Stress on Stress on Stress: What You Need to Know About Adrenal Fatigue

Stress is a common factor that most people share without even realizing it. The obvious stressors are the busy schedules, paying bills, caring for family, maintaining our relationships, and balancing our lives. Less obvious stressors include: physical stress such as that intense spin class or 6 mile run, physical illness, too little sleep, not enough down time, or working in a toxic environment. Many of my patients tell me “I don’t feel stressed” but it’s important to remember we are adaptable creatures. It’s amazing the level of stress and go-go-go that becomes normal after a while. Remember just because we have adapted to a hectic life doesn’t mean it’s not affecting our health.  Let’s talk about how stress affects our bodies, our health and what symptoms to watch out for.

What are Adrenal Glands Anyway?

Your adrenal glands are two small but potent glands that rest on top of our kidneys. They communicate with every cell, organ and gland in the body during times of stress to help maintain balance and ensure survival. They do this by secreting the hormone cortisol to help us adapt in stressful situations. These little glands influence many processes in the body from the immune system, hormone production, weight, and blood sugar. Cortisol turns off processes we don’t need in stressful situations and turn on processes we do. For example, if we are faced with a snarling bear we need to run, we need blood going to our legs, and heart, we don’t need to be digesting food or fighting off that cold you caught last week.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal Fatigue, also known as hypoadrenalism or adrenocortical insufficiency, happens when your body is not secreting sufficient amounts of cortisol and other adrenal hormones to meet your physiological needs. In other words, you’re overexerting and stressing yourself out so much that your body cannot keep up with your lifestyle demands.

We are not meant to be in a constant stress state, our adrenals are meant to help us adapt to stress in acute situations. Not to be pushing out cortisol day in and day out as we fight traffic, rush to pick up the kids, work late, then down coffee because we are sleep deprived. This push-push-push fast tracks us into adrenal fatigue, and stimulants like coffee and energy drinks not only mask our bodies signals telling us to slow down but push the adrenals further into fatigue. Essentially our little adrenals can only keep up for so long, before they can’t, and then we begin to feel it.

What are the Symptoms?

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up at night worrying
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Waking up feeling unrefreshed even after sufficient sleep
  • Feeling wired & tired at night
  • Craving salt
  • Low blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin/malasma
  • Feeling exhausted after workouts or work days
  • Poor tolerance to stress

While mild adrenal fatigue is more common than severe cases, you may recognize the name Addison’s Disease, which is an example of severe hypoadrenalism. If you are experiencing five or more of these symptoms, you’re are most likely experiencing adrenal fatigue.

What are Typical Stressors?

Each person reacts differently to stress, and different situations in life stress people out in different ways. These are considered to be the top 10 most stressful events:

  1. Death of a spouse/child
  2. Divorce
  3. Marital separation
  4. Jail time
  5. Death of close family member
  6. Personal injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Fired at work
  9. Marital reconciliation
  10. Retirement

Other major stressors:

  • Change in health of a family member
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex difficulties
  • Business adjustment
  • Change in financial state
  • Death of close friends
  • Changing jobs
  • Son or daughter leaving home
  • Addition of new family member
  • Change in living conditions
  • Kids starting school/changing schools
  • Change in sleeping and eating habits

The stressors above are sometimes situations that you cannot control, but you can help yourself to adapt better to them. There is a risk that the stress in your life is causing more harm than you realize, and it is pertinent that you develop a self-care routine.  To learn more about what you can do read my next blog.

If you’re interested in learning more about adrenal fatigue, or being tested to find out how your adrenals are doing give us a call at 1-650-271-9543 or book your free 15 minute phone consult online.