If you’ve ever lacked motivation, had low energy and no drive to get up and go then there is a good chance that your adrenal energy is low. Often this can have impact on your sleep patterns, moods, blood sugar levels and contribute to weight gain.
Adrenal fatigue is often over looked by medical doctors who feel that there is no real obvious test result to indicate the person has low adrenal function. When adrenal fatigue is left untreated for a lengthy period of time the endocrine system is greatly affected, in particular your thyroid gland. Ideally, we do not want to put any stress on the thyroid!
What are the Adrenals?
Your Adrenal Glands are located adjacent to the kidneys and they are responsible for synthesis and secretion of various hormones important for body function. Anatomically they almost look like little “hats” sitting above the kidneys.
Several hormones which are important in the body’s reactions to stress are made in the adrenal glands. The outer portion of the adrenal gland, known as the adrenal cortex, secretes steroid hormones including cortisol, a hormone that mediates various stress reactions. The inner portion of the adrenal gland, known as the medulla, secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine, the hormones important in the “fight or flight” reaction to a threat or sudden stress and when we need to get away from danger quick smart! When your adrenal glands become exhausted, you could experience weight gain, fatigue, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and low/fluctuating moods and there is no way you can flee from danger efficiently!
The stressed out adrenals will pass “their workload” onto the thyroid gland, and then you often experience imbalance of the thyroid gland where it may become over/under active. This is usually when the medical doctors start to take more interest and often may prescribe pharmaceutical drugs such as thyroxin if you are hypothyroid (under functioning). Weight can increase further or you may lose weight, but usually it’s a weight gain issue. You could experience headaches, and constipation, dry flaky skin, brittle nails and hair thinning/loss really depends how the thyroid is affected. Ideally you do not want to push too hard and reach the stage of adrenal burn out with an over worked thyroid, so if you feel that you are experiencing this presently I do suggest that you seek professional Naturopathic help to resolve as soon as possible.
I actually believe that if more people were assessed and treated for adrenal fatigue sooner we may not experience so many obesity, diabetic and thyroid disorders. We must always look to the root cause of the problem. In most cases unless there are other endocrine imbalances or genetic flaws the adrenals are the first to be affected.
One indicator is when people are very tired and slow to get going in the early part of the day (we must have iron levels checked here also since similar can occur with iron deficiency), but unlike low iron levels a person with adrenal fatigue can often experience an elevation of energy and alertness by late afternoon/early evening, often keeping them up late at night. The endocrine system is totally out of balance. Whereas with thyroid issues people often want the “cat nap” in the middle of the afternoon experiencing a huge energy slump and feeling sleepy. As time progress’s they become very sluggish and have no drive or motivation.
It is important to recognise if your cortisol levels are high or low. Low cortisol levels are the consequence of adrenal exhaustion or the exhaustion phase of the stress response. High cortisol levels are the result of the response to chronic stress and represent the adaptation phase of the stress response. A blood test can ascertain how adrenal function is working and the levels of the hormone cortisol. The result will vary depending on time of day you have the test done. The Lab range will indicate am/pm. However, there are no pharmaceutical drugs that can really assist with adrenal fatigue and this is where many doctors may not consider the results worthy of attention, perhaps just telling you to take it easy, get more rest or it’s all in your mind. I recommend you obtain a copy of your results and take them with you to a naturopath.
The adrenals pump out adrenaline – the hormone that drives the fear, fight and flight mechanism. This was needed by humans for survival – something that is not drawn upon as frequently with our more sedate lifestyle and inactivity. This is why daily exercise is very important since adrenaline is being released each day, and not being used as it was initially. When you exercise and move the body vigorously you draw on the stores of adrenaline and this process can assist in releasing stress. Alternatively, when you become an exercise “fanatic” and visit the gym daily, running/walking/swimming/playing sport also, with aim to lose weight you may become frustrated and disappointed with your huge effort and find yourself actually increasing in weight. No, it’s not always the muscle weight it’s the body’s metabolism totally out of balance. You are over stimulating your adrenals far too much here. When excess adrenaline builds up in the body you become irritable, anxious, impatient, perspire more and can have a “short fuse” quick to anger due to not releasing the hormone through physical activity. Rest is required in between regular bouts of vigorous exercise.
