Adrenal Fatigue: What Is It?

Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep? (Yes to all?)

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives and we know that stress can have a HUGE impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.

In case you don’t know, your adrenal glands look like walnuts and they live on top of both of your kidneys. These uber important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.

But what happens when they become “overworked?”

Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally hyper 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. We often call them “adrenaline junkies”. (As an aside: many first responders suffer from adrenal fatigue due to the  constance high stress of their jobs).

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 flight 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? 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? The same way you get fatigued when you don’t sleep or exert yourself physically for a prolonged amount of time.

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.

Now, I have to tell you that there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s often not considered 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” applies – and you are at a critical point where immediate medical intervention is needed.

All hope isn’t lost though, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other possible 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).  An amazing and easy to read book with real life tools to combat adrenal fatigue – Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.

What to do if you have these symptoms? There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.

If stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. Immediately. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress, just choose one that works for you. My favourites are training, walking outside, more sleep, visiting the spa, taking a bath or totally ‘vegging’ out and doing NO-THING.

Of course, I also recommend adjusting your diet by reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. There are also specific supplements – the stress supporters like high quality brands of Vitamin C and B-complex – that you can incorporate to help your body better deal with stress. All aspects of better nutrition can only help your body….so go ahead and do it!

Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt): Lavender Bath Salts

lavender bath salts
photo cred: bonnieplants.com

Per bath

2 cups epsom salts

10 drops lavender essential oil (contact me about this AMAZING brand of essential oils)

As you’re running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved

Lock the door, turn on the music and enjoy your stress-reducing bath!

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