Do you have that feeling that your body is losing the ability to properly respond to stress? Are you finding it hard to keep up with all of life’s demands? Maybe you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, finding an increased dependence on coffee, or have a sudden craving for salt and sugar?
Chances are you are suffering from what’s called “adrenal fatigue.”
Rest assured, this is a common problem. In fact, most people will suffer from some kind of “adrenal fatigue” and may not really know it. Sadly, it isn’t recognized by conventional medicine as a debilitating condition and is often overlooked by trained physicians.
Some other symptoms of adrenal fatigue may include:
- Blood sugar issues
- Poor diet/digestion issues
- Sleep problems
- Trouble concentrating/racing thoughts
- Weight problems
- Hormone imbalance
- Chemical toxins
- Anxiety and depression
- Feeling overwhelmed
Most of these issues by themselves won’t necessarily be a sign of “adrenal fatigue,” but when these symptoms are combined in an otherwise healthy person, this could then be a good indication of “adrenal fatigue.“ Stress in itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s our bodies natural way of dealing with a situation whether good or bad.
According to Merriam Webster’s medical dictionary, the definition of “STRESS” is:
- A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.
- A state of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.
The trouble is after experiencing long-term/chronic stress, our adrenal glands begin to lose function. The imbalances within our steroid homeostatic control system begin to lose viability.
Simply put, imbalances and malfunctions in our body start to occur and our body is no longer able to appropriately respond to stress.
The Job of Your Adrenal Glands
Our adrenal glands are two thumb-size glands, located just above each kidney and are part of the endocrine system. Their job is to secrete adrenaline and produce a cocktail of over 30 different steroids and hormones.
Although small, our adrenal glands play a huge role in our response to stress. As soon as the body feels compromised or threatened (“flight or fight), either through physical, mental or emotional stress, the adrenal medulla comes into play by releasing adrenaline hormones in response to the threat.
These hormones cause our muscles to tense and our heart rate to increase in order to respond to the situation. The body and mind then relax after the event is completed. And This is a natural process and one of the main functions of the adrenal glands.
However, as chronic stress develops it exhausts our adrenal glands so much that they start to function below the necessary level. This then leads to malfunctions and negative symptoms, in many other systems in the body.
And this is what causes “adrenal fatigue.”
Three Stages of “Adrenal Fatigue”
There are 3 basic stages of adrenal fatigue. Each stage is typically associated with a level cortisol imbalance, and progress from stage 1 to stage 3 over time.
Stage 1. Fight or flight
It’s Monday, and you’ve gotten the week off to a rough start. You’ve been given an overload of work to do with intense deadlines and to top it off your boss has just shouted at you.
At this stage, you’re probably feeling fine. Your body senses an attack and immediately mediates by sending an increase of anti-stress hormones like cortisol. Your body responds well enough so you’re likely able to deal with it.
You may get a sudden rush of cortisol at night, leading to insomnia. You may feel great during this period because of increased energy levels, but this usually doesn’t last.
Stage 2: Tired and wired
Your work seems to still be piling up instead of getting done. Your stress may be at the same level as stage 1, but your body is unable to respond and the cortisol output is diminished. You aren’t feeling as good as you used to and may be experiencing blood sugar issues, sleep problems, weight problems, hormones feel out of whack. You wake up not feeling rested but gradually feel better towards the end of the day. Your resistance is weakening. Your symptoms at this point are common but vague (subclinical imbalances not yet a diagnosable disease). Your Steroid hormones out of balance because of a pregnenolone steal.
Stage 3: Burnout danger zone
At this point you begin feeling overwhelmed, reaching burnout. Your cortisol levels are flat. You’re really struggling and feeling unwell. No matter how much you sleep you feel you can’t find the energy to do anything. Your body enters a catabolic condition. Your body tissues are breaking down and you begin to experience many malfunctions and imbalances. You are very likely suffering chronic symptoms at this point. Your blood sugar has become an issue, and your hormones are on the brink of a collapse.
While the adrenal glands are commonly known for their stress hormones, Cortisol and Adrenaline, they also produce our reproductive hormones, such as Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, as well as our anti-aging hormone, DHEA.
Keeping our hormones balanced is the key to happiness. If we don’t keep them in balance then our body may suffer from an excess or a deficiency which will have a negative effect on the body.
Let’s take the hormone Estrogen for example.
Estrogen Deficiency Symptoms include:
- Hot Flashes
- Night Sweats
- Vaginal Dryness
- Foggy Thinking
- Memory Lapses
- Sleep Disturbance
Estrogen Excess Symptoms:
- Mood Swings
- Tender Breasts
- Water Retention
- Fibrocystic Breasts
- Uterine Fibroids
- Weight gain in hips
- Bleeding changes
How to Heal the Damages of Adrenal Fatigue
While “adrenal fatigue” has the capacity to cause havoc on the body, playing games with our hormones, resulting in physical and mental repercussions, it’s never too late to do something about it. Breaking the stress cycle by keeping careful check to avoid burn out, can be tricky, but not impossible.
We can do our best to reverse the damage it has done to our body by paying attention our lifestyle. We do this by eating more regularly following a healthy diet of fresh foods, avoiding processed foods, sugar, and high-fructose.
Adding supplementation to our diet. Drinking plenty of fluids. Limiting our caffeine intake and replacing it with quality sleep, and by going to bed early.
We can keep stress at bay by getting enough exercise, enjoying a yoga class, going for walks, or in changing the way we think. Doing more of what makes us happy. If stress is killing us, it’s time to make some changes in our priorities in life or else we risk total burnout.
Jessica William's, co-founder of BodyAwakeningCo.
Jessica has a Masters of Science Degree in Holistic Nutrition. She has over a decade of experience working within the nutrition and health industry, has managed one of the world’s leading detox and cleansing retreat centers and has taken hundreds (if not thousands) of people through cleansing and detox programs.