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Did you wake up tired this morning?  You’re not the only one.

Adrenal fatigue is one of the most prevalent disorders in the world today, affecting both children and adults.  Our adrenal glands help us deal with stress in our everyday lives.  No stress is too big or small for the adrenal glands.  Failed relationships, food allergies, a poor diet, injuries, nerve racking tests, and school morning jitters are all fair game as far as our adrenal glands are concerned.  Adrenal fatigue syndrome results when the adrenal glands function below normal levels, usually the result of prolonged, chronic stress.

Adrenal fatigue can affect any person, at any age.  Sadly, more and more children are suffering symptoms of adrenal fatigue.  Conventional medicine does not recognize adrenal fatigue syndrome until the adrenal glands reach the point of complete failure (Addison’s disease).  As a result, many people go through life suffering from undiagnosed adrenal symptoms…tired, foggy, stressed, tired, foggy, stressed, etc.

The good news is, we don’t have to go through life tired and stressed anymore (or foggy either!).  There are many things you can start doing now to boost your quality of life.

Burned Out Babies?

You may be thinking your little ones are too young to “burn out” but unfortunately children’s adrenal glands see stress even before birth.  Children born to mothers with adrenal fatigue and children who experience stress in utero usually have lower adrenal function (remember that stress in utero can come from various sources— like a mama who eats food she is sensitive to while pregnant or a mama who is stressed out because of a high risk pregnancy).  Because of this, children may be less able to deal with stress in their lives and may also suffer from adrenal fatigue symptoms like lowered immune function.  Unfortunately, illness causes additional stress in the body and compounds the problem of adrenal fatigue and lowered immune function, creating a vicious cycle.

For babies and children who are more at risk for adrenal fatigue (or for those who exhibit symptoms of adrenal fatigue) it is wise stay aware of nutritional and lifestyle factors that might be causing unnecessary stress.

The Overscheduled Child (and Mama too!).

We live in a face paced world in which overscheduled children run from one activity to the next.  This starts as early as birth when baby massage and post-natal yoga classes fill a new mama’s weekly schedule (but not before a sign language class and an educational play date, thank you very much!).  As a new mom it is hard to say no to these fabulous opportunities for babies, but often overscheduled new mamas start raising overscheduled children, teens, and young adults by default.  A packed daily schedule can leave little time for good nutrition, sleep and recuperation (all necessary to keep the adrenal glands healthy).

A family’s daily schedule is not the only source of stress in a child’s life.  Adrenal stress can also come from a poor diet.  Blame those pesky food marketers for targeting your kids with high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and refined carbohydrates.  These fake food products place immense stress on the body and the adrenal glands.

Do you or your child have stressed out adrenal glands?  Check out the list of symptoms below to find out.

Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:

Difficulty getting up in the morning.

Difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep.

Lack of energy.

Decreased ability to handle stress.

Mild depression. 

Craving carbohydrates or sugar.

Poor immune function.

Headaches with physical or mental stress.

Lightheaded when standing up suddenly.

Symptoms increase if meals are skipped. 

Low energy around 3-4pm.

After dinner energy increases significantly and winding down for bed is difficult.

According to Dr. Wilson, author of Adrenal Fatigue, if a person is experiencing more than 3 of these symptoms then some level of adrenal fatigue is probably present.  If this is the case, take the opportunity to learn more about the progression of adrenal fatigue and remedies.  It is important to note: there are varying levels of adrenal fatigue, so understanding where your child is on the spectrum is essential to the healing protocol. Most likely, a young child won’t be in full adrenal fatigue, but instead could have adrenal stress.  A naturopathic doctor, holistic nutritionist, or qualified holistic health practitioner can easily test adrenal glands to give you a more complete picture of your child’s health.  The best course of action for children is to nourish the adrenals with nutrition and lifestyle choices.

How to Nourish your Child’s Adrenals.

De-Stress. Try to eliminate as much stress as possible.  Is your child overscheduled?  Stressed about school or relationships? Look at the big picture and change what you can.  Implement self care tactics into your child’s life.  Teaching mindful meditation practices to kids is a great way to teach them life long coping skills.

Nutrition. Balancing blood sugar is important for healthy adrenals.  When children skip meals or eat poorly, their bodies elicit a stress response that burdens the adrenal glands even further.  Make sure your children are eating every 2-3 hours and balancing meals with a healthy carbohydrate, protein and fat.  Never skip meals and never, ever skip breakfast! For more about balancing your blood sugar, check out this article.

Sleep. Make sure you and your children get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.  Young children and teens will need even more sleep (10-12 hours worth).  Getting to bed at an early hour (by 10pm for adults and between 7-8pm for children) enables your body to repair more effectively during sleep.  Dr Wilson also suggests sleeping in until 9am when you can.

Remove Toxins. Lowering your child’s exposure to toxins in food, air and water will reduce the amount of stress on the adrenal glands.  Consider moving to an all organic diet (pesticides are stressful on the body).  Putting an air filter in your home and installing a water filter in the kitchen will also reduce your exposure to toxins.  If it isn’t possible to make these adjustments all at once (remember, we are trying to lower your stress level and home improvements can be stressful) make one change at a time.

Avoid Caffeine, Artificial Colors, Refined Sugars, High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Clean living is required to heal the adrenals!

Exercise Lightly. Strenuous exercise is stressful on the adrenal glands so if your child or teen plays on many sports teams that require strenuous exercise you may consider decreasing the intensity of exercise your child/teen does each day.

Chew Your Food! We help our bodies out tremendously by chewing our food well before swallowing.  Not only will your child absorb more nutrients this way, but the body doesn’t have to work so hard to move food through the digestive tract.

Supplement. There are a variety of beneficial vitamins, minerals and adaptogenic herbs that can help the adrenal glands including; Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil leaf extract, rhodiola, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B complex,  magnesium, calcium and trace minerals.  It is best to work with a naturopathic doctor or health practitioner to identify the supplements that will work best for your child.

Eat for Adrenal Health

Focusing on foods that support adrenal health is a good place to start.  Below is a list of beneficial vitamins and minerals, as well as their food sources.

Vitamin C:  Major vitamin used in adrenal function.

Vitamin E:  Absorbs and neutralizes free radicals that interfere with adrenal function.

B Complex:  B complex is used in adrenal function.  Each B vitamin has its individual job, but they all work together to help adrenal function.

Magnesium: Acts as the energy source for adrenal function.

Calcium: Helps to settle the nervous system and create a sense of calm.

B Complex Torula and brewer’s (nutritional) yeast, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, soybeans, walnuts, rice bran, liver, wheat bran, peanuts, sesame seeds, mushrooms, soybean flour, split peas.
Vitamin C Guava, kale, parsley, collard leaves, broccoli, sweet red peppers.
Vitamin E Wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, wheat germ.
Calcium Kale, kelp, almonds, tofu, sunflower seeds, collard greens, parsley, dulse.
Magnesium Kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, molasses, brewer’s yeast, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse.

All this research and writing has really stressed me out.  Must. Meditate. Immediately.  Until next time…

Adrenal Fatigue in Children 


Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James Wilson, N.D.

The Schwarzbein Principle by Diana Schwarzbein, M.D.

Functional Endocrinology by Datis Kharrazian, D.C.

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