Is adrenal fatigue a real thing?
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, we get the scrutiny. In fact, "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 we want to share our 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're 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. We agree that excessive wear and tear can implicate these glands to an extent.. but that's not the entire problem.
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 we say adrenal fatigue.. we are using a popular term for this greater idea of adrenal dysregulation.
SOME SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE OR ASSOCIATED HORMONAL IMBALANCE:
- Auto-immune conditions
- 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)
- Brain fog
- Increase of energy in the evening after dinner
- Anxiety or depressive thoughts
- Eyes are sensitive to the light
- Easily startled
- 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.)
- Decreased libido
- 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
- Fertility issues
- Low blood pressure
So, how do you fix the dysregulation?
When it comes to fixing the signaling 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's a tonne of conflicting information in books and on the internet,
one doctor says one thing, another says another,
and changing the way you live can be really flippin' 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 us 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.
We know you have it in you, though!
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