Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue? How To Tell and What To Do About It
There’s a lot of buzz right now in the alternative health world about adrenal fatigue. It seems to be the affliction of the busy, chaotic, never-shut-down, individual.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when your stress levels, lifestyle and diet no longer support your health and recovery. In plain english, when you’re burning the candle at both ends and not taking good enough care of yourself, you can stress your adrenals.
Our adrenals pump out the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. They also produce adrenaline. Adrenaline is the hormonal factor in our fight or flight reaction. When we’re in trouble (say someone wants to punch you out) your body will allow you to either run like hell or fight like the devil.
On a biochemical level, this means that our eyesight becomes sharper (even in the dark); our hair stands on end in order to sensitize us to our environment; blood vessels to the kidney and digestive systems get restricted, effectively shutting down systems that are not crucial in that moment; blood carries oxygen to the muscles allowing them to perform better (for fighting or running); our inherent sense of discernment and judgment shuts down and more primitive responses take over. These are just some of the changes that can happen very quickly in a body under a certain amount of stress.
Now, imagine the above-noted scenario unfolding in the body at low levels all the time. Imagine that, in some people, this crucial and primitive system never really shuts down. Imagine that chronic stress, lack of sleep, worry, fear, poor diets, too much sugar and caffeine, not enough exercise and not letting stuff go, are some of the battles that you deal with on a chronic basis.
When this (or even some of this) is your reality, your adrenals are going to be working too hard and, as a result, can get very fatigued. Now you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue or burnout.
This means you’re exhausted. All the time. You need sleep, but typically don’t sleep well. You crave salt. You’re jumpy, moody and stressed. You feel overwhelmed; by almost anything. You crave stimulants like caffeine, sugar and chocolate. Bright lights and loud noises really bother you. You never really feel rested.
These crucial hormones that our adrenals produce were meant to work under life-threatening and dangerous circumstances. That’s why when we go into fight or flight mode, other important bodily functions slow down considerably in an attempt to conserve energy for bursts of strength and stamina.
And this is why we can feel and actually get quite sick when we have adrenal fatigue. Other, very important, bodily functions slow down in order to coexist in a body that requires an “all systems alarm” state of being. And after a while, some critical systems in the body (like your immune system) can simply stop working properly. That is why so many of us with autoimmune diseases also experience adrenal fatigue.
Most of us are rarely, if ever, in positions of physical threat. But what has happened in our modern world is this:
- We live with chronic stress as a response to demanding and busy lives
- We don’t ‘shut down’ anymore. Cell phones, tablets and computers are always there, awaiting the next text, call, demand for response or newest byte of information (and even though you may not process this as stressful, studies show that never unplugging wreaks havoc on our brains and bodies)
- Our busy lives have relegated good food, exercise and pleasurable activities to the sidelines – these activities are the last things we ‘fit’ into our schedules
- We sleep less because our days demand more of us and shutting down is not as easy anymore
- We’re afraid to say NO to people
- We no longer look to the inside to see what needs our attention…we’re constantly tending to the outside
So, when do we ever switch off? When do we get a breather from needing to reply, respond, react and provide results…like, NOW? The problem is, we don’t.
Here are some steps that you can take to heal this exhausting and depleting condition.
Sleep! Getting as much sleep as possible is crucial for recovery. Going to bed before or by 10 pm and sleeping as late as you can, will help you recover.
Eat sea salt. People with adrenal fatigue require higher amounts of salt. Putting a healthy sea salt on your food at all meals can help.
Lose the stimulants. Even though this might seem like cruel punishment for someone dealing with the exhaustion that accompanies adrenal fatigue, the stimulants really stress a body with laboring adrenals. They wake you up temporarily and then as their effect wears off, you crash and need more. This viscous cycle depletes the adrenals (and your digestion).
Eat a whole foods diet. Diet plays such a crucial role in our health, wellbeing and recovery. If we’re putting crappy foods into our bodies, they’re really hard-pressed to recover – from anything.
Shift the contents of your life to lessen your stress. In a world where working long hours and declaring how crazy busy you are is celebrated, we were simply not cut out to go, go, go. Rest, relaxation and enjoyment are so much more important than any deadline you’ve got breathing down your neck. Learn to say no, put your phones away the minute you step into the house and go have some fun.
You’ve only got one life as you. Yes, your responsibilities are important and help us to coexist in a busy, modern world. But really, we’re here to enjoy life. Not to “get it done.” It, whatever “it” is, will never get done. Because there will always be the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.
You are no good to others if you’re a frazzled ball of energy. Be good to yourself. Be kind and forgiving and be willing to say No.
Find out what fills up your tank. And stop doing what depletes it. You already know what this is. Be brave enough to execute it.
Remember, it’s not about finding the willpower to start living a life that nourishes you from the inside out. It’s about finding your source of personal power. It’s about connecting with that unwavering yet gentle part of you that wants to live well, be healthy, feel wonderful and live with love. That’s when we recover. That’s when we feel like ourselves again.
Here is a fantastic resource with some vital information on overcoming adrenal fatigue: https://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/get-started/
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