If you would have told me 4 years ago that I would be spending an entire year trying to recover from adrenal fatigue, I would have looked at you with a blank stare and told you I was already doing everything I needed to do to stay healthy. And then some. I was eating a strict paleo diet, and also following the Autoimmune protocol (AIP) to get my gut health and hormones in check. I was working out every day to maintain my strength and stamina. I had given up late nights and drinking, focusing on self care and sleep..I was doing everything right...
However, I had missed one really important aspect of health…STRESS!
I was already on a journey recovering from hypothalamic ammenorhea and I began having more issues that I could no longer ignore; severe insomnia, intense sugar cravings, anxiety depressing thoughts, intense mood swings and absolutely no sex drive.
I took these symptoms to my functional medicine doctor and asked to have my cortisol levels tested. He suggested that I perform the adrenal fatigue test, which involves capturing saliva in a vial at 4 different times throughout the day. And the results came back with spiked cortisol levels at night, when they are supposed to be a their lowest. A sign of impending adrenal fatigue.
To know me is to know that once I set my mind to something, I’m going to give it my all. So I quickly dived into learning about adrenal fatigue and how to heal myself as quickly as possible. As I got to researching, I realized that this illness is something that is affecting way more people than we realize and it needs to be addressed. Because the adrenals are the first thing to go in the endocrine system. So if we can catch it in the beginning stages, we can avoid many endocrine and hormonal imbalance issues like hypothyroidism and infertility.
I had already been working in the health and wellness industry for 6 years at this point and decided to take it to the next level and dive deep into the realms of holistic nutrition to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner with a focus on hormones and adrenal health.
First, What is Adrenal Fatigue?
I like to think of adrenal fatigue as the stress illness. We get to a state of adrenal fatigue when the adrenal glands become overworked and can no longer keep up with the demands of the body. Adrenal fatigue is technically a syndrome, which means it is a collection of symptoms that define it’s existence. It is also a syndrome that most medical doctors do not recognize and diagnose, so it is commonly overlooked and is the precursor to many other endocrine system ailments.
What is the role of the adrenal glands?
We have two adrenal glands that are walnut-sized organs sitting on top of each of your kidneys. These powerful little guys make and secrete hormones such as cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone that are essential for life. The adrenals are responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body during times of stress. When the body is exposed to a stressor, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, chemical, or environmental, the adrenals fire and pump out cortisol. Cortisol allows us to deal with this stressful event while maintaining proper function in other systems of the body.
The ‘Fight or Flight’ response.
Our ancestors used this very powerful innate human response, known commonly as ‘the fight or flight response’ to do such things as run away from predators while hunting for their meals or survive a night without proper shelter…events that didn’t take place all day, everyday. It is a human mechanism that is meant to be triggered periodically with ample time between stressors for the adrenals to recharge in preparation for the next event. Nowadays, this response is activated all day…from our morning commute, to the long list of emails that need responses, to the argument we have with our partner or kids, to the digestive distress we get from eating a nutrient-poor meal, and all the way until bedtime when we lay thinking about all the things we didn’t get done that day. Our current lifestyle doesn’t know how to turn off the ‘fight or flight’ way of living.
When do the adrenals become fatigued?
The constant stress never allow the adrenals to rest and their effectiveness begins to fade. We no longer have the ability to handle stress appropriately and adrenal fatigue symptoms set in. With this fading ability, others systems in the body become affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and mineral balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and sex drive. Adrenal fatigue disrupts your body right down to the cellular level.
Do YOU have adrenal fatigue?
Are you currently experiencing:
Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
Continuous fatigue not relieved by sleep
Craving for salty foods
Lack of energy- lethargy
Increased effort to do everyday tasks
Decreased sex drive
Decreased ability to handle stress
Increased recovery time from illness or injury
Light-headed when standing quickly, dizziness
Less enjoyment of life activities
Lack of focus
Increased energy at night
Edema- water retention
Decreased tolerance for cold
Low blood pressure
Rashes, dermatitis, other skin conditions
Pain in the upper back and shoulders
Do you suffer from:
Decreased immune response
Erratic or abnormal blood sugar levels
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Does your lifestyle include:
Lack of sleep
Poor food choices
Using caffeine to stimulate when tired
Constantly driving yourself to be better- perfectionism
Staying in stressful relationships too long
Not making enough time for enjoyable activities
Not taking time out to relax and breathe
A recent tragic life event
If you answered yes to more than a few of the signs, symptoms, and lifestyle factors listed above, you may be currently suffering from adrenal fatigue.
The good news? You don’t have to live your life feeling the way you currently do! Adrenal fatigue can be reversed naturally. With some nutrition and lifestyle changes. Full recovery can happen in just a few months and you can be back to fully living and enjoying life.
Curious about a signs and symptoms test? Schedule a consultation.