Adrenal fatigue is a widely underdiagnosed condition caused primarily by chronic stress. It is extremely common — affecting virtually all high-achieving individuals, and it leads to a myriad of negative mental, emotional and physical side-effects. It can also trigger rampant inflammation and hormonal imbalances, and vastly increase your risk for chronic disease. And if left untreated, all of the exercise, healthy eating, detoxification and supplements in the world won’t help. Most medical doctors fail to acknowledge this condition, so it’s vital that you familiarize yourself with the causes, symptoms, diagnoses and treatment, so that you and your loved ones don’t suffer with it unnecessarily.
What Happens In Your Body When You Experience Stress
When you’re under stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol to help prepare you to deal with the perceived threat. The release of cortisol provides energy, increases stamina and sharpens the senses, but if you experience chronic stress, your cortisol reserves can become depleted. At that point, another stress hormone — adrenaline takes over, and living in a constant state of high adrenaline is even more harmful to your health than living in a high cortisol state. When adrenaline is sustaining you, anxiety levels skyrocket, inflammation becomes rampant, and your risk for inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis markedly increases. The adrenal glands are not equipped to deal with such chronic high stress levels, and eventually they burnout.
Why Adrenal Fatigue Is So Common
Our caveman ancestors lived comparatively stress-free lives. Occasionally cortisol would be released in response to a threatening situation (such as an oncoming animal attack), but those situations were rare. Today stress is constant and practically inescapable: the buzzing of an alarm clock, the time crunch to get the kids ready and out the door, the traffic on the way to work, the search for a parking spot, deadlines, unpleasant managers or coworkers, grocery store line-ups, and having to constantly be ‘on’ and available thanks to our smartphones, are all examples of daily stressors that take a toll on adrenal health. Add to that: financial stressors, the atrocious stories on the daily news, worrying about the safety of our children, nutrient deficiencies caused by unhealthy diets and malabsorption; and the intake of stimulants — and it’s easy to see why so many people suffer from adrenal fatigue.
Why Conventional Medicine Fails to Identify Adrenal Fatigue
Conventional medicine typically takes a black and white approach to the diagnosis of disease – either you have a disease or you don’t. If a client does not have Addison’s disease (a condition where there is too little cortisol), or Cushing’s Syndrome (a condition where there is too much cortisol), then an endocrinologist will typically classify the adrenal glands as healthy. Failing to address the grey area, the area where the adrenal glands are under-functioning in a way that markedly decreases quality of life, means that many people are left to suffer unnecessarily with adrenal fatigue. Fortunately, complementary medical practitioners acknowledge the grey, and they understand that suboptimal adrenal gland function can and does have a profound effect on a person’s health, energy levels, and wellbeing.
How Sleep Apnea Increases Adrenal Fatigue Risk
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing in your sleep for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. It typically happens multiple times throughout the night, and your heart rate slows as a result. Every time an episode occurs, a jolt of adrenaline is released in order to get things going again. The repeated output of adrenalin throughout the night can deplete adrenalin reserves. Sleep apnea also causes daytime exhaustion, which in-turn causes elevated stress, and increases cortisol and adrenalin output — all of which fatigue the adrenal glands further.
Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms:
- Fatigue, lethargy, or tiredness that is not relieved by sleep
- A general feeling of malaise
- Extreme fatigue an hour after exercise
- Addiction to coffee, soda, sugar, and other stimulants (feeling as though you literally cannot get through the day without them)
- Mild to severe depression and/or anxiety
- Irritability and moodiness
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Multiple food and or inhalant allergies
- Dry and thin skin
- Joint pain
- Low blood sugar
- Frequent infections
The Cortisol Release Cycle
If you’re one of the lucky few who has perfectly functioning adrenal glands, then your cortisol levels will be naturally elevated in the morning. You’ll feel energetic and ready to face the day, and won’t require any coffee or time to ‘get going.’ Your cortisol will gradually decline throughout the day, and it will be lowest at bedtime, which will allow you to fall asleep and stay asleep with ease. If you have adrenal fatigue however, the pattern is typically reversed; cortisol is extremely low in the morning, making it difficult to get out of bed, and you’ll likely rely on stimulants, which further exhausts the adrenals. Cortisol rises throughout the day, and at bedtime it’s at an all-time high. This prevents you from falling asleep despite exhaustion; which creates more stress and a vicious cycle that deteriorates adrenal health.
Supplements For Adrenal Fatigue
Herbs such as silymarin, DMG (dimethylglycine), Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola Rosea, cordyceps, echinacea, and ashwagandha help to nourish and support the adrenal glands. Thyroid and adrenal glandular supplements are also very beneficial; studies show that 80% of the glandular ends up in the actual organ to rejuvenate and repair that organ. Adrenal-DMG contains DMG, adrenal gland cortex and a proprietary blend of herbs, that help to restore adrenal function (http://www.delgadonaturals.com/adrenal-dmg/). For severe adrenal fatigue, you can also supplement with cortisol under the supervision of a physician; this will allow your adrenal glands to rest and to repair. Cortisol therapy should only be short-term however because if you take it too long, your adrenal glands may become reliant on it.
Hormone Imbalances and Adrenal Fatigue
If adrenal supplements alone do not restore your energy and vitality, you may also want to have your hormone levels checked. Most of us have at least one hormonal imbalance, and even if it is not an adrenal hormone, it can still effect adrenal health in an indirect yet substantial way. Have your estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and endocrine hormone levels checked. Measuring the thyroid hormones is particularly important because the proper functioning of the thyroid is intimately connected to your energy levels, and to the health of your adrenal glands.
Other Lifestyle Tips
High quality sleep is important; you should go to bed and wake-up at the same time, and try to get to bed as early as possible. Gentle exercise (swimming, walking, yoga, gently bicycling etc.) is also helpful. If your adrenal fatigue is moderate-to severe, high intensity exercises should be limited because it places unnecessary stress on your body. You should also eat a whole-foods based diet, high in vegetables, fruits and fiber, and eliminate refined carbs and all stimulants. In addition, make sure to eat something every 3 hours, because skipping meals leads to low blood sugar, and an increase in stress levels. Finally, if you have trouble falling or staying asleep, consider buying a light-box and using that during the day to help reset your circadian rhythm.
Testing Adrenal Health
If you feel chronically fatigued; you have a general since of malaise that is not caused by any identifiable disease; or you have multiple adrenal fatigue symptoms, then you should take an adrenal stress index text. This test will measure cortisol, insulin, DHEA, progesterone levels, gliadin AB (to measure if you’re sensitive to gluten), and IgA (to measure immune function). The test is easy, it simply requires 4 different saliva samples taken in the morning, midday, evening, and at bedtime. Multiple samples are essential because hormone levels fluctuate widely throughout the day. You can order this test online, and send the samples off to a lab for quick and accurate results.
To watch the video to which this article was based off of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW3L70fB6VY