Male Adrenal Fatigue: The Struggle is Real
Image: Sam Solomon
Often when I speak of adrenal fatigue it’s in the context of women’s health. Women and men tend to react differently to stress, but this doesn’t mean the same physiological conditions are brewing just below the surface.
A Brief Recap: What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is something I speak to all the time, because I see it in my clinic all. the. time.
A quick recap: your adrenal glands secrete many hormones including cortisol – the stress hormone – when your sympathetic nervous system is engaged (aka when you experience stress). If you’re stressed all the time, your adrenals are forced to work double-time, and eventually start to conk out, causing extreme fatigue in the body.
The condition tends to show up in women as total exhaustion, weight gain (that feels impossible to reverse), intense salty and sweet food cravings, and a drastically reduced ability to deal with anything stressful (think extreme irritation or sadness over menial things, like running out of mascara).
Men, however, tend to exhibit different symptoms.
Cortisol and Testosterone
The hormone testosterone is associated with masculinity. It regulates things like sex drive, erectile function, and muscle development in the male body, and it’s impacted by cortisol.
Studies have shown that when cortisol is released into the body by the adrenals, it lowers the amount of testosterone in the system. If a man is constantly stressed and experiencing surges of cortisol in their system, their testosterone levels are sure to drop.
What this means for men is that on top of the symptoms women experience with adrenal fatigue, they tend to see a loss in sexual drive, experience erectile issues, and lose muscle mass and strength.
How to Manage Male Adrenal Fatigue
The good news is there’s a lot that can be done once adrenal fatigue is identified.
The Usual Suspects
Diet, exercise and sleep, my friends! They make all the difference.
Eat whole foods, avoid refined sugars, alcohol and caffeine, sweat three times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes, and commit to getting to bed with enough time for 8 hours of rest.
I don’t mean to sound dismissive; these items constitute a HUGE shift for a lot of people and shouldn’t be taken lightly. And they’re what you’ll hear no matter who you talk to, as they’re the cornerstone of healthy living.
This South American root is high in C, E and B vitamins, and has been said to help with libido and erectile disfunction. You can get it in powder form at most health food stores in Canada and the US; try adding it to your daily morning smoothie.
Asian or American Ginseng
Ginseng has been shown to increase libido, improve sperm quality and count, increase sexual vigour, decrease erectile disfunction, and provide general support for the male reproductive system. In short, Ginseng is *great* for the sex-organ-related aspects of male adrenal fatigue. Find it in your health food store in capsule or tincture form, and take 1,000 mg/day.
Learn to Relax
Ultimately, the biggest culprit when it comes to adrenal fatigue for men or women is the amount of stress we’re under. It’s the stress response that triggers the release of cortisol, so going to the source and managing your stress response is a perfect place to start.
Learn to unplug more from work and devices. Try meditation, even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day. Go for a walk in the woods instead of opening a bottle of wine.
Spend a bit of time figuring out what naturally lowers your stress, and then make it a priority – or your adrenals will remind you just how important it is.
On November 1, 2016,