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 flight 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 tired, right?
Well, that’s the theory behind adrenal fatigue.
Do I have adrenal fatigue?
According to some alternative health practitioners, when your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you will start showing 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 all signs of stress.
Sounds a bit general, doesn’t it? That’s because these symptoms could indicate any number of diseases, or even an autoimmune disorder like Hashimotos. They could also point to something far simpler, such as overtraining, or a chronic lack of quality sleep.
Some alternative health practitioners will say that your adrenals are “overworked” and prescribe adrenal support supplements or special diets.
However, 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. (This is very rare.) At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.
However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. It is unlikely that he or she may be open to discussing adrenal fatigue since it’s not medically recognized. But why assume “adrenal fatigue” until you’ve ruled out other potential diseases? or at the very least, you can discuss some wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).
Even athletes can experience fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, and frequent infections like colds and the flu if they become overtrained.
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.
If you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction (or stress management) is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress.
My favorite stress-reducing activities are meditation, walking in nature, light exercise, stretching or yoga (with music), more sleep, or taking a bath. If I start feeling overwhelmed by responsibility, I will enforce firmer boundaries around my time and schedule. I’ve even outsourced tasks such as meal prep and dog walking to free up more “me” time when I’m burning the candle at both ends.
I also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body.
Make sure you take care of the lifestyle factors first: sleep, nutrition, exercise, and wellness before assuming a disease or adrenal fatigue. You might find your symptoms disappear once you put your house in order.
Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.
Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.
The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions and prioritize good nutrition and self-care. You can try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or even a lovely bath…which brings us to this recipe!
Recipe: 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 relaxing bath!
Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.