Take this simple quiz to find out if you might have Adrenal Fatigue or Adrenal Dysfunction…
- Do you have difficulty awakening from sleep in the morning, often hitting the snooze button multiple times?
- Do you need coffee to get going in the morning?
- Have you recently gained weight, especially around the middle?
- Do you feel like you get every cold and flu bug that is going around, that your immune system is shot?
- Do you have more difficulty dealing with stress and deadline pressure than you used to?
- Do you have a lack of interest in sex?
- Do you frequently feel lightheaded upon standing quickly?
- Do you struggle with poor memory or “brain fog”?
- Do you feel especially tired in the mornings and afternoons between 3-5pm?
- Do you feel the need to snack or eat frequently to maintain a normal blood sugar?
- Do you crave salty foods?
- Do you feel extremely tired between 7-10pm but get a second wind if you stay up later?
- If you are female do you struggle with PMS: heavy bleeding, moodiness, fatigue during menstrual cycle? If you are male, do you feel like you stamina, energy and ability to maintain muscle are decreased?
- Do you frequently have pain in the upper back or neck with no apparent reason?
- Do you notice improvement of symptoms stress levels are lower, such as during a vacation or time away from work?
If you answered more than 10 of the questions above “yes”, you may have a condition of adrenal dysfunction often referred to as Adrenal Fatigue.
The adrenal glands sit over the kidneys, where they play a significant role in the body, secreting more than 50 hormones necessary for life, including epinephrine, cortisol, DHEA, progesterone and testosterone.
Since they produce so many essential hormones, the adrenal glands are responsible for many of the functions we need to stay alive and healthy, including:
- Energy production – carbohydrate, protein and fat conversion to blood glucose for energy
- Fluid and electrolyte balance
- Fat storage
One hormone in particular, cortisol, is extremely important for keeping our body systems in balance, as well as protecting our cells. For example:
- It controls the strength of the immune system: Too much cortisol weakens the immune system, setting the motions for increased susceptibility to infections and cancer, while too little leads to an overactive immune system and autoimmune disease.
- It normalizes blood sugar.
- It regulates blood pressure and electrolyte balance
As the manufacturer of adrenaline, they are the “glands of stress,” but are also the first glands to fail during prolonged or intense periods of stress. The problem with stressors is that they are “cumulative,” in the sense that their impact tends to add up in the body over time until your adrenal glands just can’t take anymore. Adrenal “fatigue” or dysfunction used to be rare, but is now all too common because of our lack of relaxation and other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits and excessive caffeine intake, as well as exposure to environmental toxins and allergens.
Adrenal fatigue should not be confused with another medical condition called Addison’s disease where the adrenal glands are not functioning at all. While Addison’s disease is often caused by autoimmunity, Adrenal Fatigue is largely caused by stress along with a host of other factors, like accumulation of toxic exposures, hidden infections, hormone imbalance, or even nutritional deficiencies.
More signs and symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:
- Mild depression or anxiety
- Multiple food and or inhalant allergies
- Lethargy and lack of energy
- Increased effort to perform daily tasks
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Dry and thin skin
- Low blood sugar
- Low body temperature
- Unexplained hair loss
- Alternating diarrhea or constipation
The ability to handle stress, physical or emotional, is a cornerstone to human survival. Our body has a complete set of stress modulation systems in place, and the control center is the adrenal glands. When these glands become dysfunctional, our body’s ability to handle stress and fight infections is decreased.
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue Include:
Excessive stress can be from many sources. Chemical toxicity and nutritional depletion are among the physical causes. Mental, emotional or spiritual stress may be a major factor, too. Financial, family or other stress may also contribute to burnout. Even infections can play a role.
Any excessive stress can deplete the adrenals. Excessive workload, long hours, lack of sleep, or emotional stress are common. Other stressors in cities are noise and electromagnetic pollution. Cell phones, microwave towers and appliances like televisions, cell phones, wearable electronics, microwave ovens and computers give off strong EMF fields that can be stressful to our bodies
Many people today have subclinical deficiencies of essential nutrients, like B vitamins, Vitamins A, C and E, Magnesium, Zinc, and other trace elements. When under stress, the need for nutrients is even greater. Refined carbohydrates stress the adrenals as well. Diets low in protein may also create deficiencies. The Standard American Diet is both high in processed carbs and sugar and lower in quality fats and protein and many times lacking in micronutrients.
