Adrenal Fatigue, also known as Adrenal Insufficiency is estimated to affect up to 80% of the population at some point in their lives.
The demands of the modern lifestyle place considerable amounts of physical, mental and emotional stress on us all.
Too much of this stress over a prolonged period can become distress when the mechanisms for coping become exhausted.
The stress response
A stressor is either a physical or mental event that disrupts the normal balance (homeostasis) leading to a release of stress hormones.
The stress response involves overstimulation of the Sympathetic Nervous System triggering a release of the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol from the Adrenal glands.
You have probably heard of “Fight or Flight”, the survival mechanism that protects us from imminent danger. It was meant to save us from life threatening events like coming face to face with a tiger. When you experience a stressor your adrenal glands release stress hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline) which cause a number of physiological changes like an increase in your heart rate, muscle tension, accelerated breathing and sweating. These reactions are all designed to help us flee from the tiger.
Nowadays we don't meet many tigers but we do experience pretty stressful lives. Work, relationships and financial pressures mean that for many people the stress response is in constant overdrive.
This constant or chronic stress can can lead to distress, where circulating hormones no longer return to normal levels and the adrenal glands become exhausted.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms
Adrenal fatigue symptoms include -
Waking unrefreshed after a good nights sleep
Constant fatigue throughout the day and alertness in the evening
Unexplained hair loss
Salt and sugar cravings
It is important to note that many of these symptoms may be due to other health problems and therefore proper diagnosis is essential.
Healing Adrenal Fatigue
The reality is that stress is unavoidable. Learning to manage your stress is important and there are many ways to do this.
Regular exercise is an awesome stress buster. Any form of exercise will increase endorphins, the feel good neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that improve mood. Endorphins give us that “high” feeling, put a smile on your face and reduce the negative effects of stress.
Exercising also helps you to switch off from your worries as you focus on your bodies movement. Exercise is like meditation in motion. While your minds attention is on your body, stressful thoughts are forgotten. Its a chance to switch off, some time out from worry.
There is no denying that technology is a big part of our lives and that its here to stay but if its taking over your life maybe you need to set some limits. By being constantly “connected” we are missing out on being “disconnected”, on having time out, time to just be. The constant demands of devices and social media can increase your stress levels so take the leap and disconnect from time to time.
Reduce stimulants such as tea and coffee. It is tempting to go for the caffeine when experiencing stress but this will put further strain on the overloaded adrenals.
Carbohydrates are another temptation during stressful periods but this can lead to blood sugar dysregulation and weight gain. Increase quality protein intake to limit carbohydrate cravings.
Fill up on nutrient dense vegetables and whole grains for their B vitamin content, an essential nutrient in energy production.
Herbs and supplements
Herbal medicines and nutritional supplements can be very effective for nourishing the Adrenals and normalising the stress response. Talk to your practitioner about the treatment options available.