I just didn’t feel right. Something I had been saying to myself quite a bit since before Christmas last year. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was exercising regularly, eating well and getting rest. I was finding it hard to wake in the morning, struggled to stay asleep during the night, I woke up looking like death,
bags under my eyes and dark rings. By 3 pm in the afternoon I was having trouble staying awake. I got my second wind around 6pm, but this only lasted a short time. By 9pm I was again falling asleep but if i didn’t go to bed by 11pm/12am I was then awake all night. I constantly had brain fog and felt very unmotivated. It wasn’t a case of I didn’t want to do anything I just seemed to not care either way.Oh and my anxiety was rearing its ugly head more and more regularly. So instead of keeping my head down and ignoring the obvious signs I dragged myself off to see my GP. Im not one for running to the GP at the drop of a hat. I had done some preliminary research online (thanks Dr Google) and had a good idea of what was going on but I wasn’t really sure. Now I don’t advocate self diagnosis for anyone. It does pay to do a little research so you can understand in your own language. Luckily I have been going to the same GP for over 30 years and he knows what I am like.
The bottom line that was confirmed for me by my GP is that internally my body was completely out of whack. It was being over worked and under nourished and rested. If I continued down this path I was looking at a lot of chronic illnesses and possible permanent damage both physically and emotionally.
Given the symptoms I presented my GP told me I probably had adrenal fatigue. Now this is a relatively new diagnosis and as such it is hard to test for. You can take a blood test, saliva and urine test but the results may be in conclusive.
The adrenal glands sit over the kidneys, where they play a significant role in the body, secreting more than 50 hormones necessary for life, including epinephrine, cortisol, DHEA, progesterone and testosterone.
Since they produce so many essential hormones, the adrenal glands are responsible for many of the functions we need to stay alive and healthy, including:
- Energy production – carbohydrate, protein and fat conversion to blood glucose for energy
- Fluid and electrolyte balance
- Fat storage
One hormone in particular, cortisol, is extremely important for keeping our body systems in balance, as well as protecting our cells. For example:
- It controls the strength of the immune system: Too much cortisol weakens the immune system, setting the motions for increased susceptibility to infections and cancer, while too little leads to an overactive immune system and autoimmune disease.
- It normalizes blood sugar.
- It regulates blood pressure and electrolyte balance
As the manufacturer of adrenaline, they are the “glands of stress,” but are also the first glands to fail during prolonged or intense periods of stress. The problem with stressors is that they are “cumulative,” in the sense that their impact tends to add up in the body over time until your adrenal glands just can’t take anymore. Adrenal “fatigue” or dysfunction used to be rare, but is now all too common because of our lack of relaxation and other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits and excessive caffeine intake, as well as exposure to environmental toxins and allergens.
Adrenal fatigue should not be confused with another medical condition called Addison’s disease where the adrenal glands are not functioning at all. While Addison’s disease is often caused by autoimmunity, Adrenal Fatigue is largely caused by stress along with a host of other factors, like accumulation of toxic exposures, hidden infections, hormone imbalance, or even nutritional deficiencies.
Signs and symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:
- Mild depression or anxiety
- Multiple food and or inhalant allergies
- Lethargy and lack of energy
- Increased effort to perform daily tasks
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Dry and thin skin
- Low blood sugar
- Low body temperature
- Unexplained hair loss
- Alternating diarrhea or constipation
The ability to handle stress, physical or emotional, is a cornerstone to human survival. Our body has a complete set of stress modulation systems in place, and the control centre is the adrenal glands. When these glands become dysfunctional, our body’s ability to handle stress and fight infections is decreased.
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue Include:
Excessive stress can be from many sources. Chemical toxicity and nutritional depletion are among the physical causes. Mental, emotional or spiritual stress may be a major factor, too. Financial, family or other stress may also contribute to burnout. Even infections can play a role.
Any excessive stress can deplete the adrenals. Excessive workload, long hours, lack of sleep, or emotional stress are common. Other stressors in cities are noise and electromagnetic pollution. Mobile phones, microwave towers and appliances like televisions, mobile phones, wearable electronics, microwave ovens and computers give off strong EMF fields that can be stressful to our bodies.
Many people today have subclinical deficiencies of essential nutrients, like B vitamins, Vitamins A, C and E, Magnesium, Zinc, and other trace elements. When under stress, the need for nutrients is even greater. Refined carbohydrates stress the adrenals as well. Diets low in protein may also create deficiencies. The modern Diet is both high in processed carbs and sugar and lower in quality fats and protein and many times lacking in micronutrients.
Inadequate or poor quality water affects oxygenation of the tissues. Most diets are low in nutrients required by the adrenals. The reasons for this begin with how food is grown. Most food is grown on depleted soils. Our soils of today contain a fraction of the magnesium as soils hundreds of years ago did. Processing and refining further deplete nutrients. Habits such as eating in the car or while on the run further diminish the value derived from food and our ability to digest it. Allergic reactions to foods such as wheat and dairy products can damage the intestines and reduce the absorption of nutrients as well.
