Adrenal Fatigue – What is it and what to do about it
There’s lots of focus in the media at the moment about stress and the implications it has on our health. We live in a go-go-go culture where being busy is the norm and many of us deal with stress levels way higher than is good for our health or sense of well-being.
Do you find you’re stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?
All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives.
Your adrenal glands, which look like walnuts and live on top of your kidneys, produce many hormones, including the stress hormones Adrenaline and Cortisol. When you’re living with chronic stress, these glands become “overworked” and that leads to Adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”).
You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?
Adrenaline and cortisol are the hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body’s “fight or flight” response.
Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.
The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body’s normal reaction to stress. Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.
After a short time, the fight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.
But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress? This happens a lot in our society with so many pressures and demands on our time
It wouldn’t feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) “rush,” anymore would it?
And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?
They’d get fatigued, right?
Do I have adrenal fatigue?
When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.
Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.
First off, there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.
However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).
What to do if I have these symptoms?
There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.
Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. Exercise has been shown to help reduce stress although you need to be careful about the intensity and duration of the exercise you do. Too much or too hard will just increase your stress levels but strength training, short bursts of higher intensity cardio or some form of restorative exercise like yoga or Tai Chi will give the body and outlet for the stress. Other favourites are meditation, walking in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or taking a bath relaxing bath.
Of course, at Inspire Fitness we also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So, go ahead and do it.
Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.
Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.
The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. Ensure you strength train twice a week and try to do your cardio, or some of it in nature. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, more sleep, or even a lovely bath.