COULD YOU HAVE ADRENAL FATIGUE?
In the first part of my series on stress, I discussed many of the stressors we experience in our lives – from work, to food, to exercise.
Today I would like to talk about what “stress” does to our bodies. The small glands you see that sit right above the kidneys in the picture above are called the adrenal glands. They are responsible for secreting precise and balanced amounts of steroid hormones, including cortisol.
However, our adrenal glands are responsive to changes in our physical, emotional, and psychological environment so any number of factors interfere with the ability of our adrenal glands to produce the correct amounts of the hormones we need.
Too much of ANY kind of stress, (see my previous article for details), often depletes the adrenals and causes a decrease in output of adrenal hormones – especially cortisol. Lowered adrenal activity is known as hypodrenia, which results from adrenal fatigue, and can range in severity amongst individuals. The extreme case of hypoadrenia is known as “Addison’s” disease and only affects about 4 people in 100,000.
However, millions of people around the world suffer to some degree from hypoadrenia, adrenal fatigue, or adrenal burnout. You can choose any of these “labels” to identify adrenal issues but they all mean the same thing – the adrenals are no longer working to their full potential. Often the degree to which the adrenals can function varies, but all adrenal fatigue should be addressed in order to restore health, find energy, and prevent or recover from illness.
While Addison’s is rare, hypoadrenia more commonly manifests itself with less serious disorders – even though they can be debilitating. If left untreated, adrenal fatigue usually worsens and more symptoms and illness occur over time – often increasing in severity.
Unfortunately most doctors know very little, if anything, about adrenal fatigue and therefore seldom treat the adrenals for many problematic illnesses that can often be traced right back to “weak” adrenals. Doctors are not taught about adrenal issues in school and rarely look at the health of the adrenals even though all illnesses involve adrenal weakness.
Here’s a quick checklist of primary factors that cause Adrenal Fatigue:
Stresses that we often experience “daily”:
- Lack of Sleep
- Poor Food Choices
- Using food or drugs as stimulants especially when tired
- Staying up too late
- Working night shift or alternating shifts that disrupt normal sleep cycles
- Over working physically – including over -exercising – or performing hard manual labor
- Over working mentally – a high stress “desk” job or mentally tasking job
- Constantly be powerless OR feeling the need to be in total control of life and circumstances
- Constantly driving yourself
- Dealing with a bad relationship
- Trying to be perfect
- Staying in double binds (no-win situations) over time
- Lack of enjoyable and rejuvenating activities including relaxation and time to “unwind” – (All work/no play)
Life changing events that can lead to Adrenal Fatigue:
- Unrelieved pressure at work or home
- Severe emotional trauma
- Death of a close friend or family member
- Surgery- especially with incomplete recovery
- Repeated respiratory infections
- Serious burns – including sunburn
- Head trauma – concussion
- Loss of a job or career
- Chemical exposure – including drug and alcohol abuse
- Loneliness and isolation
SYMPTOMS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE :
As adrenal fatigue worsens and adrenal function is reduced, EVERY organ and system of the body suffers – from the cardiovascular system, to fat metabolism, to the sex drive – nothing is left unaffected by tired and weak adrenal function. Mild forms of hypoadrenia are extremely dangerous to our health and yet misdiagnosed.
Adrenal fatigue causes erratic blood sugar levels in the form of hypoglycemia. People with hypoadrenia tend to have more allergies, arthritic pain, and a decreased immune response. Premenstrual tension and increased difficulty during menopause are all associated with adrenal fatigue.
The adrenals play a huge part on how we think and feel emotionally and mentally.
People experiencing adrenal fatigue have a tendency to develop more fears, anxiety, and depression. They have intervals of confusion and difficulty concentrating with less acute memory recall. They are typically less tolerant, more likely to be impatient, and become easily frustrated. They lose things, forget things, and find it hard to stay focused.
Other symptoms, (seemingly unrelated), such as respiratory infections, allergies, rhinitis, asthma, frequent colds, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypoglycemia, adult onset diabetes, auto-immune disorders and even alcoholism are related to hypoadrenia. Muscle and joint pain are common in adrenal fatigue clients.