When your adrenals are balanced you reap the benefits of abundant energy, drive and motivation. You also fight off or recover from any illness much quicker than someone with depleted adrenal glands.
Nutritional supplementation, homeopathic and herbal remedies are very valuable in restoring normal cortisol levels and balanced adrenal function. These remedies are available through professional naturopaths and homeopaths, since self-prescribing could create more problems.
It is not wise to self prescribe when aiming to balance the endocrine system. I have met some who attempt this; often fail and some make their situation far worse.
A few simple things you can do to maintain healthy adrenal function are:
1. Understand your limits – your stress threshold and stay within these limits – do not over compete!
2. Obtain 7-8 hours sleep each night
3. Drink 1.5 – 2 litres of spring/filtered water a day
4. Eat citrus fruits twice a day, and increase all foods containing vitamin C, such as;
b. leafy vegetables,
d. all fresh fruits,
5. Meditate daily
6. Introduce yoga, or tai chi into your life activities
7. Avoid cane sugar at all times
8. Avoid all caffeine containing beverages – or limit to one cup tea/coffee a day
9. Avoid any recreational substances
10. Avoid cigarettes
11. Avoid alcohol – exception occasional red wine – moderation is the key.
12. Avoid all preservatives, salt and any “food” that has something added to it!
13. Aim to resolve any external stress factors – whether financial, relationships or work related etc.
Be aware that as we get older our body naturally produces more cortisol, which can be frustrating since it contributes to some of the weight gain around the mid section of the body, in particular with sedentary lifestyles and poor diet. Cortisol secretion also increases in response to any stress in the body, whether physical (i.e. illness, trauma, surgery, or temperature extremes) or psychological/emotional. A younger person’s cortisol levels when stressed rise rapidly, and in a few hours decline to normal, yet in older people levels can take days to return to normal level. This is why it is so important to support your adrenals more so as we age so any stress we may experience does not have such a negative impact on the glands/body.
Cortisol is essential in maintaining homeostasis during acute forms of stress, such as fear, physical exertion and trauma. The problem exists when cortisol is present for long periods of time in excess quantities which are extremely toxic; anyone suffering prolonged stress would succumb to higher levels of circulating cortisol continually. Brain cells/neurons, are extremely sensitive to the effects of cortisol which can cause death to brain cells when circulating at a high level for prolonged period, hence we see brain shrinkage and senility with old age. Cortisol in excess amounts can cause destruction to your immune system, a decrease in muscle mass, and shrinkage of other vital organs and thinning of skin with prominent blood vessels.
If the body produces too much cortisol over a long period of time, it can disrupt your blood sugar metabolism contributing to high insulin levels, ultimately diabetes, triggering emotional problems, as you feel constantly tired and weak. Chronic elevated cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, (abdominal fat, which is hard to get rid of), muscle and joint pain, insomnia, premature aging, impaired immune function so the individual becomes susceptible to infections. It is important to ensure the cortisol levels return to normal.
The pressures of modern life and demands that people experience now in the workforce with longer hours are taking a huge toll on the physical body. I have met many people in numerous organisations that I have consulted for, who are simply drained and lack zest and energy. The long hours from 10-15 hour days have depleted adrenal stores in many and weight gain and depression have been one of the common issues I have seen. This can create insomnia, feeling tired upon waking from a restless sleep, blood sugar disorders, high/low blood pressure and generally feeling unwell and jaded. People working shift work/grave yard shifts and switching from day hours to nights hours deplete their adrenal/nervous system. Long haul flights can also create a temporary adrenal fatigue and should still be addressed.
