woman with head in hands and low energy


Lack of energy in women is so common that many of us think it’s just part of getting older. Well, it's not. When women experience lack of energy and debilitating fatigue, the first step is to pinpoint the cause so you can find the right path to relief. As long as there are no major health issues behind your fatigue, you can look forward to feeling energetic and vibrant again.

9 signs of adrenal imbalance

1. Always being “on the run”
2. Difficulty getting out of bed
3. Need for caffeine or sugar in the afternoon
4. Often feeling bone-tired and irritable
5. Feeling high-strung, jumpy, or restless
6. Craving salty foods or sugary foods
7. Feeling lightheaded when you stand
8. Struggling to “come down” at night to sleep
9. New allergy symptoms

Take our 3-minute Adrenal Quiz to check your symptoms of adrenal imbalance.

When you’re looking for the true source of your low energy and fatigue, the first step is to investigate your adrenal function. Often overlooked as a source of fatigue by conventional medicine, the adrenal glands drive and manage your body’s reactions and responses to stress. And because stress comes in many forms — real and perceived, physical and emotional — your adrenal glands may have been working overtime for many months or even years.

How too much stress can lead to adrenal imbalance and lack of energy

We all need a healthy stress response to help us survive when our lives are threatened. After it protects us from danger, this incredible adrenal-based mechanism is intended to turn off. Production of stress hormones that were pumped out during the emergency are supposed to drop back to normal. But if you have unrelenting stress — even the non-emergency type like a problem at work or a traffic jam, your adrenals can stay on alert indefinitely. Adrenal hormones, especially cortisol, can be pushed out of balance, leading to symptoms including extreme lack of energy, crushing fatigue and more.

Adrenal stress and imbalance can present differently depending on physiology and individual circumstances. If you don’t interrupt the process, your symptoms may progress in stages:

1. Feeling wired. Cortisol can become excessive, so you feel constantly “ready to go” but on edge.

2. Feeling wired and tired. As adrenal function continues to fall out of balance, cortisol production can become insufficient in the morning to drive the energy you need, but overactive near the end of the day when it should be winding down. This adds additional symptoms, including difficulty sleeping at night, reliance on caffeine and sugar for energy, and food cravings.

3. Feeling tired all the time. When stress continues indefinitely, your adrenals simply can’t keep up with the demand, and they become stressed themselves, causing cortisol to plummet. Suddenly you feel completely exhausted and weak. Your lack of energy becomes chronic and you may begin to feel foggy and unfocused.

Conventional medicine can treat adrenal diseases like Addison’s or Cushing’s syndrome but it has very little to offer women with adrenal imbalance. But women with adrenal imbalance and fatigue can find many natural options to restore energy and rebalance adrenal output so you get symptom relief.

The power of herbs: Why Eleuthero works

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus, or "Siberian ginseng") supports the adrenal glands with anti-fatigue and anti-stress properties.

Eleuthero is considered an “adaptogen” because it helps balance the adrenals whether they’re underactive or overactive.

In 2009, Swedish researchers proposed that it does this by increasing the release of specific molecules that protect the body against physical and emotional stress.

These "molecular chaperones" help treat and repair damaged proteins during times of intense physical demand. Having more "repair" molecules on board helps build tolerance to stress and allows for less physical destruction.

Reference

Better than coffee: try adaptogenic herbs for adrenal stress and fatigue

For many women with adrenal imbalance, the first thing they reach for when they need energy is a cup of coffee or caffeinated soda. Others can’t get through the morning (or the afternoon) without sugary, simple carb-laden foods.

You may depend heavily on your three o'clock latte or chocolate chip cookie, but the caffeine and sugar habit can wreck your adrenal function. The buzz they produce causes your adrenals to pump out extra stress hormones, leaving your body even more drained than before.

Instead of trying to shore up your flagging energy with caffeine and sugar, you can provide the support your adrenals are missing using medicinal herbs. These plant-based ingredients can help bring your adrenal function back into balance and boost your energy.

Herb-based phytotherapy uses plants, either in whole-food form or as standardized extracts and supplements, to promote and provide natural healing. Botanical medicine has been practiced successfully for thousands of years, and today there’s strong evidence-based research to show that phytotherapy has proven benefits.

