Do you often feel tired despite getting adequate sleep? Do you crave salty snacks? Do you feel more awake in the evenings than you have all day? Do you find it difficult to bounce back from a period of stress or illness? Well, this may be adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is when your adrenal glands are functioning below their ideal level. Your adrenal glands are small pyramid shaped endocrine organs that sit on top of your kidneys. They make and secrete steroid hormones including cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline, aldosterone, estrogen and testosterone, hormones that are essential for a healthy and vital life. Using these hormones they modulate the body to maintain a state of homeostasis, or balance, during times of stress. The list of things these tiny glands are involved in is very long, but one of their main purposes is to allow your body to deal with stress in every form including the acute fight or flight response, and of course chronic stress. Their role is in fact a primitive one that helped our ancestors to thrive and survive, and although our world has changed our stress response has not.
In the 21st century we tend to live with less acute stress and more chronic stress. Adrenal fatigue is generally associated with prolonged stress or short periods of very intense stress, it can also be associated with chronic infections. A range of things can set your adrenal glands into action and in modern society it can be anything from work, food intolerances, financial burdens, air pollution or too little sleep that can affect how these amazing glands function. If you are constantly experiencing one or more stressors in your daily life, the burden on your adrenal glands is huge and often they cannot meet the demands. They still function, but not at an optimal level and this is when adrenal fatigue starts to set in.
Most people with adrenal fatigue live relatively normal lives, they do not look unwell, if they’ve sought medical help the regular tests are often within normal range, however they live with a feeling of fatigue, and of feeling unwell and flat. Often these people use stimulants throughout the day to give them the energy they need to get through, coffee and other caffeinated beverages make up a large portion of their fluid intake. Adrenal fatigue may also affect your sleep, your ability to lose weight and blood sugar levels among other things.
So how do you know if you have adrenal fatigue? Generally if you are feeling unreasonably tired, if you have chronic stress, crave salty foods, have sleep disturbances for no known reason, have troubles losing weight particularly around the abdomen, or get sick often then it’s worth considering. I always suggest, if this is the case to get a check up from your health professional. They can give you a good general check over and possibly do some blood tests such as iron and vitamin B12 to see if anything else is contributing. If you go to a natural health practitioner, most of us will be able to spot it from a mile away. If you want further tests then we can also send you to get a salivary hormone test to check your cortisol levels.
Finally, what can be done about Adrenal Fatigue? Heaps! Firstly a good diet is imperative to supporting your adrenal glands, you need lots of fresh fruits and veg, and good sources of protein throughout the day. Also reducing the stress in your life, or if that’s not possible, learning techniques to help you deal with it. Additionally there are many herbs that can help support the adrenal glands and finding the right ones for you can make a big difference, so consult your natural health practitioner about these.
Remember, wellness is feeling unbelievably awesome all the time. So if you’re lacking energy, feeling stressed or having trouble sleeping then take control of your health and start living with the health you deserve.