Could being exhausted all the time mean you have adrenal fatigue?
It seems that everyone that feels tired these days is self diagnosing themselves with adrenal fatigue. I might even go as far as calling it the buzz condition of 2016. It seems to many that our adrenals are zapped because of the highly stressed life that we are all exposed to. Have we wiped out our adrenals- or is it the case of simply balancing our lifestyle and incorporating more down time, sleep and mindfulness to one’s body?
What are the adrenals?
The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit on top of our kidneys. They are in charge of producing and releasing regulating hormones called adrenalin and noradrenalin. These hormones regulate what is called our fight or flight response (basically our response to stress).
The way I like to explain the situation is as follows: We are designed to deal with various sorts of stress in our life (physical stress like sports, emotional stress, stress at work, stress with the family, stress of not sleeping enough, stress of being un-happy whether in a relationship or at work, anxiety, and so on). Our body, when it feels under stress, releases our stress response hormones that helps us deal with the situation. The way our body is meant to work is that when the stress or stressful situation is over, we get to relax and the body stops producing and releasing these hormones. Thing is, most of us are under constant stress that does not stop until we feel burned out. So your body produces these hormones until they run out and your body no longer produces them and this is what is called Adrenal exhaustion.
When this happens a person can feel a variety of symptoms from: feeling exhausted, having frequent colds and suffering from a low immune response, suffering from depression, difficulty sleeping (tired but wired), digestive disorders, anaemia, infertility and low blood pressure.
So how do I know if I am just tired or of my adrenals are not working properly?
You have 2 options here:
- The safe way to see if your adrenals are depleted is to visit your doctor and get a range of testing done. An Endocrinologist (a doctor that specialises in hormones) or a good functional medicine doctor will be helpful at this point. Your testing might include a blood test and a saliva test as well. Your doctor might prescribe you with some supplements or replacement hormones.
- You could answer the adrenal questionnaire:
Do you have-High Cortisol:
*Do you constantly have the feeling you are racing from one task to the next?
*Do you feel wired yet tired?
*Do you struggle to calm down before bed time (second wind that keeps you awake)?
*Difficulty falling asleep or difficulty sleeping?
*Do you worry about everything, feel anxious and nervous even about things you cannot control?
*It’s very easy for you to become angry and shout and yell?
*You are gaining weight on the belly?
*Do you suffer from bone loss- osteoporosis?
*High Blood pressure or rapid heart beat?
*High blood sugar, pre diabetes, insulin resistant or diabetic?
*Indigestion, GERD, ulcers?
*Do you have more difficulty recovering from injury than in the past?
*Irregular menstrual cycles?
Do you have -Low Cortisol:
*Feeling Fatigued or burnt out, need caffeine or sugar to boost your energy?
*Do you fall asleep when you watch TV?
*Exhausted and drained?
*Loss of stamina particularly between 2-5 in the afternoon?
*Negative point of view?
*Crying for no particular reason?
*Decreased problem solving ability?
*Feel stressed most of the time-everything seems harder?
*Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep?
*Low Blood pressure?
*Immune system is not 100%?
*Asthma, chronic cough, allergies?
*Low blood sugar?
*You bruise easily?
If you have answered yes to 3 in either category you might have a hormonal imbalance and it might be linked to your adrenals.
Note: with adrenal fatigue you might be suffering from both low and high cortisol at different times of the day.
So how do I help myself revive my adrenals?
If you are a clear cut case of adrenal fatigue or exhaustion (have been diagnosed by your doctor) you will be put on supplements and possibly hormone replacement too.
However, if you have not seen the doctor but you are feeling exhausted and ticked a few boxes on the above questionnaire there are a few simple steps that you could take to help you revive your adrenals and show them some love:
*Prioritise sleep, make sure you are sleeping in a tech free environment and stop using your phone or computer up to 2 hours before bed time. Help yourself unwind with warm epsom salt baths, meditation and essential oils. Try adding in a short nap of 20 min into your day as well if you can.
*Improve your nutrition. Focus on foods that have a high mineral, vitamin and antioxidant ratio. If you are using caffeine and sugar to keep you going you are depleting your adrenals even more. so reduce those significantly and switch to green tea.
*Incorporate fermented foods (like home made sauerkraut, kefirs and kombucha) or take a strong multi strain probiotic. There is a very strong link between gut health (and having enough good gut bacteria) and feeling energetic and vital.
*Enjoy alittle bit of good quality dark chocolate every day. Raw cacao is rich in many minerals that will help you calm your nervous system.
*Limit your alcohol-alcohol raises cortisol (aim for less than 3 glasses per week).
*Get a massage once a week or once a month. preferably a deep tissue massage.
*Introduce yoga, acupuncture and meditation into your weekly routine
But remember, perhaps you are just burning the candle at both ends and need some rest, reset and some time out. You might not have adrenal exhaustion, you might just need a good night of sleep, some sound nutrition and an introduction to meditation. So before you rush off diagnosing yourself with adrenal fatigue please try to incorporate the lifestyle factors suggested above.