Inadequate or poor quality water affects oxygenation of the tissues. Most diets are low in nutrients required by the adrenals. The reasons for this begin with how food is grown. Most food is grown on depleted soils. Our soils of today contain a fraction of the magnesium as soils hundreds of years ago did. Processing and refining further deplete nutrients. Habits such as eating in the car or while on the run further diminish the value derived from food and our ability to digest it. Allergic reactions to foods such as wheat and dairy products can damage the intestines and reduce the absorption of nutrients as well.
Toxic chemicals often play a large role in adrenal burnout. Everyone is exposed to thousands of chemicals in the air, the water and the food. Sources may also include dental materials or beauty products, such as shampoo, lotions, make-up. Cleaning our home with toxic chemicals may also take it’s toll. Over-the-counter and prescribed medications also add to the body’s toxic load. Check out these 10 Tips to decrease your exposure. Toxins may also be generated internally due to microbial imbalances in the gut and impaired digestion. When food is not properly digested, it may ferment in the intestines, producing many harmful substances that are absorbed through the intestinal lining. A healthy body has the ability to eliminate many toxins on a daily basis. However, as adrenal weakness develops, the body’s ability to eliminate all toxins decreases. This produces a vicious cycle in which weaker adrenals impairs the elimination of all poisons, which then further weakens the adrenals.
Chronic infections may originate in infected teeth or gums, though they can be located anywhere in the body. They contribute greatly to the toxic load of the body. Infections also cause inflammation and stress that must be countered using the adrenal hormones such as cortisol and cortisone.
One of the most commonly overlooked causes of Adrenal Fatigue is intestinal infections that gives rise to an inflammatory response. Such infection can occur sub-clinically with no obvious signs at all. Infections in the gut, including giardia, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), fungal dysbiosis, and h. pylori infection are just a few that may contribute to adrenal dysfunction.
STIMULANTS OR EXCESSIVE EXERCISE
Stimulants damage the adrenal glands by pushing the secretion of stress hormones and adrenaline and over time depleting the body of essential neurotransmitters. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol are among the most common culprits.
Less obvious but no less important stimulants may include anger, rage, arguments, hatred, unforgiveness, loud music, tragic news, and even movies with suspense or excessive violence. Other activities that may act as stimulants include vigorous exercise or recreational drug use. Even high risk sports, like surfing, diving, or extreme climbing if done in excess may deplete the adrenals. Most of these activities provide a temporary “high”, which is caused in part by the secretion of high amounts of adrenal hormones. Over time, however, this weakens the adrenals and can eventually lead to adrenal depletion and insufficiency.
Uncontrolled emotions are another cause of adrenal burnout. These include habits of worrying, or becoming angry or afraid. Don’t worry, be happy is a great prescription for adrenal burnout. This applies particularly to high strung, Type A, nervous individuals as they are especially prone to adrenal burnout. Prayer and meditation release calming neurotransmitters and take the body from a state of fight and flight into the parasympathetic mode of relaxation and can be extremely helpful in healing adrenal fatigue. In addition, cultivating an attitude of gratitude can do wonders for you adrenals.
More stressors that can lead to Adrenal Fatigue:
- Emotions, like anger, fear, guilt
- Chronic illness
- Chronic infections
- Chronic pain
- Excessive exercise
- Gluten intolerance
- Malabsorption and poor digestion
- Toxic exposure
- Severe or chronic stress
- Sleep deprivation
- Excessive sugar in diet
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Processed foods, additives, chemicals and genetically modified ingredients, like corn, soy, canola.
- Infected teeth, gums or root canal
Chronic stress is very common in western society. The most common causes of stress are work pressure, changing jobs, death of a loved one, moving homes, illness, and marital disruption. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the amount of stress overextends the capacity of the body to compensate and recover. But there is hope… stay tuned for my next article on how to treat adrenal fatigue
If you liked this post subscribe to my free newsletter today and get a free Paleolicious Snack Guide!
Be sure to read PART II: TREATMENTS FOR ADRENAL FATIGUE…