Time and time again clients come to me looking for the magic solution or pill to help them sleep, reduce blood pressure, get rid of fatigue, hormonal symptoms, lose weight and body fat or to get a handle on depression, irritability or anxiety. And time and time again I discover that chronic stress and adrenal fatigue or dysfunction are major parts of the picture.
The ability to handle stress, physical or emotional, is a part of human survival. Our body has a stress modulation system in place. The adrenal glands are part of this response system, and when our glands become dysfunctional, our body’s have a reduced ability to handle stress.
The thing is, the adrenal glands are responsible for triggering your body’s reactions during emergencies, but also affect a whole heap of other aspects of your health, including how you respond to daily stress, and so symptoms can play out quite differently. One person may present as frenetic, on speed, most of the day and unable to get to sleep, while another is concerned about sudden belly fat gain coupled with waking at 3 am most mornings and unable to fall back to sleep.
The important thing to realise is that minor adrenal symptoms can develop into life-threatening full-blown adrenal disease and play a part in causing killer diseases from heart disease to cancers. Knocking adrenal issues on the head can make a profound difference to your whole life.
This article takes a look at how your symptoms may be related to adrenal function imbalance (or fatigue) and what you can be done to normalise function
What are some of the symptoms of adrenal “dysfunction or fatigue?”
• The tendency to gain weight and unable to lose it, especially around the waist.
• High frequency of getting the flu and other respiratory diseases.
• Infections last longer than usual.
• Trembling when under pressure.
• Lightheaded when rising from a horizontal position.
• Unable to remember things.
• Lack of energy in the mornings and the afternoon between 3 to 5 pm.
• Feel better suddenly for a brief period after a meal.
• Often feel tired from 9 – 10 pm, but resist going to bed.
• Need coffee or stimulants to get going in the morning.
• Cravings for salty, fatty, and high protein food such as meat and cheese.
• Increased symptoms of PMS and Menopause for women.
• Reduced sex drive.
• Fertility difficulties
• Pain in the upper back or neck with no clear reason.
• Feels better when there is less stress, such as on holiday or at the weekends
• Difficulties in getting up in the morning.
• Mild depression.
• Food and or inhalant allergies.
• Lethargy and lack of energy.
• Increased effort to perform daily tasks.
• Decreased ability to handle stress.
• Dry and thin skin.
• Skin conditions such as psoriasis
• Hypoglycemia.(low blood sugar) and sugar cravings
• Low body temperature.
• Unexplained hair loss.
• Alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
Your symptoms are your body’s way of asking for more support.
So, as you can see there is a link between adrenal symptoms and many health disorders, and in this modern day where stress, business and overwhelm are common, amongst adults and kids, adrenal dysfunction is rife.
What do our adrenals do?
Our adrenal glands are crucial to our survival and contribute enormously to our overall health and vitality. When we are under constant stress or health problems lead the adrenals to go into overdrive, underdrive, or reach exhaustion, we can become incredibly sick. At the extremes, there’s Cushing’s syndrome (overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol) and Addison’s disease (underproduction of cortisol). But there is a whole lot of adrenal imbalance in between that is often missed.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is caused by a disruption of your adrenal glands’ ability to make cortisol in the right amounts at the right times in response to stress.The adrenals are the body’s hormonal powerhouse. Two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, they’re the linchpin of a feedback loop coordinating nearly every hormone in your body.
There are three Stages of Adrenal Fatigue. Each one is associated with a different type of cortisol imbalance, and typically people progress from stage 1 to stage 3 sequentially over time.
- Stage 1: Wired and tired: This phase is characterised by high cortisol levels, especially at night, leading to insomnia, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain. People often feel energised but in an edgy “wired” way.
- Stage 2: Stressed and tired: In this stage, many people wake up early in the morning (often around 3 am) and are unable to fall back asleep but feel awake later in the day. Their cortisol peaks early then flattens out but often has midday or early evening rise.
- Stage 3: Burnout: This stage is characterised by exhaustion regardless of hours slept, a flat cortisol curve, and in some cases low DHEA and thyroid hormone levels.
What leads to adrenal fatigue?
Most of us put enormous demands on our bodies — much more stress than they were designed to handle — and we don’t give them adequate support. Chronic stress is especially harmful – demanding jobs, run households, parents and caregivers, often for ageing parents. Many relationships are also stressful.
The demands of an always-on-the-go lifestyle fall most heavily on the adrenals which were not designed to sustain this constant toll. The cumulative effect over many years is enormous — and it tends to peak between the ages of 35 and 55.
