More and more in the world of holistic nutrition and medicine we are hearing about the phenomena of adrenal fatigue. I’d like to offer some easy to understand and clarifying information about the function of our adrenal glands and how they might become fatigued, and why it’s probably a good idea to test them, particularly if you suffer from some common symptoms.
What are the adrenal glands?
Our two adrenal glands are located atop our kidneys. They are endocrine glands, responsible primarily for producing our hormones in response to stress. These hormones are namely cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine and androgens. Our adrenals are made up of two parts, the inner medulla and outer cortex. The cortex is responsible for the production of our corticosteroids and androgens, while the medulla is responsible for adrenaline and noradrenaline.
How do the adrenal glands become fatigued?
In ideal circumstances, our adrenals are secreting appropriate amounts of stress hormones (particularly cortisol) at appropriate times. When we are relaxed they can relax, and when we need to react to an acute, stressful occurrence the adrenals can pump out more of the necessary stress hormones. Think: running from a tiger. The problem we encounter in our modern world is living in a more chronic state of stress, and perhaps not even realizing this is the case. Here is a list of some common stressors that can fatigue our adrenal glands over time:
- · Anger
- · Worry/Anxiety/Fear
- · Working long hours, working a stressful job
- · Relationship problems
- · Too little or too much exercise
- · Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies
- · Gut pathogens like parasites or bacteria
- · Traumatic life event, both physical and/or emotional (surgery or divorce)
- · Sleep deprivation
- · Chronic pain and/or inflammation
What are the Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?
There are many symptoms and they will vary from person to person, but here are some of the most common:
- · Fatigue/weakness
- · Feeling jittery or anxious/Irritability
- · Depression
- · Poor memory and Inability to concentrate
- · Insomnia
- · Inability to lose weight or weight gain
- · Craving sugar
- · Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- · Feeling excessively light headed upon standing
- · Energy crashes throughout the day
- · Dependency on caffeine or other substances
- · Food allergies/sensitivities
How Can I Test my Adrenal Glands?
The good news is there is easy and affordable testing along with effective dietary and supplemental support available. Fortunately, we have access to great labs that test our cortisol levels throughout the day. This way, we can look not only at our overall cortisol output (too much or too little), but we can see our circadian rhythm. Are you feeling exhausted upon waking even after a full nights sleep, or maybe suffering from that extreme late afternoon crash that leaves you scrambling for the nearest candy bar or cup of coffee? This could be a sign that your cortisol levels are dysregulated.
For more information on adrenal testing along with individualized diet, lifestyle, and supplemental programs to get you feeling your best, contact me for a free introductory consultation!
Rachel Fiske, NC