Toxic chemicals often play a large role in adrenal burnout. Everyone is exposed to thousands of chemicals in the air, the water and the food. Sources may also include dental materials or beauty products, such as shampoo, lotions, make-up. Cleaning our home with toxic chemicals may also take it’s toll. Over-the-counter and prescribed medications also add to the body’s toxic load. Toxins may also be generated internally due to microbial imbalances in the gut and impaired digestion. When food is not properly digested, it may ferment in the intestines, producing many harmful substances that are absorbed through the intestinal lining. A healthy body has the ability to eliminate many toxins on a daily basis. However, as adrenal weakness develops, the body’s ability to eliminate all toxins decreases. This produces a vicious cycle in which weaker adrenals impairs the elimination of all poisons, which then further weakens the adrenals.
Chronic infections may originate in infected teeth or gums, though they can be located anywhere in the body. They contribute greatly to the toxic load of the body. Infections also cause inflammation and stress that must be countered using the adrenal hormones such as cortisol and cortisone.
One of the most commonly overlooked causes of Adrenal Fatigue is intestinal infections that gives rise to an inflammatory response. Such infection can occur sub-clinically with no obvious signs at all. Infections in the gut, including giardia, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), fungal dysbiosis, and h. pylori infection are just a few that may contribute to adrenal dysfunction.
STIMULANTS OR EXCESSIVE EXERCISE
Stimulants damage the adrenal glands by pushing the secretion of stress hormones and adrenaline and over time depleting the body of essential neurotransmitters. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol are among the most common culprits.
Less obvious but no less important stimulants may include anger, rage, arguments, hatred, unforgiveness, loud music, tragic news, and even movies with suspense or excessive violence. Other activities that may act as stimulants include vigorous exercise or recreational drug use. Even high risk sports, like surfing, diving, or extreme climbing if done in excess may deplete the adrenals. Most of these activities provide a temporary “high”, which is caused in part by the secretion of high amounts of adrenal hormones. Over time, however, this weakens the adrenals and can eventually lead to adrenal depletion and insufficiency.
Uncontrolled emotions are another cause of adrenal burnout. These include habits of worrying, or becoming angry or afraid. Don’t worry, be happy is a great prescription for adrenal burnout. This applies particularly to high strung, Type A, nervous individuals as they are especially prone to adrenal burnout. Prayer and meditation release calming neurotransmitters and take the body from a state of fight and flight into the parasympathetic mode of relaxation and can be extremely helpful in healing adrenal fatigue. In addition, cultivating an attitude of gratitude can do wonders for you adrenals.
More stressors that can lead to Adrenal Fatigue:
- Emotions, like anger, fear, guilt
- Chronic illness
- Chronic infections
- Chronic pain
- Excessive exercise
- Gluten intolerance
- Malabsorption and poor digestion
- Toxic exposure
- Severe or chronic stress
- Sleep deprivation
- Excessive sugar in diet
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Processed foods, additives, chemicals and genetically modified ingredients, like corn, soy, canola.
- Infected teeth, gums or root canal
Chronic stress is very common in western society. The most common causes of stress are work pressure, changing jobs, death of a loved one, moving homes, illness, and marital disruption. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the amount of stress overextends the capacity of the body to compensate and recover.
So how do you treat adrenal fatigue?
Well first things first. Seek a professional opinion if you are not feeling right. I ignored it and put it down to the stresses of life. Im glad I did go and see my doctor. Im also pleased that he knows me well enough not to try to just prescribe a pill for the problem. I have a real beef with the pharmaceutical industry and the over prescription of medications. He gave me a set of guidelines to follow to see what difference it made. I had to eliminate or significantly reduce my caffeine or stimulant consumption (No coffee or tea), reduce or eliminate added sugar, increase the amount of water I drink, take magnesium powder at night and I was also introduced to a herbal supplement to promote healthy adrenal function. All these simple things have improved things greatly. The symptoms have subsided dramatically. The big indicator for me has been my emotions and anxiety. Both are much better. The down side to this ailment is that it can take some time to normalise everything. My GP said that the recovery time can differ from person to person. Some can take up to 6-9 months to recover. I am hoping mine is sooner. I do know that I am feeling remarkably better and continue to improve. I have even noticed a big shift in the weight around my mid section. Yippee!
My final word here if you are thinking “I just didn’t feel right” go to your GP. If they are not sure if you have adrenal fatigue go and see a naturopath. Remember a GP is a general practitioner. This is not really a run of the mill condition and they may not be well versed on this. Naturopaths tend to be a little more left of centre when it comes to diagnosis and treatment. But by all means just get your self to a doctor or naturopath and get yourself better.