Your body’s negative reaction to stress may be the result of adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands are walnut-sized hormonal glands that sit above the kidneys and are also known as the stress centres in the body. Your adrenal glands secrete adrenalin when you have a near miss in the car or do something exciting outside of your comfort zone such as sky-diving. Adrenal glands are also responsible for secretion of other important stress hormones, as well as hormones to decrease inflammation and regulate fluid balance in the body. Post menopause, the adrenal glands also secrete sex hormones.
If you have 3 of these symptoms you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue:
- Low energy?
- Difficulty getting up in the morning?
- Fatigue/low energy, even after a good night’s sleep?
- Tendency to fall asleep on the couch after work/dinner?
- A craving for salt or salty food?
- The feeling you need much more energy to do normal everyday jobs?
- Low libido?
- Inability to cope with things you used to be able to deal with?
- A compulsive need to eat?
- Delayed recovery time from colds and flu’s?
- Light-headedness when standing up quickly or jumping out of bed?
- Slower healing from trauma/injury?
- Mild depression?
- The feeling life is empty and pointless?
- Increased pre-menstrual tension?
- Increased symptoms if you skip a meal?
- Coffee, sugar, chocolate etc regularly to keep you going between meals?
- Difficulty making decisions?
- Slower thought processes and diminished memory/concentration?
- Decreased tolerance to people and noise?
Adrenal fatigue can occur suddenly at a time of high stress, though often in association with prolonged low-grade stress that belongs to the lifestyle many of us lead today. It can become more apparent after e.g., trauma, infection, toxic exposure, life crisis causing emotional shock.
Signs of adrenal fatigue include:
- Weight gain
- Low mood
- Blood glucose problems (see info in our Diabetes section)
- High or low blood pressure
The Three Phases of Stress
Adrenalin phase/Alarm phase
an acute reaction to a stressful event: increased adrenalin, reflexes and resistance. (common signs are heart palpitations, sweating and trembling)
Cortisol phase/Resistance phase
A coping reaction to ongoing stress. Cortisol is over-secreted from adrenal glands (rather than natural rhythm of tapering off in the evening to induce restful sleep). This prolonged state raises blood pressure, increases ageing and may affect fertility. This stage is known as Adrenal fatigue.
Addisons disease/Exhaustion phase
At this point the adrenal glands no longer secrete stress hormones due to exhaustion. This leads to immune system suppression and affects social and mental function. Exhaustion phase may result in conditions such as stomach ulcers, Type II Diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, skin rashes and very delayed wound healing. This stage is known as Adrenal exhaustion.
Illnesses connected to Adrenal Fatigue
- Chronic Fatigue
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Recurrent respiratory infections
Adrenal fatigue is serious but does respond very well to treatment with particular foods, herbs and lifestyle changes. Treatment is specific to the person depending on other concurrent health problems and the degree of stress in your life.
General tips to begin your journey to adrenal wellness include:
- 7-8 hours sleep each night
- 1.5 – 2 litres of filtered water daily
- Avoid cane sugar
- Avoid caffeine
- Introduce gentle exercise 3 – 4 times per week
- Nutrients and Herbs