Many people experience low energy and tiredness on a regular basis, which can indicate an illness. Many of these individuals will describe their symptoms to a physician in hopes for a diagnosis and effective treatment. However, physical exams and blood tests will often yield no results and leave patients feeling frustrated. One idea is that these problems stem from adrenal fatigue. People who believe they have adrenal fatigue can also potentially link their illness to a busy lifestyle, a lack of consistent sleep, caffeine addiction, poor nutrition, or really high stress levels. So is there a connection between caffeine and adrenal fatigue? The answer is actually more complex than most people may realize.
What is Adrenal Fatigue
The term “adrenal fatigue,” was coined in 1998 by James Wilson, who was a chiropractor and a naturopath. This term has been used to describe a set of general symptoms for people who have endured long-term mental, physical, and emotional stress. The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidney and produce several hormones. The most notable hormone that the adrenal glands make is cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. Cortisol plays a major role in the body’s stress response and the fight or flight response. It’s also involved in other functions, such as blood pressure regulation, glucose metabolism, immune function, inflammatory response, and insulin release.
So when you’re stressed your adrenal glands release cortisol. The concept behind adrenal fatigue is that when you are under chronic stress then your adrenal glands may not be able to produce enough cortisol in response and this contributes to the adrenal glands not functioning at full capacity. Theoretically those with high stress jobs or are in a continuously stressful situation, such as school, single parenthood, being in debt, etc. is more likely to lead to someone developing adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is not to be confused with adrenal insufficiency, which is diagnosed with a blood test and requires hormone replacement therapy.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is said to be characterized by symptoms such as:
- Difficulty waking up or falling asleep
- Cravings for salt and sugar
- Low energy levels
- Reliance on stimulants, like caffeine
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nonspecific digestive issues
It should be recognized that these are very general symptoms and could be the result of many illnesses. That is why it is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms in order to get the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Some prominent illnesses that resemble these symptoms include anemia, autoimmune diseases, infections, hormonal imbalances, mental illnesses, kidney and liver diseases, and many other medical conditions.
Can Caffeine Cause Adrenal Fatigue?
Caffeine, especially in large amounts, can directly contribute to the development of adrenal fatigue. Consuming caffeine in large amounts every day can put stress on the body, which leads to other problems. While one to possibly two cups of coffee a day may be okay, any more can have several negative effects on the body. This includes making you feel tired after being wired for several hours.
Even having one cup of coffee late in the evening can throw off your body’s natural sleep cycle, leaving you unable to sleep at a reasonable hour and being even more exhausted the next day. Sodas and energy drinks are particularly bad for the body because they contain sugar and caffeine levels that are way over the recommended daily amount. The stress on the body that caffeine causes can interfere with cortisol. That interference can cause the adrenal glands to pump out more cortisol, which results in the issue that is referred to as adrenal fatigue.
Foods for Adrenal Fatigue
Dietary changes have been previously recommended for adrenal fatigue. A nutritious diet is always best for optimal health and diets created for adrenal fatigue usually call for adding more vegetables and fruits. This also means reducing refined sugars and processed foods. Refined sugars are in foods and drinks such as soda, white bread, sports drinks, fruit drinks, breakfast cereals, coffee drinks, desserts (cookies, cakes, and pastries), prepackaged snacks, etc. It is also recommended to reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system and many people who feel exhausted will consume it to get more energy. Cortisol will then spike and when the caffeine’s effects wear off it can leave you feeling even more tired. It’s a continuous cycle that is hard to break once started.
Eating healthy meals regularly throughout the day can help you maintain energy levels, as well as blood sugar levels. Constantly skipping meals will make your body run on reserved energy, which can lead to a multitude of issues. Especially make sure to watch your sugar and caffeine intake to prevent you from crashing later in the day. Studies do suggest that a cup of black coffee a day can have several health benefits, but this is strictly for black coffee with no added sweeteners, like syrups, creamer, or plain cane sugar.
A well balanced diet will include nutrient packed foods and moderately portioned sources of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. These foods can be lean meats, fish, legumes, whole wheat breads and pastas, eggs, avocados, almonds, leafy greens, etc. Of course, you should always speak to a doctor first about any potential dietary restrictions or needs you may have.
Other Ways to Navigate Adrenal Fatigue
If you believe you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, the first thing you should do is evaluate your lifestyle and your habits and make the appropriate adjustments. Stress is a key part of why people develop adrenal fatigue and doing things to reduce stress is great for overall health.
Going for regular physical exams is part of maintaining health and seeing a doctor who takes a holistic approach to medicine can be a benefit, as you will receive more personalized care. Medical professionals with this approach tend to offer longer appointments to get to fully know the patient and understand their medical care needs.
Starting a regular exercise program can be very beneficial, as well. Exercise can help make you feel more tired when going to bed and have an easier time falling asleep. It is also a great practice for stress management. Your body releases endorphins, known as the happy hormone, and this can lift your mood and reduce cortisol levels. So, be sure to do some form of moderate exercise at least a few times a week and have a set bedtime routine, where you get at least eight hours of sleep and go to bed and wake up at a consistent time. Giving up alcohol, smoking, and drugs can also significantly boost your overall health and make you feel more energetic.
Don’t Forget to Check Us Out
If you are interested in integrative medicine, which combines conventional medicine and holistic therapies, and healthcare that focuses on your individual needs call Shakthi Health and Wellness Center today! Dr. Jyothi Rao is a highly skilled and experienced physician who can effectively evaluate your symptoms and optimize your body’s vitality. Call (301) 703-5067 and speak to our concierge staff to schedule your appointment today.