What T. F. Is Adrenal Fatigue?

When I first heard about Adrenal Fatigue, I thought WTF is that? Some new fad? Some new scam to sell us whatever supplements or rubbish? Until I started reading and it sounded as if someone had taken notes when I was complaining about how I was feeling.

Below I have summarised some of the information taken from Dr Wilson’s website http://www.adrenalfatigue.org, which you can check out for further details.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. However, it is not as easy to identify it as other illnesses because of its array of perceivingly unrelated symptoms.

As the name suggests, the paramount symptom is fatigue that does not seem to be alleviated by sleep. While you may look healthy and may not even be able to quite pinpoint what may be wrong, there may be a sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray feelings”, similar to depression. Although I was not so lucky. I don’t just feel like shit, I look it too. Friends and family have repeatedly been pointing that out to me, as I have become increasingly paler and the rings under my eyes increasingly darker.

Adrenal fatigue has been known and researched by the medical profession for over 100 years and has been known under several names, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue.

The more severely fatigued the adrenals are, the bigger the impact it has on every organ and system in your body. The changes can affect the metabolism, thereby contributing to weight gain as well. Our bodies are amazing pieces of engineering (Mother Nature must be German…!) and so they try to make up for the under-functioning adrenal glands, but hat comes at a price.

Ugh, just a quick nap. About 8 hours or so…
What causes adrenal fatigue?

The adrenals are called into action each time stress is being put on the body, whether that be negative stress from grief or work or positive stress from exercise, for example. They are responsible to regulate the body’s response through hormones to stabilize the body’s health and functioning and to enable you to respond to those.

You may have noticed that your heart starts racing or your muscles tense up when your favourite boss screams at you from across the open plan office about that report that was due on his desk 2 minutes ago while you are still typing the last paragraph. Those feelings, that’s your adrenals at work.

During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain your body’s equilibrium because their hormonal output has been weakened. In extreme cases such as Addison’s disease, the adrenals cease to work completely, usually because of over-stimulation. Over-stimulation of your adrenals can be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.

Who is susceptible to adrenal fatigue?

Anyone can experience it and there are many different levels to it. Whenever you have experienced trauma or prolonged stress, chances are you have worn your adrenals out. Interestingly, feelings of being trapped or helpless are a big drain on your adrenals. So if you tend to see yourself as a victim, you may be more susceptible. Lifestyle choices will also influence your adrenals’ performance, such as diet, substance abuse, sleep patterns, lack of rest and the way you deal with stresses in your mind (more on that bit in a future post).

How can I tell if my adrenals are fatigued?

Some common symptoms, which I experience myself:

  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Having trouble getting up in the morning, even after a good night’s sleep
  • Feeling rundown and overwhelmed
  • Difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness (already had 3 colds earlier this year, each took ages to shift!)
  • Craving salty and sweet snacks
  • Feeling more awake towards the evenings (I barely got that. I was always tired)

When I saw this, I started thinking back to my “stress history”

  • Working long hours in a high pressure performance driven environment
  • Experienced a whole series of traumatic events while working abroad and after return, which resulted in post traumatic stress disorder
  • Taking on my employer through a grievance process and getting ready to possibly take them to court, talking to solicitors and worrying about upsetting old friends I worked with
  • Trying to force my way back into fitness and beating myself up for feeling tired

If you think you have some of those symptoms and may not have had a chance to recover from accumulated stress, you may want to take Dr Wilson’s adrenal fatigue test. Check out the questionnaire at http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/take-the-adrenal-fatigue-quiz

Continue to follow my blog to learn more about adrenal fatigue and how I am overcoming it by supporting my body to heal itself naturally.

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