5 key herbal ingredients for more energy

In addition to depleting your energy, over-stressed adrenals can lead to anxious feelings, irritability, digestive troubles, thyroid disorders, accelerated aging and more. Stopping the progression of adrenal stress with natural support can help you head off many additional health issues down the line.

The herbs that help relieve adrenal stress and lack of energy work with your body rather than just masking your symptoms.

5 herbs for energy

Herbal remedy
Benefits for energy

Astragalus root (A. membranaceus)
Astragalus root (A. membranaceus).

Aids in the body's natural ability to adapt to stress, bolstering the immune system so that you stay well. Also helps to regulate normal blood sugar levels and alleviate insulin resistance.


Cordyceps (C. sinensis)
Cordyceps (C. sinensis).

As an antioxidant, it can slow aging and take the load off the adrenals by supporting the immune system, balancing the inflammatory response and helping to stabilize blood sugar.


Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus, formerly called Siberian ginseng)
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus, formerly called Siberian ginseng).

An adaptogenic herb that can help protect against the negative effects of stress, while decreasing fatigue, enhancing mental clarity and helping to balance blood sugar.


Rhodiola rosea (golden root)
Rhodiola rosea (“golden root”).

An adaptogenic herb that protects against stress-related fatigue and "burnout." It also increases mental clarity and offers immune and blood sugar support. Added benefits of Rhodiola are its antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties.


Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra).

Well known for supporting adrenal balance, licorice root aids in increasing energy and endurance. As certain forms of licorice can increase blood pressure and lower potassium, this herb is best taken under the care of an herbalist or a functional medicine practitioner.


(Images courtesy of GNU Free Documentation License.)

Depending on your symptoms, you may need therapy that’s more stimulating, or one that’s more relaxing, or even a little of both. You can talk with an experienced herbalist, naturopath, or functional medicine practitioner about your symptoms, working together to find the right combination of herbs for your unique system.

Adrenal-supporting herbs often require several weeks of regular use for you to experience their full benefit. Their effect is initially more subtle than over-powered pharmaceuticals and synthetic stimulants but the noticeable difference in how you feel and function will show you they’re working.

Taking care of your adrenal function

a red alarm clock

Small shifts in everyday habits will help you fully recover your adrenal health and here are some ideas to get you started:

Plan to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Good quality sleep is one of the best ways to restore healthy adrenal function. Turn in early if you can, since most restorative sleep occurs before midnight. Avoid stimulants in the afternoon and evening. Drink herbal tea or consider a relaxant herbal supplement to help you wind down at the end of the day. And if you need one and can take it, allow yourself a nap during the day.

Modify your exercise routine if you feel drained by it. Some women feel great after they exercise. If this is you, stick with it. But others feel exhausted by exercise. Since your adrenals are stressed, take it slowly. Mornings are best for aerobic exercise because your cortisol is naturally at its highest, but keep your heart at or below 90 beats per minute. Try relaxing walks, yoga, or any kind of exercise that recharges you rather than drains you.

Eat well and often. Eating certain foods, and eating at specific times of the day, can help your body recover its natural cortisol rhythm so you avoid the "crash and burn" following sugar/ white flour/caffeine highs and lows. Since hunger puts extreme stress on your adrenal glands, don't skip meals, or let yourself go too long without eating.

Let go of draining activities and learn to play. Take a good look at your life and release as many tiring activities as possible, replacing them with activities that fill you back up. Hang out with people you love and choose work at home you most enjoy like gardening or cooking. Go to the beach, play with your grandchildren, join a singing group, go dancing — whatever you have fun doing, give yourself permission to do it.

A happy woman outside

Get your energy back — naturally

In a world where women are expected to do more and more — and do it perfectly —it's difficult to step back and take a breath. But you really don’t have to do it all. And you don't have to continue relying on sugar, carbs and caffeine to make it through hour to hour. And you don’t have to feel exhausted every day. You have choices for adrenal support that can boost your energy, prevent further health issues, and put you on the path to good adrenal health and balance.

References

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19 Panossian, A., et al. 2009. Adaptogens exert a stress-protective effect by modulation of expression of molecular chaperones. Phytomedicine, 16 (6–7), 617–622. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19188053 (accessed 03.12.2009).

20 Panossian, A., et al. 2009.

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Text box reference

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