Is Stress Making You Sick And Exhausted?
All About Adrenal Fatigue
These days, everyone is always too busy, doing a million things at once and feeling overwhelmed. But the stress you experience every day isn’t all in your mind. It has direct impacts on your entire body, and can actually cause significant health issues. One of those issues is adrenal fatigue.
What are the adrenal glands?
These glands sit on top of our kidneys. As part of the endocrine system, they produce different hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenal hormones can affect a variety of functions, from mineral balance to blood sugar regulation and the fight-or-flight response to danger and stress.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a controversial topic. When the body is continually exposed to chronic stress, the adrenal glands can go through a kind of ‘burnout’.
During times of stress, the body produces the stress hormone cortisol. Chronically high levels of cortisol can cause all sorts of issues such as sleep disturbances, cravings, and a feeling of being ‘tired but wired’. But after a prolonged period of producing high levels of cortisol, the adrenals can reach a point where they can’t keep up with demand. As a result, cortisol levels can drop below the normal range, leading to adrenal fatigue.
It’s important to note that adrenal fatigue is different to complete insufficiency of adrenal hormones, which occurs with Addison’s disease.
What causes adrenal fatigue?
Stress, stress and more stress! Many of us live frantic and busy lives. We’ll multitask, keep churning through the to-do list, and push through. But when we go to bed, we’re still so wired that we can’t switch off. Without restful sleep to restore the body, physical stress adds to the burden of psychological stress. It becomes a downward spiral to exhaustion and burnout.
Who is at risk of adrenal fatigue?
People who are always on the go and never take time for a break can be at risk of burning out. But there are others that feel overwhelmed and constantly stressed no matter what the situation.
It’s not a competition of who has more on their plate – everyone from CEOs to full-time mums and uni students can become burned out.
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
Every case is different, depending on which stage they are at. But some of the more common symptoms include:
- Being ‘tired but wired’
- Extreme exhaustion after physical exertion/exercise
- Inability to cope in stressful situations
- Brain fog
- Frequent infections and lowered immunity
- A second wind around 6pm
- Muscle weakness
- Light-headedness and dizziness
How can you diagnose adrenal fatigue?
One way that a naturopath tests for adrenal fatigue is a 24hr saliva test. This allows us to look at your stress hormone balance throughout the day. You might have low levels throughout the day, or you might experience cortisol spikes at the wrong end of the day.
It’s also a good idea to have a look at your thyroid function. Cortisol has a direct effect on thyroid stimulating hormone and the conversion of thyroid hormones.
How long does it take to recover from adrenal fatigue?
It can depend on the individual case. Like chronic fatigue, you can experience a relapse if you push yourself before you’ve recovered. It’s common to get some energy back, over-do it, and feel exhausted for several days.
That is why it’s important to pace yourself and be realistic. It takes longer than a week to develop adrenal fatigue, so you can’t expect yourself to recover in a week!
Tips to support adrenal fatigue
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is the time where your body is able to repair and restore itself. Without enough sleep, your body will struggle to cope with stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, seek advice from a naturopath.
- Find ways to rest. Take time each day to do something restful like having a bath, reading a book or sitting in the sunshine.
- Minimise caffeine and alcohol consumption. These both put further stress on the body. Caffeine in particular can increase cortisol levels, leaving you wired and anxious.
- Focus on easily digested food. The less of a burden you put on your digestive system, the more energy your body has to recover. Include easily digestible foods like soup, stews and slow-cooked foods.
- Seek advice and support from a qualified naturopath. Along with specific dietary and lifestyle suggestions, we can prescribe supportive herbs. These herbs, known as adaptogens, improve your body’s reaction to stress.
If you know your exhaustion is more than just feeling tired, get in touch to see how working with me can solve your no energy levels, once and for all.