Many younger people and business executives – push themselves continually, becoming over adrenalised, stimulating high activity of the adrenals to the point of exhaustion and complete burn out. These over achievers will certainly pay the price of adrenal overload. Increased mental activity can deplete your adrenal reserves far more than physical work over the same length of time. If you find yourself tossing and turning all night since you are hyped up and overactive, waking with a need to thrash it again you will eventually just flop into non activity, with no stamina to barely move. You may experience nervous disorders, shaking, headaches and constipation, since you are more likely to be uptight and tense from the constant overdriven state you have put your body through.
A common trend with younger people is to consume caffeine stimulating drinks, enabling them to party for longer hours – often into the next day and evening without any sleep for sometimes 2 days or more. If this becomes habitual the adrenals and nervous system will be totally depleted and the consequences are not what you would want to experience. I have met some young people who consume these caffeine beverages daily often up to 3 a day to stay “awake and alert” whilst they are at work and giving themselves another “hit” of false energy to go out late at night. Chronic fatigue can result, with lowered immunity, becoming less resilient to viruses and bacteria’s. Energy will take a considerable length of time to improve and fatigue is a constant companion. You are far better off taking a B complex, eating fresh healthy food, and ensuring your iron levels are balanced, get plenty of sleep and if you wish to consume alcohol, consume just a couple of red wines if you simply wish to have plenty energy to party!
Every gland and system in your body needs nutrition. I am not talking about your daily diet here – even if you do eat organic food! I am talking about correct mineral balance which will support your physiology since everyone’s nutritional needs differ in accordance with genetic DNA, your physical activity for the day and many other factors. No two people will need the same nutrition for same complaint.
Blood tests can play a good role in checking some basic levels of nutrition but hair mineral analysis is far more in-depth and can in fact indicate where some glands may be experiencing under nourishment. Appropriate minerals are then prescribed to create a balance in the respective glandular function. Doctors do not run the hair mineral analysis tests.
If the stress that is affecting you is relevant to grief/relationship/financial concerns it might be appropriate to receive professional counselling also in conjunction with naturopathic treatments.
Anyone that has experienced chronic health disorders of any type or been hospitalised with lung disorders such as pneumonia, or any auto immune disorders often has depleted adrenal function due to long term stress associated with long term illness.
Don’t let this “on and off” fatigue linger any longer. See a professional practitioner and get the correct help. It is so much harder to treat chronic fatigue and many people falter over time with sheer frustration, often giving up remedies before they have fully optimised the cellular energy. The emotional/mental body needs to be treated to enable the person to follow through and gain some motivation and positive outlook. Meditation is an excellent therapy to include when treating “burn out” and lack of zest. I have observed many times how people benefit greatly by including meditation.
Learning to deal with stress in a positive manner is essential to maintain optimum health and prevent anti-aging. The key here is to learn how to relax, manage stress and ensure you have a healthy diet with adequate restful sleep, ideally 7-8 hours a night.
This disorder can be resolved with the correct protocol of remedies and treatment, including lifestyle and attitude changes. If you leave it too long and continually push past your limit you will encounter many other endocrine problems, which reflect on your hormonal activity. All natural remedies prescribed are easy to take and depending on chronicity the duration could be from 3 – 6 months, however some people I have met with including myself stay on them for indefinite period of time – a year or longer really depends on each individual case. The dosage is changed over time and some you may wean off, whilst others are continued as supportive nutrition. After all, you would rather feel fantastic with vibrant energy wouldn’t you, rather than dragging yourself along?
Lyn Craven is a Practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki Therapist, Meditation Teacher, and a Corporate Health Consultant. Lyn is a health researcher/writer of various topics for Health magazines and has produced a meditation CD assisting people manage stress. This CD is available on line – 2 minute sound sample is on the website. She runs a private practice in Sydney and conducts workshops in Sydney & Sunshine Coast. She can be contacted on 0403 231 804 firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.lyncravencorporatehealth-naturopath.com