If you suspect you live under high stress, then you should know about the important role your adrenals play in this equation. If you have chronic stress, your adrenals get beat up, it is difficult to manage your life, and your energy plummets. It’s a vicious cycle: your adrenals don’t function properly to manage your stress and pressure, but these also fuel a chronic adrenal fatigue state.
Many health experts believe approximately 80% of the population suffer from some level of adrenal insufficiency, yet are only diagnosed when an extreme deficiency (Addison’s disease) or overproduction (Cushing’s disease) of the adrenal hormones are found while performing routine blood work. This means that many people are trying to manage their lives and daily activities with malfunctioning adrenal glands, which goes undetected, not meeting the level of severity to diagnose disease. When your adrenal glands are being stressed, an autoimmune inflammatory response can occur throughout the entire body.
How do you know if you have adrenal burnout?
The primary role of your adrenals, two little glands that sit on the top of your kidneys, is to produce and regulate the stress hormone cortisol. Your adrenal glands also produce sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and your neurotransmitters, adrenaline (epinephrine), norepinephrine, and dopamine. These hormones and neurotransmitters regulate your metabolism and communicate with other organs, like your brain, kidneys, and reproductive system. Chronic stress can suppress your adrenal glands and cause them to release insufficient amounts of these necessary hormones.
When overworked and dysfunctional, your adrenals are not able to compensate for the chronic stress that you have in your life. Most common symptoms which can indicate you might suffer from adrenal burnout are: feeling wired and tired, irritability, sleep problems, low blood pressure, blood sugar problems, sugar and salt cravings, hormonal problems, feeling overwhelmed, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, body aches and muscle pain, dizziness upon standing, low libido, infertility, hair loss, blurred vision, allergies.
The connection between stress and your adrenals
Many people have problems, responsibilities and a very busy schedule, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be “stressed out”, to the point where your health has to suffer. A lot of the “stress” is actually self-created.
We overwork, sacrifice our sleep, indulge in processed foods for a quick “fix,” we let negative feelings and thoughts to take over, and consume coffee and other stimulants to be able to push ourselves over the limits. We don’t take the time anymore to nurture our relationships and inner world for our own well being. All these unhealthy habits affect us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. In our super hectic, modern lifestyle it became more important than ever to learn stress relieving techniques and how to respond to life’s challenges in a positive way.
On the other hand, stress is not only related to your work, relationships, family, etc. It also means unresolved biochemical imbalances and dysfunction in your body: hidden infections, hormonal imbalances, blood sugar problems, etc. All these are also considered a stress by your body, which uses an arsenal of resources to manage it all.
When you engage in stressful activities, your body enters into the fight-or-flight mode, where it believes that you need a surge of energy in order to survive. Since cortisol’s function is to provide you with a burst of energy, this hormone will increase your blood sugar, suppress your immune system to save energy, and begin breaking down your storage of protein and carbohydrate. Over time, high levels of cortisol can lead to insulin resistance, weaken your immune system, and eventually cause muscle wasting, if not properly addressed.
Taking care of your adrenals
While exercise is a very important part of being healthy, if not done properly for your level of health, it can actually trigger an adrenal crash. Choose gentle, regular exercise like a walk in nature, a light jog, a bike ride. Spend time outdoors in the fresh air to get natural light that affects your pineal gland and helps reset your brain and the stress response.
Rhythm is important for your adrenals. Having a routine like going to bed at the same time every day (no later than 10 – 11 PM and for 8 hours of sleep), eating at the same time every day can be very helpful for the health of your hormones; these help to reset your natural balance of work and rest. If your schedule is chaotic and you’re always in a hurry, your adrenals are going to burn out.
The best way to treat adrenal fatigue is to address the root cause: stress. Learn to say NO when you have reached your limit and take natural breaks when you feel tired. Do something relaxing every day and cultivate positive, happy feelings. Don’t over-exercise. If you are fatigued after your workout, you might want to scale down.
Eat a healthy balanced diet of high quality organic animal protein, healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, butter), coupled with ample amounts of vegetables. Don’t skip breakfasts and include protein before 10 am. Consume fruit with a source of protein and/or fat (nuts or nut butters) to maintain a stable blood sugar level. Avoid alcohol, sugar, and gluten as these are highly inflammatory foods. Finally, consider supplements to help you fight the stress.