Adrenal fatigue is something that I find myself discussing with my patients on a daily basis. While it is a medical condition, most people have never heard of it as it is vastly under diagnosed and ignored by the medical profession. The symptoms can include:
- Severe fatigue, lethargy, low energy levels
- Muscle aches and pains/fibromyalgia
- Brain fog, poor concentration, poor memory
- Frequent infections
- Increased allergies
- Poor sleep and waking feeling unrefreshed
- Dizziness and/or feeling lightheaded
- Sugar cravings
- Depression and low moods
- Poor recovery from exercise
- Low libido
- And just generally feeling terrible!
Often by the time someone presents to me they have a collection of the above symptoms, have had many visits to the GP without resolution of symptoms and are looking for some answers. Thankfully there are many herbal medicines, nutritional medicines and lifestyle strategies that we can implement to make you feel like you again.
So what causes adrenal fatigue? Stress. High levels of stress over a long period of times wear out the adrenal gland. Our adrenal gland are located in the kidneys and are responsible for secreting our stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. We can function under high stress environments just fine for a while, but if the stress is ongoing with no periods of rest for the body to get back to a balanced state then the adrenal glands literally give up. This is when the more severe symptoms of adrenal fatigue start.
The stress can be caused by big events such as job security, relationship issues or financial stress BUT might not be this obvious. Rushing around causes stress on the body. Worry causes stress. Long, busy days at work with deadlines, meetings, emails to respond to causes stress on the body. Lots of exercise causes stress on the body. Getting stuck in peak hour traffic, losing your car keys, forgetting to pick up your dry cleaning all cause stress. You can love your life and love your work but be rushing around like a headless chicken and its still stress!
Adrenal fatigue can be caused by stress whether it be physical, emotional or psychological, lack of sleep, overexertion, poor diet, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, too much sugar, allergies, infections, toxins, excessive copper levels, heavy metal toxicity, fear, marital stress, problems at work, death of a loved one, illness, accidents, negative attitudes, drugs…
During early stage adrenal fatigue cortisol levels are usually elevated which makes us feel like we are running on adrenaline. Anxiety, shortness of breath, racing heart, inability to switch off, racing mind and poor sleep are the most common symptoms. Some people can operate in this state just fine, some even thrive off it. However it cannot last forever.
During later stage adrenal exhaustion the once high levels of cortisol eventually fall to very low levels where it is insufficient to adequately maintain normal physiological function. This is where the complete exhaustion phase kicks in. Other body systems become affected and we are more prone to obesity, heart disease, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, PMS can all results if your adrenal health is not addressed.
The first step to take is recognizing the problem. Stress is not good for your health and you can do something about it. We need to stop, breathe, rest. Make more time for yourself, sleep, slow down. However sometimes it is not that easy to control as the external drivers of stress will still be there (work, family life, finances etc). Here is where it is important to learn some strategies to improve the way your body responds to stress. Herbal medicine is an incredible way to aid adrenal health, pick up your energy levels and improve the stress response. A healthy, clean diet with nutritional support is an amazing support.
Think you have adrenal fatigue? Make an appointment with Hayley to get on top of it and feel good again