24 Feb Do you have adrenal fatigue? Read these warning signs
It’s one of the most common health problem that I see in practice as a naturopath.
The story is usually similar – she’s been burning the candle at both ends, juggling a busy lifestyle of work and family, often she’s had a couple of babies without much of a gap in between… but they’re off to daycare/school now. But instead of feeling like she’s getting back on track, she’s feeling worse.
She’s tired. No – I take that back. She’s EXHAUSTED.
And her body has started to tell her. Her thyroid is on the low side. Iron stores are dropping. Her immune system is not as strong as it used to be (hello – more cold and flues than ever before!). And now… the weight gain – a little bit more than she’d prefer.
But she’s strong. She can push through it. She doesn’t want to feel like she’s weak or not pulling her weight – after all, her partner is busy too. Maybe she just needs to toughen up, she says.
This is a typical picture of the early stages of adrenal fatigue.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue occurs after a period of stress. This can be any stress – either physical or emotional. And here’s the clincher: Being busy, day in, day out, is seen by the body as a form of stress.
Stress activates our flight or fight response – a primitive system in our bodies which is in place to deliver the stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to the body to make us faster, stronger, and quicker-thinking. Fantastic news if we’re living in a cave and faced with a sabre-toothed tiger or a mountain lion. This burst of hormones will help us to either run away, or fight for our lives.
Except we don’t live in caves anymore.
Stress these days occurs more in the form of traffic jams, long queues at the supermarket, demands by our bosses, phone calls from the mother-in-law, sick kids, bills… you name it – there’s stress around every corner. Because life is busy.
Unfortunately, our adrenals can’t tell the difference, so they pump out these stress hormones anyway. They’re just trying to help.
At first, the increase in cortisol makes us feel good. We seem to go through the day with a higher degree of accuracy and attentiveness. We get shit done and we feel good – often really good.
Except it can’t last.
After a while our adrenals become dysfunctional from pumping out all that “good” stuff. It was only ever meant to be a stop-gap. (I mean – how often would you come face to face with a sabre-toothed tiger anyway?) The fluctuations in cortisol start to affect the other organs and systems in the body.
This is what we call adrenal fatigue – better known as adrenal dysfunction, or HPA axis dysfunction.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- Mood swings
- Energy goes up in morning, then down in evening
- Inability to handle stress
- Insomnia or poor sleep
- Waking feeling unrefreshed
- Poor digestion
- Blood sugar fluctuations
- Thyroid problems
- Poor immunity/ frequent infections
- Low blood pressure
- Poor circulation
- Low sex drive
- Caffeine either leaves you jittery or doesn’t work anymore
- Low back pain
- Weight gain that’s hard to shift
But what if you don’t have all these signs?
It’s important to mention that everyone is different. You may have some of these symptoms but not others. In the same way that one person who has a cold may have a runny nose and blocked ears, but another may have a cough and a sore throat, adrenal fatigue can manifest in different ways for different people. But if you can identify with at least a third of the above points or more, it would be worth doing some further investigation.
Ok, so you’re ticking all the boxes, and you have Adrenal Fatigue. What next?
First of all, you can go down the path of getting tested, to see where things are really at. I often recommend a saliva test called a Cortisol Awakening Response for my clients. It tests the levels of cortisol throughout the day, so we can see what stage of adrenal dysfunction we’re dealing with.
Secondly, there are some wonderful herbs and supplements to support the body. B vitamins, Withania, Rhodiola, calming herbs like Passionflower and Skullcap, and magnesium are some of the most commonly prescribed treatments. (It’s going to be slightly different for each person though, and I always take it on a case by case basis).
Next, some modifications to your diet and lifestyle are a MUST if you want to give your adrenals the best possible chance to heal. We want to make sure you’re getting good nutrition in, while avoiding any foods that are going to make the problem worse.
And then we need to talk about ways to relax. Your body needs space in order to heal – space that can’t be created if you don’t reduce the stress in the first place.
What I recommend:
- A gluten, dairy and sugar free diet that’s 80% paleo
- Relaxation and mindfulness
- Saying “no” to having too much on your plate
- Gut healing
- Avoiding unnecessary chemicals and toxins
- Gentle exercise
If you’d like to work with me 1-on-1 to get support to make these changes, you can book in for a consultation here.
Are you suffering from Adrenal Fatigue? Leave your comments below and share your experience with us!