Do you feel like you are constantly running on adrenaline? Feeling ‘on’, anxious and in go-go-go mode to the point that if you stop you might just fall in a heap?! This unease could be a sign that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your adrenal glands (the glands that produce hormones such as cortisol – our stress hormone) are not working properly – and often shows up in people under mental, emotional or physical stress. Adrenal fatigue is not a western diagnosis – however integrative GPs and holistic and integrative practitioners use this term to help identify the cause of people suffering symptoms related to hormone dysfunction. We need our hormones to function optimally for a healthy body – cortisol is very important is needed to:
Maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
Slow the immune systems inflammatory response
Balance the effects of insulin in breaking down sugar for energy
Regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
Adrenal fatigue can present through a whole host of symptoms including being unable to shift weight, not feeling like yourself, poor sleep, sugar cravings, weakened immune system, digestive problems, poor libido and anxiety. So if you can’t lose weight or just don’t feel like yourself, it might not be normal … It might be your hormones.
Is stress wreaking havoc on your body? Watch out for these signs and head to your GP or holistic practitioner if you think you might be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Sugar cravings. Ongoing long-term stress (the body likes short sharp bursts of adrenaline not 21st Century all-the-time-stress) can trigger the adrenal glands to overproduce steroid hormones, which can lead to a ravenous appetite. This kind of hormone-boosted hunger generally leads you to choose something sugary for that blood glucose hit (sugar rush), followed by a sharp fall and then craving something sugary again to lift your levels up – a vicious cycle. Being aware of this cycle and making informed healthy choices is one way to ensure that your waistline doesn’t expand. Also focusing on stress management techniques – meditation, yoga, mindfulness, walking outside – anything to get you switching to your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system that helps to slow the heart rate down and clear the mind.
Or a maybe a salty fix. Often severe adrenal insufficiency (also called Addison’s disease or hypocortisolism) can lead to persistent salt cravings as adrenal insufficiency affects the balance of water, sodium, and potassium in the body, as well as the body’s ability to control blood pressure and react to stress.
Not feeling like you. Feeling like you are constantly living life on the edge? Hormone dysfunction such as adrenal fatigue can leave you feeling all over the place. Anxiety, confusion, anger, cloudy thinking – feeling just not you.
Are you waking unrefreshed almost everyday? Are your thoughts and worries keeping you up at night? Not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole host of problems including mood swings, poor concentration, exhaustion and weight gain not to mention can make you feel like a shell of a human. Making the hour before bed ‘technology free’ can help support more rested sleep – the blue light emitted from a lot of our screens stimulate the brain which is not great before you want to sleep. Having a sleep hygiene routine – such as dimmed lights, a warm bath or shower and a calming cup of tea to help you unwind can help you get ready to rest. A cool dark room can also support much-needed shuteye.
Feeling constantly under the weather. When the body feels constantly stressed it can impact the immune system as chronic stress deactivates your body’s natural self-repair processes. In this day and age we rarely take a sick day even if we are at death’s door – we all feel guilty about taking time to look after ourselves, which is crazy! LISTEN TO YOUR BODY – if you feel under the weather take a rest and look after yourself – switch up your regular exercise for a stretch or yoga session, say no to dinner out and have an early night instead or take a day off rest on the couch and watch bad daytime TV.
Super sweaty all the time? When the body is in adrenal fatigue or hormone dysfunction it is in ‘flight or fight mode’ basically meaning it doesn’t know when to chill out and rest. This can mean that walking up a flight of stairs or unpacking the groceries can lead to a major attack of the sweats. If you are sweating (and smelling) a lot more than usual check in with your GP to ensure your endocrine (hormone) system is functioning optimally.
Stress triggers our stress hormone (cortisol) dah! The problem is when cortisol continues to rise and remains elevated the body goes into a phase where it actually resists weight loss. So even with all your healthy eating and regular exercise you will struggle to lose weight (and often even gain weight – especially around the mid-section) if you don’t manage your stress levels. Again reducing stress is the key to managing stress levels and ensuring your cortisol doesn’t spike. Regular small meals can also help to support blood glucose levels and help to regulate cortisol production.