Adrenal Fatigue is a condition where the adrenal glands can no longer function appropriately. Often caused by excess stress, adrenal fatigue manifests in a number of ways. When you feel you can no longer cope with even the smallest amount of stress, good or bad, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands are 2 triangular shape organs, one on top of each kidney. They are endocrine glands and help to produce and regulate various hormones throughout the body.
Hormones produced and regulated by the adrenal glands include
- Aldosterone: this helps to regulate sodium, potassium and water in the body and helps to maintain blood volume and pressure
- Cortisol: controls the body’s use of fats, carbohydrates and proteins as well as increase blood glucose levels
- Corticosterone: with cortisol, helps suppress inflammatory responses and affects the immune system
- Sex hormones: androgens, progesterones and estrogens help with sexual maturation, fertility and libido
- Epinephrine (adrenaline): helps the body respond to stressful situations by increasing heart rate and facilitating blood flow to muscles and the brain, while helping to relax smooth muscles. It is also aids in the conversion of glycogen to glucose in the liver, increases metabolic rate and reduces blood flow to the bladder and intestines
- Norepinephrine (noradrenaline): this helps increase blood pressure in response to acute stress, constricts blood vessels, reduces heart rate, and increases depth and rate of breathing. It helps to relax smooth muscles of the intestinal wall
Any disturbance to the hormones from the adrenal glands can lead to the following symptoms, and can have chronic effects on the body. It is important to be mindful of yourself and how you are feeling in order to control the sense of overwhelm that comes from excess, accumulated stress.
Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue include
- Inability to cope
- Insomnia, excess sleep
- Bowel changes and digestive system disturbances (diarrhea, constipation, bloating)
- Increased heart rate/palpitations
- Chronic and recurrent infections
- Reduced ability to heal from infections
- Poor digestion
- Cravings for salty and sweet foods
- Increased use of caffeine and other stimulating food and drinks
- Emotional instability (crying, withdrawn)
- Muscle twitches
- Increased urination
- Edgy, ‘bouncing’
- Nervous tension
- Easily startled
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety and panic disorders
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Reduced libido
- Morbid thoughts
Chronic stress can overwhelm the adrenal glands, and this accumulation of stress comes from various sources such as holding onto things, not speaking out, not asking for help, physical and emotional stress, work/family/money pressures, death or injury of a loved one, and not being aware of oneself. Other things like bacterial and viral infections can lead to accumulation of stress on the body, especially infections like pneumonia and gastrointestinal parasites.
There are many ways that you can gain control of your health and help to prevent adrenal fatigue using diet and lifestyle techniques, and vitamin and mineral therapies to restore and balance insufficiencies that result from stress and adrenal fatigue.