Friday, 19 June 2015 12:33

Adrenal fatigue, the stress syndrome of the 21st century

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One of the most common complaints I hear in my practice is that people feel absolutely fatigued and stressed out. Are we in a crisis of adrenal fatigue?

What Happens to your Body During Stressful Situations?

Our stress reaction was developed in prehistoric times, when we were subjected to real dangers. For example when a dangerous predator or enemy crossed our path. To survive, we had two options: fight or flight.

To enable this mechanism, a lot of energy had to be released in a short amount of time. Raising our blood-glucose levels was one of our body's response.The adrenal glands play an important part in this raising of the blood-glucose level in stressful situations. After all, the adrenal glands produce the hormones adrenalin and cortisol, which quickly ensures the conversion of glycogen in liver and muscles, and proteins in muscles, into blood glucose. Next to raising the blood-glucose level, cortisol is also the most important anti-inflammatory agent in the body. Which is logical really, because any inflammations or wounds sustained during a fight or flight would reduce our chances of survival.

 

Stress Influences In This Day And Age

In fact, our body uses the same system today, as it did in the old days, to deal with stressful events - everyday it is literally "saving its life". Except that our stressors are totally different. The stress we experience today does not usually involve a life-threatening situation, but represents an accumulation of minor stress loads from work, in our private lives, in our present-day society with its information and communication overload, overeating, and sometimes even overtraining. Usually, most of the time, there are no acute traumatic situations, but a chronic accumulation of situations that may eventually become too much. As a result, we are no longer able to cope with any stress at all. In nature, an antelope fleeing from a lion will be peacefully grazing away within just 5 minutes, while a human being having faced a trauma may end up on the therapist's couch years after the incident.You have probably noticed other people, and perhaps even yourself, who have worked very hard for ten years or so, seemingly invincibly. Then, suddenly, you are burnt out. You fall from one illness into another and need years and years to even remotely resemble your old energetic self once again.

Explanation On The Basis Of Hormones

This is easily explained on the basis of the functioning of glands and hormones. To cope with stress, the adrenal gland produces the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. As long as this is sufficient, all will go well. However, with chronic stress load, the adrenal glands have to produce so many of these hormones that they eventually become entirely depleted. When that happens, not enough adrenalin and cortisol are being produced and with time, adrenal fatigue has occurred. Furthermore, besides being unable to stabilize blood-glucose levels, the body has difficulty fighting inflammations which prevents the immune system from properly doing its job.

Well-known symptoms pointing to adrenal fatigue include:

  • Low blood-glucose levels causing dizzy spells
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Craving for sweet foods
  • Inflammations taking over and allergies developing or worsening
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Low blood pressure
  • Craving for salty foods (aldosterone (a stress hormone) is made from cortisol and will raise blood pressure)
  • Trouble getting up in the morning and going to sleep at night (cortisol will normally kick you awake)

Prevention and Cure

As you can see, it is dangerous to let it get this far. Adrenal fatigue may result in dangerous inflammations and autoimmune diseases and with time, will prevent you from working. It is very important, after reading the list of symptoms and, if you suspect adrenal fatigue, to tackle the causes. Try to find out which stress sources have the most impact on you. Focus on these sources and determine, if necessary by consulting a health coach, how this stress may be reduced in order to allow your adrenal glands to be restored. Be aware of the fact that, if adrenal fatigue is actually the case, it will not suffice to go on a week's holiday.

Common stressors

Work/career: Examples of solutions include improve delegation methods and time management, a change of position, and working fewer hours.

Private life: Solutions may include help in case of trauma handling, family or relationship coaching, and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Food: Too much sugar, junk food and processed foods (mostly in cans and packed in boxes), pesticides, and food for which you may be intolerant or allergic to may be stress sources that can be avoided.

Pollution, allergens, and toxins from the environment.

Reducing the stress load and introducing various forms of relaxation, yoga, meditation, and coaching may tackle the cause of adrenal fatigue. Still, if the adrenal glands are extremely depleted, additional actions may be needed. Sometimes, adrenal glandular supplementation will give the adrenal glands some leeway and suppress more dangerous inflammations. Complaints involving a low/high blood pressure may be alleviated by taking some unrefined salt, e.g. Himalaya salt or Celtic sea salt. In other cases, it may help to formulate a therapeutic supplementation program which may include extra vitamin C and D.

Another reaction of the body to stress and adrenal fatigue is a slowing down of the thyroid gland. This may be seen in the blood if a lower free T3 level is observed, rather than low levels of TSH and free T4. Often, the cause lies with the adrenal glands, rather than the thyroid gland. I would therefore focus on the adrenal glands if this is the case.

We love meditation, yoga and finding a healthy balance between work and play. How are you preventing adrenal fatigue?

Read 12271 times Last modified on Friday, 19 June 2015 12:53
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