Treating Adrenal Exhaustion with Chinese Medicine

tired womanAdrenal fatigue often occurs when we are experiencing prolonged periods of excessive stress. During this time the adrenal glands produce excessive levels of cortisol to aid in the flight or fight response of the body. Since most of the time we are responding to everyday deadlines or relationship stresses, we are not physically fighting or fleeing and do not use the cortisol. This cortisol then becomes stored around the abdomen as excess weight. Over time the adrenals become exhausted as do the kidneys which sit below them.

When the kidney energy(water) is low it is unable to hold down the fire energy generated by the heart. This heat is needed for the organs below the heart to function properly. Without heat, our other systems, digestion, elimination (large intestine, small intestine, bladder) will be adversely affected.

Some symptoms of weak kidney and adrenal glands are:

  • Allergies – the intestines are not getting adequate blood flow to digest and assimilate food. This inadequate oxygenated blood flow can also cause inflammation which can adversely affect the immune system.
  • Dizziness or light headedness
  • Increase or decrease in blood pressure
  • Frequent urination
  • Sleep issues, overactive mind, racing heart or palpitations
  • Low energy and extreme exhaustion
  • Body pain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Brain fog

Adrenal exhaustion can occur after long periods of excessive stress. This is much more common than we realize today since so many people are multitasking, having schedules which run them ragged and working long hours each day.

The symptoms of adrenal exhaustion are many and varied from dizziness and lightheadedness to frequent urination, pain, and anxiety to name a few. Today I want to address solutions to this issue.

Since this condition of adrenal exhaustion and weak kidney energy has occurred over time there is no magic bullet to reverse it. It will take a multi-faceted approach to improve the condition and restore the kidney energy over time. The normal aging process weakens the kidney energy to a certain extent, but when we experience long periods of extreme stress without adequate rest or nourishment for the kidneys, we accelerate the aging process.

To restore the balance of fire and water energy, we need a whole-food-based diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and warming spices.

Foods which support the kidney energy are:

  • black or dark-colored (i.e. black rice, black sesame seeds, black beans)
  • salty or savory in flavor :
    • dark leafy greens
    • seaweed
    • kelp
    • eggplant
    • unrefined sea salt
    • pink Himalayan salt
    • bone broth
    • dark mushrooms
    • sardines
    • kidney beans
  • organ meats, oysters, root vegetables with dark color

Creating lifestyle habits which promote mindfulness will also help. Practices such as:

  • Meditation, yoga, prayer, tai chi, walks in nature, Epsom salt baths will all support the kidney energy.
  • Have the same bedtime each night, try not to be on a computer or watch tv for an hour or two before bedtime. The blue light coming from our tv or computer screens can prevent us from getting restful sleep. Avoid having this light in your bedroom. Restful sleep is one of the most effective things to nourish our kidney energy.
  • Holistic modalities such as acupressure, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy and others can help us release physical and emotional stress that we are unable to release on our own.
  • Chinese Herbal tonics can be very important in supporting kidney and adrenal health. If you feel that you may need an herbal supplement, it is best to consult with a qualified acupuncturist.
  • For lighter kidney support, herbal teas such as, chamomile, Tulsi, passionflower and Reishi mushroom can be helpful.