Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?
All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.
Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.
But what happens when they become “overworked?”
You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?
Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body’s “fight or flight” response.
Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.
The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body’s normal reaction to stress. Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.
After a short time, the fight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.
But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?
It wouldn’t feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) “rush,” anymore would it?
And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?
They’d get fatigued, right?
Do I have adrenal fatigue?
When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.
Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.
First off, I have to tell you that there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.
But adrenal fatigue isn’t even the first step. Before our adrenal glands get burnt out, they go into overdrive, trying to keep up with the stressful demands that are put on you. This, followed by adrenal fatigue, is known as General Adaptation Syndrome and is a theory of how we respond to stress posited by Hans Selye, MD, PhD in 1936.
Adrenal overdrive, where cortisol is a bit too high (but not high enough to be called Cushing’s Syndrome) can also lead to unwanted symptoms like feeling “tired but wired”, insomnia, and IBS.
Unbalanced cortisol will also reduce thyroid function, giving your metabolism a hit.
What to do if I have these symptoms?
There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.
Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. My favourites are meditation, walking in nature, exercise, more sleep, or taking a bath.
Of course, I also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So go ahead and do it.
There is also a certain group of herbs called adaptogens, which help to balance cortisol, whether it is high or low, awesome right? Some examples are: rhodiola, ashwagandha, ginseng, holy basil, and astragalus.
Read my past post “How to Naturally Lower Stress Hormone (Cortisol)” for more tips.
If you need extra help diagnosing whether your cortisol levels may be too high or low, or advice on what lifestyle changes, nutrition and supplementation might be helpful for your situation, call to book your initial visit today! I offer comprehensive saliva cortisol testing that will help us determine specifically what nutrients would be most helpful and at what time of day they are needed. Did you know that you can have too high and too low cortisol and one day? Come see me.
Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salts): Lavender Bath Salts
- 2 cups epsom salts
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
As you’re running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved.
Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!
Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.