Adrenal Fatigue? “What’s that” I hear you ask.
Adrenal fatigue, sometimes called the ‘21st Century Stress Syndrome’ occurs when your adrenal glands cannot meet the hormone demands of your life and is a problem that is becoming more frequently recognized.
If you are living a high-stress lifestyle, eating lots of chemical laden foods, need to drink lots of coffee or cola to keep you going, and getting way too little sleep than the chances are that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Unfortunately for us, our lifestyle has changed but our bodies haven’t – they still operate as if they are living in the stone age. We can no longer live a simple, relaxed lifestyle and instead we all live a life under constant stress. (Anyone who is able to live a relaxed life these days is not going to be reading this on a computer!) Sometimes, we become so used to the full-on lifestyle that we stop even realizing that it is actually pretty stressful. Sometimes we don’t even realize that so many different components from worry, anxiety or grief, to the air we breathe, the toxic homes we live in, the foods we eat, or the exercise routine we do, are all mounting up stress on our body each and every minute of each and every day.
Our adrenal glands are responsible for the production of a host of hormones including adrenalin (epinephrine), DHEA, progesterone and testosterone, and cortisol. Adrenals play an important role in the stress response as they release adrenaline and cortisol which initiate the ‘fight or flight’ response and help us deal with acute stress.
Cortisol is the hormone particularly important for keeping our bodies balanced and it plays a big part in regulating the immune system, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. It is also very important in helping us deal with stress. When the levels of cortisol rise too high the immune system becomes weak and susceptible to cancer and infection; if the levels are too low it becomes overactive and then autoimmune disease develops.
When an acute stress is ongoing the adrenals become overworked and unable to match the demand for continued hormone production. When they just can’t take any more they fail and you get what was called a ‘nervous breakdown’ in the past but we now call Adrenal Fatigue.
Our problem is that in an ever-stressed fast-paced life our bodies are pumping out cortisol all the time. When we maintain that lifestyle, with long work hours, sleep deprivation, poor diet, smoking, high intake of caffeine, low relaxation, lots of allergies, we overload our adrenal glands until they can’t take any more. Then the next stress simply becomes the straw to break the camel’s back and we fall apart.
SOME OF THE PROBLEMS EXPREIENCED WITH ADRENAL FATIGUE:
- Generally tired but wired: You feel really tired until about mid-morning, then again in the middle of the afternoon when you feel like a snooze. Tired again in the evening until about 11pm when you get a ‘second wind’ and then are wide awake until late
- You perspire a lot even with little activity
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Low blood sugar
- General lack of energy and muscle weakness
- Cravings for foods high in salt, sweets and carbs, fats
- Difficulty handling alcohol; difficulty with potassium rich or high carb foods unless combined with fats and protein
- Low blood pressure, lightheadedness on standing up, dizziness or heart palpitations
- Low libido
- Increased PMS or menopausal symptoms
- Chronic infections
- Increased allergies
- Mild depression, lots of sighing
- Startle easily
- Less ability to handle stress
- Low back pain, knee pain and weakness
- Dry unhealthy skin
SOME ILLNESSES CAUSED BY ADRENAL STRESS ARE:
- Blood sugar balance and diabetes – cortisol causes elevated blood sugar levels and leads to insulin resistance
- Weight gain and obesity – cortisol mobilizes triglycerides into fat cells and changes appetite with a craving for high kilojoule foods
- Immune system suppression – a higher susceptibility to all diseases
- Gastrointestinal problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), colitis, ulcers, indigestion
- Cardiovascular disease from blood vessel damage
- Fertility problems – erectile dysfunction and disrupted ovulation and menstrual cycles
Even though adrenal fatigue is very common in these days of stressful living many doctors don’t pick it up easily. It is one of those things that is often just not diagnosed because doctors are only taught to recognize excess, not inadequate levels of cortisol in their training.
HOW YOU CAN START TO NURTURE YOUR ADRENALS
If you really want to turn around Adrenal Fatigue then you really do have to reduce the stressors in your life, and first up you need to recognize and acknowledge what the stressors actually are. This might mean changing your job or aspects of it, organizing some child care, changing your diet, your activity, your sleep behaviour, recreation, or the people you mix with. It is also vital to address the associated emotional or psychological issues. Sometimes changing your outlook can make a big difference.
But even introducing certain stress reducing measures would help. You could try these:
- Minimize stress – this almost goes without saying
- Laugh more – even join a laughing club if you need to
- Eat a nice clean diet of largely organic whole foods, with an emphasis on lots of vegetables. Include nuts, seeds legumes and whole grains. Eat regular meals. Chew your food well.
- Avoid junk foods and sugar
- Get rid of coffee and cola. If you need some caffeine drink green tea. If you can’t remove coffee totally have one quality coffee on the weekend. Peppermint, dandelion or rooibosteas are all good choices. Tulsi Tea (Holy Basil) is awesome for adrenal fatigue because it helps bring cortisol levels back to normal.
- Do something fun every day
- Get negative people out of your life
- Get some exercise – Yoga, Qi Gong or T’ai Chi are all great de-stressors
- Meditation and relaxation exercises
- Get good sleep – seven to eight hours a night, get to bed before midnight as that’s when your body heals itself the most, take a rest (lying down) during work breaks
Take supplements –
- 3,000-5,000 mg Vitamin C each day, Vitamin B complex high in B6 and pantothenic acid, Vitamin E
- Calcium and magnesium
- Licorice root extract
Homeopathy, Flower Essences and EFT are all very effective at relieving stress and healing some of the emotional issues. Homeopathy can also redress the hormone imbalances in your body.
With adrenal fatigue having such a huge impact on many of our body functions as well as our quality of life it is worth finding out if you have adrenal fatigue so you can begin to redress it. Contact your Natural Therapy practitioner for more information.
But don’t expect a quick fix as it can take anywhere from 6 months to up to two years to reverse adrenal fatigue.
All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.