What Stress is Doing

Do any of these symptoms sound like you?

  • Fatigue not relieved by sleep
  • Trouble getting up in the morning even when you have had enough sleep
  • Craving salty or sweet snacks
  • Low sex drive
  • Feeling run down and overwhelmed
  • Difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness
  • The need for caffeine in the morning to get going
  • Use of caffeine throughout the day to get through the day
  • Mood swings
  • Muscular weakness
  • Lightheadedness when getting up from seated or lying down position
  • Mental fog and/or memory problems
  • Increased PMS or menopausal symptoms
  • Frequent sighing
  • Increased food allergies or sensitivities
  • Sleep/wake cycle off balance

If you said yes to some of the symptoms listed above read further to find out why you may be feeling this way and what you can do to change it.

Over time, society and how we live has changed dramatically, but our bodies have not. Our ability to diffuse tension in our life, utilize self-care skills, and modulate our response to life situations plays an integral role in how healthy we are, the amount of joy we have and how much energy is available to us to enjoy our lives. The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of each kidney and are directly responsible for providing the hormones necessary for our bodies to respond to our stress. Although the adrenals secrete many hormones, one primary function is to release epinephrine when we experience stress. This is the classic, “flight or fight” response. Ideally, the way this should work is when you encounter some type of stress, your body releases the epinephrine putting everything into “alert” and you are then able to respond appropriately to the stressor. Classically taught it is our ability to “fight the tiger or run from it.” Once the stress is resolved or you have removed yourself from the situation the adrenals carry on normal functions awaiting the next response. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get back to the resting state often enough. We continually call on the adrenals for support in dealing with our overly burdened and busy lives. Most of us live in a “pedal to the metal” mentality. We are constantly on the go and often critical of others and ourselves when we take time out to slow down. How often have you said or heard someone say, “I wasted the whole morning and just read a book, or took a long walk in the wood may”? Somewhere we have gotten the message that we must not “waste” any time and need to maximize every moment being productive. Then on top of that we are often unrealistic about how much time something is going to take which ends up creating more stress. What this can and often does lead to is a fatiguing of the adrenal glands.

So…How do I know if this applies to me?

Many of these symptoms overlap with other disease processes, which is often why adrenal fatigue is missed. It is not necessary and you rarely will have all these symptoms when suffering from adrenal fatigue. The more symptoms that you are experiencing the more likely you are to be suffering some level of adrenal dysfunction.

Despite the fact that millions of people suffer from adrenal fatigue, the medical community at large has been reticent to address this syndrome choosing to focus only on Addison”s or Cushings diseases, which are the extremes of under and over functioning of the adrenal glands. Whereas blood tests are utilized to determine the presence of Addison’s or Cushing’s diseases, saliva tests are the primary method utilized to determine whether the adrenals are in a fatigued state. These saliva tests are FDA approved and considered a more sensitive marker for cortisol and DHEA over production and/or deficiency, which are the earmarks for normal adrenal function. As more people present with symptoms consistent with adrenal fatigue and even more are having significant success treating with adrenal adaptogens, many physicians are recognizing and addressing this issue with their patients.

Once the adrenal dysfunction has been identified there are many different treatment options that we utilize to improve and repair adrenal function. However, one false assumption is that taking a specific adaptogen or herbal remedy is enough to correct your issues. In order for healthy adrenal repair and function to return you must modify the behavior that initially created the problem. In general it is safe to say that adrenals, especially when undergoing repair, do not like extremes of anything. That is, not getting too much or too little sleep, too much or little exercise, too hot or cold etc. Balance and moderation is paramount to achieving full adrenal repair as it is in most restorative processes.

So, if you have been reading this saying to yourself, “sounds like me”, it may be time to evaluate whether your adrenals may be fatigued. Whether you suffer from this syndrome or not it is a good time to evaluate whether your life is in the balanced place you want it to be. Preventing adrenal fatigue is much easier than healing from it.

There are a number of good resources for additional information but for a comprehensive easy to read reference I can recommend Dr. Wilson’s book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.