To others, a person with adrenal fatigue may appear lazy and unmotivated, when in fact they are actually driving themselves far harder than an average healthy person because it takes them much more energy to get through simply daily tasks that most of us take for granted.
In my practice, I find that thyroid health is almost always linked to the function of the adrenals. Someone with thyroid problems almost always has poor adrenal function. Someone with tired adrenals will usually shows signs of thyroid dysfunction too, unless they are in the very beginning stages of hypoadrenia. If I evaluate the adrenals, I am always going to do an evaluation for the thyroid as well. Treatment of both the adrenals and thyroid can return the body to optimal health.
When I work with clients, I always look for adrenal fatigue early on because I understand that the adrenals are the key to optimal health. Once we realize that every illness can be traced back to weak adrenals we begin to understand that the adrenals should be the starting point in restoring health. We simply can’t be “well” without strong, functioning adrenals.
I do a lengthy evaluation to determine the health of the adrenals in my client, but for this article I am going to give you a quick checklist. If you find you have many of the symptoms listed (8 or more), I strongly suggest you contact a good all natural practitioner to help you begin adrenal repair.
SYMPTOMS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE CHECKLIST:
Check all that currently apply
_____Sensitivity to exhaust fumes, smoke, smog, petrochemicals
_____Edema (water retention)
_____Inability to tolerate much exercise, or you feel worse after exercising
_____Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
_____Depression or rapid mood swings
_____Dark circles under the eyes
_____ Dizziness upon standing
_____Lack of Mental alertness
_____Tendency to catch colds easily when weather changes
_____Headaches, particularly migraines, along with insomnia
_____Feeling of not being rested upon awakening
_____Feeling of tiredness all the time
_____Feeling of being mentally and emotionally overstressed
_____Low blood sugar symptoms
_____Need for caffeine (coffee, tea, and others) to get going in the morning
_____Low tolerance of loud noises and strong odors
_____Tendency to startle or panic easily
_____Inability to concentrate and/or confusion, usually along with clumsiness, ADD, ADHP
_____Recurrent, chronic infections, such as yeast infections – athlete’s foot etc
_____Tendency to get a second wind late at night
_____Low blood pressure
_____Haven’t felt your best in a long time
_____Eyes sensitive to bright light
_____Feeling of being weak and shaky
_____Sweating or wetness of hands and feet caused by nervousness or mood swings
_____Cravings for sweets and/or alcohol
_____Frequent heart palpitations
_____Vague indigestion or abdominal pain
_____Alternating constipation and diarrhea
_____Ability, sometimes, to relieve paranoia and depression by eating
_____Lack of thirst
_____Clenching and/or grinding teeth, especially at night
_____Chronic pain in the lower neck and upper back
_____Food or respiratory allergies
_____An usually small jawbone or chin, lower teeth crowded, unequal in length or misaligned
_____A chronic breathing disorder, particularly asthma
_____Low tolerance for alcohol, caffeine and other drugs
_____Bouts of severe infection
_____An excessively low cholesterol level (below 150mg/dl)
BLOOD PRESSURE ADRENAL FATIGUE TEST:
Take your blood pressure while lying down and then immediately take it after standing. The number should be higher when standing then when lying. To perform this simple test: lie quietly for about 10 minutes and then take your blood pressure. Next – stand up and take your blood pressure again.
Your standing pressure should be 10-20 mmHG’s higher than when you were lying. If your pressure drops when standing you likely have some form of adrenal fatigue. However, dehydration can also cause this drop to occur so you may want to try the same test on another day – and make sure you are well hydrated. The more severe the drop is, the more severe is the hypoadrenia.
You may also experience dizziness or lightheadedness especially upon standing or getting up quickly from a reclining position. This is also another indicator of adrenal fatigue. My next article will address treatment for adrenal fatigue. Stay tuned and contact me if you would like more information or need assistance in any manner.