What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a term thrown around in my industry for various symptoms. It is commonly associated with feeling tired and stressed and not having enough energy to face the day. However, adrenal fatigue is a very real and debilitating syndrome. It is under recognised and under diagnosed and I wonder to what point we are all pushing past the ability of our poor little adrenal glands to keep up with modern life.   

Considering the massive job they do, the adrenal glands are only little guys. They live on your kidneys and release hormones in response to any and all stress you experience. Cortisol, adrenaline and epinephrine are systematically released as needed to deal with anything from a broken nail to a job interview, a car accident or a breakup.  These hormones allow your body to respond to stress itself, and also determine how you respond. But that’s not it; these workaholics also have an impact on weight gain and the body’s ability to shed excess weight as the secretion of stress hormones regulates sugar release in muscles and can determine the rate of your metabolism.                                   

Adrenal fatigue commonly occurs after a prolonged period of stress (hello daily life) or an infection (hello winter and pre-school children).  It's important to note that although adrenals are related, chronic fatigue syndrome differs to adrenal fatigue as it is more serious with severe unexplained fatigue for 6 months or more. My clients who experience adrenal fatigue say they feel like something is missing, they don’t feel like themselves. They are always tired and run down with a noticed difference in the energy they used to feel everyday. Waking up tired is a common sign and no amount of sleep is enough to quench the fatigue. The other thing common to adrenal fatigue is a second wind at night after feeling exhausted all day. Adrenal fatiguers love stimulants - coffee, sugar, tea, soft drinks, cake-anything to keep them going.  This is the short lived fuel that turbo boosts energy but has a shocking drop after about half an hour-when more is needed.  This cycle perpetuates adrenal fatigue and sends the body into a hormonal and blood sugar dysregulation whirlpool. The decrease in adrenal hormones affects how food is used and stored in the body (weight gain), electrolyte balance (fluid retention) and sex hormones (libido). The inability to function in daily life can lead to depression and feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  

We all experience adrenal fatigue to some degree. When life is too big, due to the death of a loved one, a stressful event at work, or long term continued stressors all add up and this outweighs the ability of our adrenal glands to manage. Some of us can be more susceptible to suffer from adrenal fatigue from our lifestyle choices, diet, sleep habits, life pressures, alcohol or substance abuse or other disease or sickness.

People always ask- how do I know if I am adrenally fatigued?  I reply- You would know! But here’s a few ways to tell from AdrenalFatugue.org.

You may be experiencing adrenal fatigue if you regularly notice one or more of the following:

You feel tired for no reason.
You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
You crave salty and sweet snacks.
You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.

There are many herbs and supplements that can help with adrenal fatigue, as well as the resulting symptoms. It is one of the most common things I see in my clinic. Make an appointment so I can help with sustainable lifestyle changes and herbal medicine. ALSO- look out on the events page for my next Adrenal Fatigue talk and sign up for the newsletter to be the first to know.