Four basic patterns leading to adrenal fatigue:
1) A prolonged period of resistance, finally giving way to adrenal fatigue.
You could say this is typical of “the stoic,” who bears up to everything life has to throw at her but blows out her adrenals with a final life stressor — “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
2) A single life blow, followed by chronic, ongoing adrenal fatigue.
This pattern might be typical of those whose adrenal reserve was already weak. You may have heard someone say, “Poor thing never got over x…”
3) Cycles of chronic adrenal fatigue, with intermittent but partial recovery.
A characteristic pattern of those with a strong constitution. They may give and give, but despite warning, symptoms refuse to change. Such cycles can also result from forces of circumstance — “a series of unfortunate events.”
4) Slow decline into adrenal dysfunction.
In this case, life’s urgent stressors just grind down a person’s resistance to stress gradually, to a point where they end up with subclinical Addison’s.
The great news is that recovery from adrenal fatigue is possible. Sheena Hendon Health has helped many patients through the process of healing adrenal imbalance. Yes, it takes some time and commitment. Not only can we prevent a much larger adrenal crisis from developing, every aspect of your life will brighten up when your adrenals get the support they need.
If we suspect an adrenal imbalance or adrenal insufficiency we can measure cortisol levels at several points in a 24-hour cycle with a saliva test or a single morning blood test. Blood pressure readings can also give us clues about adrenal insufficiency. If your blood pressure drops dramatically, with dizziness and lightheadedness when you stand up from a seated or lying-down position, this may be a sign of compromised adrenals.
Because your adrenal glands serve many crucial and secondary functions alike, healing adrenal imbalance can make a tremendous difference in your whole-body health, including your thyroid, libido, and ability to face whatever challenges and opportunities life may send your way. Here’s to a more vital, energetic, and stress-resilient you
Your road to recovery with a Sheena Hendon Health programme
Adrenal health rests primarily on quality nutrition, useful lifestyle choices and lowering stress.
Diet and Nutrition: Science tells us that cortisol is released in higher amounts when we are anxious or under any stress – mental, physical or emotional, happy or sad. But diet is another form of stress in the body. If insulin and blood sugar are consistently on a rollercoaster because of highly refined carbohydrates and sugar (including that in out sugary soda drinks and alcohol), cortisol is responsible for levelling things out. After a while, the adrenals will tire of having to come to the rescue. Add emotional and psychological stress on to this and it only makes things worse. Over time, your body can go from a state of cortisol dominance to adrenal-exhausted state of low cortisol. We discover any metabolic imbalances and nutrient deficiencies and work with you to develop a tasty and healthful nutrition plan.
Development of a stress management toolbox. We teach you how to ditch the coffee, alcohol, and lollies and replace with more useful stress management techniques – from diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness through to work – life balance coaching. By learning how to keep our autonomic nervous system in check, we can start to reduce anxiety, irritability and learn to live at a slower and more healthy pace. See our Transformational Life Coaching information
Adrenal support herbs and supplements. Additionally, we may prescribe supplements and herbs to support your adrenals. For example, we often find that our clients are low in nutrients such as Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Zinc. Adaptogenic herbs such as included liquorice root, ashwagandha (Withania) and Rhodiola can make a difference too.
The individual programme promotes natural adrenal balance and includes a consultation with Sheena Hendon, and adrenal support formula and nutrients, and dietary and lifestyle guidance.
We look forward to seeing you soon Book in today and we will have you looking, feeling and being energised and well again.
Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine, (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, UK: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
Craft, Judy. & Gordon, Christopher. & Tiziani, Adriana. (2011). Understanding pathophysiology. Chatswood, N.S.W : Mosby
Dr Lam (2016) Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: Fundamentals of Adrenal Fatigue. Retrieved from https://www.drlam.com/articles/adrenal_fatigue.asp.
Hechtman, L. (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Sydney, Australia: Elsevier
Nicolaides, N. C., Charmandari, E., & Chrousos, G. P. (2015). The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in human health and disease. In Introduction to Translational Cardiovascular Research (pp. 91-107). Springer International Publishing.
Pizzorno, J.E., & Katzinger, J. (2012). Clinical Pathophysiology: A functional perspective. Coquitlam, Canada: Mind Publishing.
Romm, A. (2015). Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: Integrative Treatment Approach for an Evolving Diagnosis. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 21(6), 242-246.
Sarris, J., & Wardle, J. (2010). Clinical Naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice. Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.