We talked briefly about adrenal fatigue in class this week. I’ve been learning bits and pieces about adrenal fatigue throughout the past year, and it’s something that, in my opinion, many people experience. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, but I want to give you an overview of what adrenal fatigue is and what some of the symptoms are. I believe that if you have it, you should know how to recognize it and how to go about dealing with it.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when we experience chronic stress. Under stress, our adrenals increase production of the hormone cortisol. When the hormone is released, certain receptors on our cells need to process the cortisol. However, when we have prolonged periods of stress, our receptors experience “burnout” and fail to respond to the cortisol. This leads to fatigue and exhaustion. Besides chronic stress, other items that can lead to adrenal fatigue include too much caffeine, sleep deprivation, severe trauma, some prescription medications, and prolonged physical exercise.
Some symptoms of adrenal fatigue include the following: difficulty waking up and becoming alert and energized in the morning; afternoon “crash” between 2:00 and 4:00 pm; energy burst in the early evening, and possibly again later at night (some people refer to this as their “second wind”); cravings for foods high in salts, sugar, or fats; sensitivity to cold or always feeling chilled; mild depression; mood swings; feeling rundown; lack of ability to deal with stress; prolonged sickness or inability to kick a cold or cough; decreased sex drive; increased food allergies or sensitivities. Obviously there are different degrees of adrenal fatigue, and if you are experiencing one or two of the above symptoms that does not necessarily mean you have adrenal fatigue. However, if you are experiencing a few of them, you may want to find out how you can better support your adrenals.
When left untreated, adrenal fatigue can lead to many different health problems. It is something that will drain your energy and weaken your bodily systems, to the point that they are not functioning properly and are more susceptible to disease.
Someone with health adrenals will have a daily energy curve that is something like this: medium energy in the morning that slowly rises to its peak level; a slight dip around lunchtime but then an increase right after lunch; a gradual decrease in early evening until bedtime. This person will wake up easily and fall asleep easily, because their body is balanced.
Someone with adrenal fatigue will have a daily energy curve that looks more like this: very low energy in the morning; huge energy spike after morning coffee and breakfast, but then huge dip right before lunch; slight spike after lunch but then another huge dip; gradual decrease until bedtime; possible spikes right before bed or while that person is trying to sleep. This person has a hard time getting going in the morning and tends to be more of a night owl or sleep more restlessly.
Does this sound like you in any way? If so, check back tomorrow for some tips on how to deal with adrenal fatigue.