- Do you feel exhausted?
- Burned out?
- Do you crave sugar and caffeine?
- Do you get frequent colds and upper respiratory infections?
- Are you gaining weight despite diet and exercise?
- Do you have muscle and joint pain?
- Have you been to your doctor and told there was nothing wrong?
- You could have adrenal fatigue!
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the adrenal glands are unable to produce the amount of cortisol, or stress-hormone, our bodies need to function during the day.
Where Does Adrenal Fatigue Come From?
Adrenal fatigue can arise from prolonged stress, or after a major stressor such as surgery, a car accident, or even a divorce. Think of it this way: Our bodies were built for danger, not for chronic stress. We were designed to stay alive in the face of mortal danger.
Example: The tiger jumps out of the bush at us and our cortisol (fight or flight hormone) immediately increases to compensate. This also causes an increase in blood sugar, so our muscles and brain have fuel to run from the tiger. Part of our immune system is activated to produce inflammation so that if the tiger bites us we can clot well and keep running. Another part of our immune system is suppressed – the part that helps us to fight cancer, because who is worried about cancer when we are facing a tiger? Additionally, blood flow to our intestines decreases, because we are not concerned with digesting and absorbing food when in front of a tiger.
While these changes are important for our survival when faced with mortal danger intermittently and for short periods of time, over the long run they cause detrimental changes in the body. In the 21st century we are facing “tigers” all of the time. Our tigers today are childhood trauma, relationships, finances, time, job stress, car accidents, and a toxic environment. Chronically increased blood sugar leads to weight gain. Chronically increased inflammation leads to numerous medical problems;
- including hypertension
- asthma, allergies
- diabetes or insulin resistance
- muscle and joint pain.
With chronically suppressed natural killer cells we have an increased risk of cancer. Low blood flow to the intestines over time can cause constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel. After years of overproducing cortisol, the adrenal glands can’t keep up. They start to tire and then they don’t produce enough cortisol.
All of the above changes occur if cortisol levels are too high or too low.
Without enough cortisol, we feel exhausted all the time. We may be irritable, anxious or depressed.
Most doctors do not look for adrenal fatigue. Doctors are trained to watch out for elevated cortisol levels, but rarely do we look for low cortisol. There is a distinct bias in the medical community when it comes to adrenal fatigue. For some reason doctors think that either your adrenal glands are perfectly fine, or they have ceased to function, a condition known as “Addison’s Disease” which lands you in the Intensive Care Unit.
WHAT TO DO FOR ADRENAL FATIGUE?
The good news is that there is help for adrenal fatigue! Working with a Board Certified Doctor who is trained in adrenal fatigue is optimal, especially to obtain a proper diagnosis and direction. However, the basic things you learned as a child can help as well. Getting enough sleep, moderate exercise, proper diet, supplements and calming exercises like meditation are essential to healing adrenal glands. A Functional Doctor considers the Whole Person and not just the symptom.