David Macgillivray, DOM AP LMT View Entire Blog

Acupuncture: Understanding and Treating Adrenal Fatigue

So you're experiencing some of those familiar but nebulous symptoms... fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, irritability, lightheaded sensations, dizziness, muscle weakness, chronic pain, loss of appetite, or maybe you seem more susceptible to illnesses lately. Go ahead, ask Dr. Google; I can wait.

Eventually, you'll mention these problems to your doctor (doctors love nonspecific symptoms with nearly infinite causes). She'll run a few tests. Then she'll run a few more when you keep insisting something isn't right. Chances are, no satisfactory answer will turn up.

Perhaps it's because mainstream doctors aren't too keen on diagnosing what you may be suffering from: adrenal fatigue. There is no definitive diagnostic tool or markers for the condition. Researchers have looked extensively at severe adrenal insufficiency—a condition called Addison's disease—and at the overactive adrenal glands of Cushing's disease. If your lab tests don't indicate a major adrenal malfunction, allopathic practitioners quickly move along to something else.

What Is Adrenal Fatigue?

The adrenal glands play a major role in stress management. Stress can take a serious physical and psychological toll, which your body knows. As stress builds, the adrenal glands work harder to protect you from its effects. Like good little workers, they step up hormone production to meet increasing demand.

And, like workers pushed too hard, their stamina eventually maxes out. Consider your adrenal glands fatigued. While they don't get any vacation time, productivity wanes in the hormone factory. Suddenly, you're more vulnerable to the physiological and mental effects of stress. Basic biological processes aren't being regulated effectively. Your inflammatory response is more sensitive and more prone to overreact. You don't feel right anymore.

How Is Adrenal Fatigue Treated?

Adrenal fatigue is treatable, and taking a variety of approaches promotes efficient recovery. Begin with dietary improvements. Opt for whole foods over processed foods, eating mostly whole grains, fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, and unsaturated fats. Limit sugar, sodium, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, caffeine, and alcohol consumption.

Get more exercise, especially the aerobic type. It reduces the effects of stress, assisting your adrenal glands in their monumental task. Balance the increase in physical activity with relaxation techniques to further cope with stress and to bring your adrenal glands to a restorative point. Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Unwind before bed with something soothing, such as listening to music, reading, or doing a crossword puzzle. Shoot for eight hours of sleep nightly.

Consult an herbalist or licensed Doctor of Oriental Medicine, who can prescribe a custom herbal or homeopathic formula to address your adrenal fatigue and other specific health problems. Ginseng, ginger, licorice, rehmannia, fenugreek, damiana, and ashwaganda are generally recommended options. Vitamins A, C, and E, along with B-complex vitamins and magnesium, are particularly beneficial nutrients for reversing adrenal fatigue. It's preferable to get them from whole foods, but if necessary, consider supplements.

Massage therapy and acupuncture effectively combat adrenal fatigue, prompting and accelerating recovery. They restore you and prepare you to better handle subsequent stressors. Acupuncture focused on points associated with the kidneys boosts adrenal function. Treatments utilizing a combination of massage and acupuncture also promote healthy levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and stimulate production of the “feel good hormones,” serotonin and dopamine. The combination practice relieves the effects of stress on the mind and body and enhances overall immune functions.

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