There’s a reason why Starbucks pulls in over 43 billion dollars per year:
People are tired. Needing some kind of stimulant to get up in the morning or keep going in the afternoon is so commonplace the English have created an entire cultural institution around it: tea time.
But what if you could wake up in the morning, truly awake (and not ready to rip the face off the next person who gives you the side eye), and make it through the day – the entire day – with a constant stream of energy that only ebbed as the sun went down, leaving you sleepy and ready for a full night of uninterrupted sleep? Are you LOLing yet? Well this is the way our bodies are naturally supposed to function. But something got messed up along the way for a lot of people.
It has to do with two little glands that sit above our kidneys: our adrenal glands. The adrenals secrete hormones that provide humans energy throughout the day – the highest being in the morning and the lowest at night. When people are tired during the day and awake at night it’s a sign their adrenals are functioning abnormally. In 1998 Dr. James L. Wilson coined the term “adrenal fatigue” to describe this state of chronic tiredness.
What’s throwing off our adrenals? Stress. And not just last minute deadlines. Everything from exercise to the food we eat can put our bodies in a state of stress, forcing the adrenals to release extra hormones, what’s known as the “fight or flight” response.
Wilson defined four kinds of stressors that cause our adrenals to produce this response:
1. Physical stress – from things like overworking, lack of sleep and over-exercise
2. Chemical stress – from environmental pollutants and a diet high in refined carbohydrates and processed foods
3. Thermal stress — over-heating or over-chilling the body (hello Bikram!)
4. Emotional and mental stress
Who cares if you’re tired during the day awake at night?
Well besides running you an expensive coffee tab, poorly functioning adrenals wreak havoc on everything from your immune system to the condition of your skin. Ever wonder why some Hollywood starlets (ahem, Lindsey…) windup looking like the Crypt Keeper at the ripe old age of 24? According to Dr. Michael Lam, board examiner for the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, it’s because they’ve shot their adrenals to hell rock n’ rolling all night and partying every day. Their bodies are in a constant state of stress, which not only accelerates the aging process, but also makes you hungry, crave sugar, reduces your ability to burn fat, oh, and lowers your sex drive. All in all, not a good scene.
So what is one supposed to do if they can’t immediately quit their job and take up residence under a rock in Tibet? Here are some practical tips for modern adrenal maintenance:
1. Try and get to bed by 10:30pm. Of course there are days when this isn’t going to be possible, but keep it as a general goal. Why? Because your hormone system resets between 11pm and 1am – if you’re awake it can’t do this job.
2. Just say no to table salt. Swap it for sea salt. It’s packed with minerals that actually aid adrenal function. Yes, you heard it here first folks: salt is good for you – rejoice!
3. Cut down on the processed carbs and refined sugar, otherwise known as the white stuff: candy, cookies, snacks, general junk food. Eating sugar sends your blood sugar on a roller coaster, which stresses your adrenals. Try and stick to a diet of real, whole foods (ones that don’t come in boxes or plastic wrap) 80-90% of the time (a girl’s got to have her Nutella every now and then).
4. Kick the coffee. Yes, a seemingly heinous suggestion but only 100–200 mg of caffeine (that’s less than one tall Starbucks), and your adrenals begin pumping out the stress hormones. So if you feel like your adrenals need a reset, fear not – deliverance is possible! Just cut back your coffee consumption by one cup a day, then go cold turkey for a while. It will take about a week to feel human again but when you make it to the other side you’ll be a new woman.*
*If you’ve fully gotten yourself off the bad Sh*t and you feel like you need an occasional boost, try organic twig tea, it’ll give you the same get up and go without the psychotic tendencies (and Oprah’s a fan so you know it’s legit).
 "Hypoadrenia." Adrenal Glands. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Aug. 2013.