If you’ve been involved with any sort of alternative or complementary health care provider, you may have heard of adrenal fatigue. Otherwise, this may be new information for you. Naturopaths and oriental medicine practitioners recognize the prevalence of this modern condition, but conventional western practitioners generally don’t. Walk into your local MD’s office and bring up the subject of adrenal fatigue, and you’re likely to get a dismissive reply. MD’s are taught about Addison’s disease (hypoadrenalism), but the belief is that its a rare condition. The sad truth is that with our modern lifestyles and chronically elevated stress levels, adrenal fatigue is much more common than you might think.
So what exactly do your adrenal glands do, anyway? Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and are one of the most important endocrine glands you have. They’re involved in a lot of different processes in your body, but perhaps the most important one is the secretion of cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is what regulates your circadian rhythm. Your levels go down at night to allow you to fall asleep and they rise in the morning to wake you up. When your body senses that you’re under stress, the adrenals release more cortisol to give you energy and enable you to deal with whatever problem you’re facing. Get a really stressful stimulant, and your adrenals will start pumping out adrenaline. Seems pretty straight forward, right?
The problem lies in the fact that most people living a modern lifestyle have too much stress. We get up in the morning and rush around the house to get everybody off to school and work, sit in rush hour traffic, experience stress all day at work, drive home in rush hour traffic, try to make a decent dinner and get some laundry done before collapsing in bed to do it all over again the next day. And that’s just a normal day! What if you get a flat tire on the way to work, or your kid’s school calls and tells you they’re sick, or you find yourself struggling to pay the bills each month? Never mind the fact that the standard american diet is a stressor on the adrenals just by itself. All the stimulants we consume in the form of sugar and caffeine also cause our adrenals to release cortisol, consuming foods we’re intolerant of causes an immune reaction and more stress on our bodies, and the empty calories of processed foods don’t replenish our supplies. Eventually our adrenals just give out. They can only produce so much cortisol, and without a nutrient dense diet, that collapse is going to happen a lot sooner.
Does any of this sound like your life? Are you wondering if your lack of energy and motivation might be partly due to your overworked adrenals? Here’s a list of some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
Difficulty getting up in the morning, fatigue not relieved by sleep, lethargy, craving for salt or salty foods, increased effort required for simple tasks, decreased libido, increased recovery time from illness, getting light headed when standing up quickly, mild depression, less enjoyment with life, increased PMS, symptoms worsen if you skip a meal, unfocused thoughts, less accurate memory, decreased tolerance of others, not really waking up until mid morning, afternoon low energy around 3-4 pm, feel more energetic after dinner, and decreased productivity.
I’d dare to say that just about everybody has experienced adrenal fatigue at one point or another in their lives. Thankfully, its not something you have to live with forever. In my upcoming posts we’ll talk about ways to overcome adrenal fatigue and get back your energy and your life.
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