Are you tired all the time? Sleepy during the day but can’t sleep at night? So stressed out you can’t think straight? Crabby, depressed, sick all the time? Muscle weakness, chronic pain, dizziness? These are just a few of the classic symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
80 percent of people will suffer adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives, says Dr. James Wilson, author of the best-selling book “Adrenal Fatigue: 21st Century Stress Syndrome.” When your adrenal glands have been “overworked,” they cannot do their job very well and any additional stress can strongly affect you, resulting in fatigue and other symptoms.
Adrenal glands function as your body’s “shock absorbers” by helping you to handle all forms of stress. But when you’re feeling stressed all the time, those glands become overworked and tired – a condition commonly called adrenal fatigue. When the adrenal glands fail to secrete enough cortisol, this causes energy dips during the day with spikes at night which disrupt sleep.
Two kinds of adrenal exhaustion
Physical exhaustion is generally caused by engaging in activities that require physical exertion. In these cases, we choose to exert ourselves and fatigue comes along with a natural slow-down. We consequently plan a period for recovery with rest and nutrition. After the adrenal pumping activity is over, the body goes through a recovery phase for 24-48 hours during which we are tired, listless and less able to respond to stress. Although our muscles may be sore and a bit tired for a few days, we are otherwise physically refreshed by this kind of activity with a renewed level of energy.
Stress exhaustion is not planned or welcomed and is caused by the thoughts and emotions of the individual rather than the related situation. Everyone has their own level of stress they can deal with. One person experiences stress as a result of losing a job and becomes emotionally exhausted with worry. Another person takes the loss in stride and may even see this in a positive light. The person who allows life’s ups and downs to affect them negatively will feel emotional stress and if it continues, they will experience physical and emotional consequences.
The Vicious Cycle
There is a vicious cycle that starts with adrenal fatigue, goes through “the resistance stage” and ends in General Adaptation Syndrome.
When the stress alarms continue unabated, the adrenals first become exhausted and then eventually become resistant to excessive stimulation. Constant, severe stress causes the adrenals to adapt and increase their size and function – for a while, before they begin to collapse. The resistance phase follows and can last from one month to up to 20 years. In the resistance stage, cortisol promotes the retention of sodium to keep your blood pressure elevated and your heart contracting strongly.
When stress is prolonged and severe, it will continue beyond the resistance stage to the General Adaptation Syndrome stage resulting in haemorrhaged adrenal glands, high insulin levels, atrophied thymus glands, biochemically devastated bodies, a total collapse of body function, or a collapse of specific organs or systems.
The Road Back
To rebuild the adrenal glands, there are five areas to address:
- Reduce the stresses that have affected the adrenal function
- Exercise for 30 minutes daily. Walking, yoga, stretching, swimming, etc. “burns” the daily stress energy out of the body.
- Get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Taking one mg of melatonin at 6 p.m. and two mg at 8 p.m. will help balance high cortisol levels in most people for better sleep.
- Improve the diet
- Do things that feed the soul daily like read, write, sing, pray or meditate
NOTE: Relying on sugar or caffeine as energy boosts worsens adrenal problems.