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Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue
By: Bret Ellington L.Ac, MS

Is your energy level low? Do you feel tired even after you sleep? Do you find you have difficulty concentrating and feel overwhelmed? These are all signs of Adrenal Fatigue. Although a doctor coined the term "Adrenal Fatigue" back in 1998, it is not considered an accepted medical diagnosis (at this point), but the term is being used more frequently and should be addressed. What we're talking about, when we mention adrenal fatigue, is a group of nonspecific symptoms people experience when their adrenals are not functioning at optimal performance. Other signs and symptoms besides excessive fatigue may include: poor digestion, craving salty and/or sweet foods, joint pain, impaired memory, reduced sex drive, anxiety and irritability. Acupuncture, dietary changes and Chinese herbs are excellent tools to boost the adrenals and restore proper function.

What are Adrenal Glands?
Adrenal glands are glands within the endocrine system. The endocrine system is in charge of making hormones and secreting them directly into your blood. The ovaries, testes, thyroid and pituitary are also glands of the endocrine system. You have two adrenals which are located on top of each kidney. The medulla (core) of the adrenals produce epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine, which are responsible for the "fight or flight" response. The cortex is the area surrounding the core and is responsible for fluid and electrolyte balance in the body using corticosteroids. These corticosteroids are responsible for the proper metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates and are anti-inflammatory in nature. With the way we push the adrenals constantly with high-pressured jobs and fast paced lifestyles, it's easy to see how you can easily drain these precious organs and end up feeling overwhelmed.

What and when should you eat?
For many people, there is a correlation between adrenal fatigue and low blood sugar, so it is important to eat good natural foods at regular intervals to avoid a drop in blood sugar, which can exasperate your condition. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to eat first thing in the morning. While you're sleeping, your body is using up its reserved energy and you need to replenish it as soon as you can. The energy you give your body from breakfast is used up quickly, so it's a good idea to have an early lunch or at least have a nourishing snack a few hours after breakfast.

It's important that all of your meals contain protein, fat and carbohydrates. You need all three components to fuel your body throughout the day. Eating organic foods is your best choice, but this can also get really expensive. If you cant afford to buy all organic, I highly recommend that you eat organic meats and dairy products. There are just too many preservatives, hormones and antibiotics added to meat. 6-8 servings of vegetables a day is also recommended. Try and eat as wide of a variety of them as you can. Eating seasonal vegetables is always a great idea, so check out your local farmers market. For those that suffer from adrenal fatigue due to blood sugar issues, you should be careful about what and how much fruit you eat. Due to high sugar levels, people with adrenal fatigue should avoid bananas, grapefruit, dates, figs, raisins and oranges. Better choices are apples, mango, papaya, plums cherries and pears. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, you may find yourself in constant need of that next cup of coffee. Unfortunately, this can further deplete the adrenals, spiraling your health downward. Coffee, chocolate, alcohol and soft drinks should all be avoided. Water is your best choice. Other healthy choices are green tea, herbal teas, natural vegetable juices, goat's milk and carob (a great substitute for chocolate beverages).

In Chinese Medicine, the adrenal glands are treated the same as the kidneys. When we treat, we want to find the root cause of your illness and treat you accordingly. We may choose to supplement a deficiency or possibly drain an excess condition. Our goal is to get you back to where you should be, without giving you a false sense of energy. In the case of adrenal fatigue, we give yin tonics to boost you up from within, unlike caffeine or an energy drink. These herbs won't give you the quick, artificial boost of energy. That's not what they're designed for. Instead, these herbs will help rebuild what you have been depleting from your body for years. The goal is to get you back to feeling great from the moment you wake up and maintaining good energy throughout the day, without being reliant on sugar, caffeine and artificial energy boosters that leave you feeling worse hours later.

About the author:

Bret Ellington is a specialist in treating pain using Traditional Oriental Medicine. He is the owner of Inner Balance Acupuncture, located in south Orange County, California. Graduating with a Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine, Bret is a Licensed Acupuncturist in California and a Diplomate in Acupuncture from the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He works with athletes, accident victims and even in conjunction with victims from Survivors of Torture International. Please visit www.InnerBalanceAcupuncture.com to learn more.