You have heard the words adrenal fatigue and stress. What do they mean and what do they mean for your health and well being?
If you have difficulty getting up in the morning, use multiple alarms, wake feeling unrefreshed by sleep, or are craving salt, you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue. Additional symptoms of adrenal fatigue include: lethargy, increased effort to accomplish daily tasks, decreased sex drive, decreased ability to handle stress, lightheadedness when standing up quickly, increased recovery time from illness and trauma, mild depression, less enjoyment of happiness with life, increased PMS, increased caffeine usage just to make it through the day, thoughts that are less focused and fuzzy, memory is less accurate, decreased tolerance to other people, and decreased productivity. If you don't feel awake until about 10:00 AM, feel very low around 3:00-4:00PM, and then feel better after 6 or 7PM or after the evening meal than you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue.
What causes adrenal fatigue? The most common things are lack of sleep, poor food choices, staying up late even though fatigued, using food and drinks as stimulants when tired, trying to be perfect, lack of enjoyable and rejuvenating activities. The biggest and most important cause is Stress.
Stress is part of daily life in our current society. Stress can come from a major event such as a death, divorce, or automobile accident. There are other forms of stress that can cumulatively add up such as a bout with the flu, an unhappy relationship, pressure at work, poor diet, and environmental toxins. Our adrenal glands help our bodies to deal with major stress. If we are in a life threatening situation our bodies produce adrenaline so that we can fight for our lives or flee. However, with the constant stress of running around, taking the kids from here to there, eating on the go, and trying to fulfill demands life puts on us, our bodies get stuck in flight or flight mode. This is where the troubles start.
When in fight or flight mode our bodies pump out epinephrine aka adrenaline. Adrenaline causes a physiological response in many systems. The responses most relevant to our day to day health include our immune system and gastrointestinal system shut down. This causes Gastrointestinal conditions, malnutrition, and frequent illnesses. When our adrenal glands are no longer able to respond to stress as they should we are then in some stage of adrenal fatigue.
What can you do about it? There are adrenal stress tests available, as well as other physical tests your doctor can do. Please consult your Naturopathic doctor for the right assessment and treatment options.
Dr. Teresa Richter
Dr. Teresa Richter is a graduate of Bastyr University. She completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine as well as a Bachelor of Science in Herbal Sciences at Bastyr University.