Adrenal Fatigue isn't "REAL", but does it matter?
Despite the obvious fact that millions of people are suffering from the built-up toll that stress can put on the body with clear signs of hormonal issues and fatigue that just won't quit, the term "adrenal fatigue" is still considered with scrutiny by many.
The thing is, I get the scrutiny.
“ADRENAL FATIGUE” isn’t a “medically defined term"
“Adrenal fatigue" isn't a defined medical condition and technically, doesn't actually exist.. but that's not to say the symptoms and feelings you have been should be discredited, not at all! Today, I want to share my thoughts on this popular (and highly frustrating) topic.
ABOUT THE ADRENALS
The adrenal glands are, by nature, tough and mighty little things.
These little powerhouses are two walnut-sized glands that sit comfortably on top of the kidneys. They secrete hormones involved with all the major physiological processes in the body and are there to help our body adapt, adjust and survive the events the day may bring us.
You know that rush of adrenaline you feel when something scares or excites you?
Yup, that's your adrenals prepping your body to take flight or to fight if that's what the situation may entail.
These days, more than the need to fight or run away from threats, our bodies are pumping out stress hormones as we worry about things at work, as we deal with the complexities of different relationships, family stuff, financial things and so on and so forth. The problem is the stress we're tackling today isn't fleeting like that moment when you see a bear in the woods is. These days, we are stressing all the time about different things and if we aren't mentally stressing, sometimes the stress comes from dietary things, physical things, immune conditions, digestive problems, sleep schedules or general inflammation in the body. There are many different forms of stress.
WHAT IS ADRENAL FATIGUE?
Adrenal Fatigue is commonly thought of as a condition when the adrenal glands get "fatigued" or "collapse" from excessive wear and tear. After enduring periods of chronically high stress demands (or short periods of extremely high stress) these glands take a physical hit and can no longer produce stress hormones at the rate they used to. I agree that excessive wear and tear can implicate these glands to an extent.. but below I will breakdown what the problem really is.
ADRENAL ISSUES STEM FROM THESE TWO PLACES:
THE ADRENAL GLANDS AND THE BRAIN.
The adrenal glands don't just produce stress hormones blindly or intuitively.
They get their instructions from signals and communication from our brain through the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis (the HPA Axis). When the adrenal glands are making too much cortisol or not enough cortisol, the communication along the HPA Axis between the brain and the adrenals must be considered... because more than just a fatigued glandular issue, there typically is a signaling problem between the brain and the adrenals. Signaling issues between the two have a direct effect on how the adrenals behave and how the body responds to circulating cortisol too.
SO TO BE CLEAR, WHEN I SAY ADRENAL FATIGUE.. I AM USING A POPULAR TERM FOR THIS GREATER IDEA OF HPA DYSREGULATION.
(I mean— this is SIMPLY nourished after all :D )
SOME SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE OR ASSOCIATED HORMONAL IMBALANCE:
Anemia (iron deficiency)
Weight gain in the belly area that you can't seem to lose
Decrease or loss in muscle mass
You wake up in the early hours of the morning (between 3-5am)
Increase of energy in the evening after dinner
Anxiety or depressive thoughts
Eyes are sensitive to the light
Feeling dizzy when you stand up too fast
Slow wound healing or slow to recover from illness
Difficulty waking up in the morning
Feeling constantly tired- a tired that is not relieved by sleep (CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME)
Feeling like you can't relax
Cravings for salt or salty foods
Easily irritated or intolerant to stress
Digestive issues and sudden new food intolerances
Dependence on stimulants to function (coffee, colas, energy drinks, ect.)
Exaggerated menopausal symptoms
Irritability if a meal is missed aka "HANGRY"
Blood sugar imbalances
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid)
Decreased immune system
Increased or exaggerated PMS symptoms
Fibrocystic breasts or fibroids
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Low blood pressure
If you are wondering if adrenal issues might be affecting your health and your hormones, click here to complete the adrenal status questionnaire and learn my top tips for helping to support them.
SO, HOW DO YOU FIX THE DYSREGULATION?
When it comes to fixing the signalling issues mentioned above and nourishing up a depleted body that is suffering from exposure to chronic or excessive stress, it really begins with a self-check-in... with asking yourself where you could start respecting your body and its boundaries a little more. It comes back to simple self-care, good food, making sleep and yourself a priority. Sounds simple, doesn't it?
So why are so many people stuck struggling for so long?
The thing is that hormonal issues can feel really complicated....
There is so much conflicting information in books and on the internet, one doctor says one thing, another says another, and not to mention…
changing the way you live can be really hard!
Slowing down and making changes like nixing the people pleasing attitudes, changing your work and lifestyle habits, making key dietary changes and setting boundaries for yourself isn't always a walk in the park... especially if you are super type A (like so many of people struggling with adrenal issues are).
On top of that, just because you're wanting to stress less doesn't mean that the things that stressed you out before are going to necessarily go away-- so a whole mental shift needs to happen. The way we perceive stress and handle it needs to be tweaked, and yes my loves... it's challenging! It takes practice, it takes patience, it takes a lot of conscious effort.
I know you have it in you, though!
Let me know if you need some help finding your balance, I am here to help!