignoring the issue will only lead to greater health challenges and a rapidly declining standard of living. You must begin to deal with your adrenal fatigue. So let's get started.
What to Eat to Treat Adrenal Fatigue
Health starts with nutrition. Treating adrenal fatigue is no different. Here is what I recommend:
- Eat a wide variety of whole, natural foods. Eliminate processed foods.
- Combine fat, protein, and starchy carbohydrates (such as whole grains) at every meal and every snack. This combination provides a steady source of energy over a longer period of time because they are converted into glucose at different rates. Also, these three as energy sources put less strain on every part of your body—including your adrenals.
- Eat lots of brightly colored veggies, which are especially rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.
- Salt food to your taste.
- Eat mainly whole grains as starchy carbohydrate sources.
- Combine grains with beans, seeds or nuts to form a complete protein.
- Avoid fruit in the morning.
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons of essential fatty acids into grains, vegetables, and meats daily.
Increase your intake of vitamin C, magnesium, and pantothenic acid during times of stress.
Food sources of magnesium include: brown rice, beans, nuts, seeds, and sea vegetables such as kelp (the highest source).
Food sources of pantothenic acid include: brewer's yeast, organ meats, legumes, and eggs.
- Include plenty of fiber. When you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, mild constipation can be present. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet not only improves bowel motion and re-establishes normal bowel function, but it also helps strengthen your adrenal function.
When your adrenal glands are fatigued, cortisol levels drop lower than normal. This makes it more difficult for your body to maintain normal blood sugar levels. As a result, people with adrenal fatigue tend to also have low blood sugar. If you have adrenal fatigue, when you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Low blood sugar is in itself a stressful situation that further drains your adrenals. Therefore, avoid letting your blood sugar levels drop too low by eating natural, high-quality food at frequent, regular intervals. This will make a difference to your adrenal health as well as to your energy level
Super Food Supplements That Fix Adrenal Fatigue
- Bee Pollen - take 1 tablespoon 1-3 x per day
- Royal Jelly - take 1000 mg 2-3 x per day
- Maca - a Peruvian root that is very effective at supporting and healing the adrenals. I recommend Ultimate Maca by Brad King. Maca is an adaptogen. According to Brad, an adaptogen is a substance which brings the body to a heightened state of resistance to disease through physiological and emotional health. Adaptogens help increase the body's natural resistance to environmental stressors. Maca is one of the most powerful adaptogen plants known.
- AdrenaSmart by Lorna Vanderhaeghe. I highly recommend Adrenasmart along with Bee Pollen and Royal Jelly during adrenal recovery and during stressful times. Adrenal recovery can take anywhere from 3 months to over 1 year, so be patient. Take Adrenasmart in the afternoon with a protein snack. 2-4 caps per day. Start with 1 or 2, and see how you feel because it is very potent. A 150 lb adult can start with 2 caps per day.
- Thyroid support. Some people find that they have symptoms of low thyroid as well as adrenal fatigue. This is very common because the two go hand in hand. High cortisol (from the adrenals) can block thyroid hormone and result in symptoms of low thyroid (cold hands and feet, depression, no energy, hair falling out, night sweats, infertility and more) In this case, use the product ThyroSmart.
- Sleepsmart by Lorna Vanderhaeghe - I recommend Sleepsmart during the first stage of adrenal recovery. Sleep is most affected by fatigued adrenals; specifically the lack of falling sleep or disrupted sleep. Sleep will also help heal the adrenals. So the first stage is to give some extra (non-habit forming) natural sleep aids such as the herbs and nutrients found in Sleepsmart. Take 1 per day before bed.
Vitamins and Minerals That Support the Adrenals
- B-Vitamin Complex (found in Bee Pollen or in a capsule)
- Vitamin B5 (found in Royal Jelly)
- Magnesium (found in Magsmart by Lorna Vanderhaeghe)
- Vitamin C (1000-5000mg/day)
- Multi-Vitamin with Minerals (found in Multismart by Lorna Vanderhaeghe)
- EFAs (Essentials Fatty Acids)
Adrenal fatigue is a serious issue facing thousands and thousands of people today. Unfortunately, I've met people with complete adrenal failure, a point they're reached after many years of not supporting their adrenal glands with proper nutrition, supplementation and rest. It was not a pretty picture!
Don't forget to do some stress relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, going for a walk in nature, read a book, enjoy a vacation, dance, play with your children, laugh, go to the spa...you get the idea. A positive change in attitude and lifestyle is key to a long healthy life, and healing the adrenals.
So do yourself a favor and take some of my recommendations to heart - your adrenal glands will thank you.