With our complex lives in the 21st century, more and more people are suffering from stress-related conditions. The negative impact of stress can affect many areas of health. One area in particular that can be adversely affected is the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands are located near the kidneys and produce the hormones that are needed for the body to function properly.
Stress adversely affects these glands because, when the body is under severe stress the glands start producing more hormones to help the body cope (this is the classic ‘fight or flight’ response). The main hormone is cortisol, which regulates metabolism and is a response to stress.
When stress is experienced over a long period of time, these glands weaken and this negatively affects the body and results in adrenal fatigue. So, what are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue makes a person very tired. This is because under stress the hormone levels are elevated, thus making it harder to sleep. Over time, the body’s cortisol levels are affected and this leads to the body being in an almost permanent state of alertness. All of this can affect the ability for a person to fall asleep or get a good night’s sleep. It could be that a person thinks he is getting enough sleep (the recommended 8 to 10 hours) but still wakes up feeling tired and fatigued.
In the fall of 2014, I (Zaheen) felt this way constantly for a full month and I knew something was not right because I always had energy to get things done, but I felt tired from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed.
My blood work showed that everything was normal – Vitamin B and Thyroid were at perfect levels. This is when my physician explained this phenomenon. I started taking Rhodiola Roseaand within 6 days I was back to myself!
One way that adrenal fatigue affects the body is its ability to lower the blood sugar level. When this happens cravings for energy foods increase and therefore a sufferer will eat more sugary foods. Foods high in sugar are also comfort foods and stress can cause a person to increase the intake of sugar-high foods. Adrenal fatigue can also result in cravings for salty foods. This is because the adrenal glands affect how the kidneys regulate mineral fluctuations. When we suffer from fatigue, the body releases more minerals in the urine. This in turn can increase the desire for salty snacks.
An adrenal fatigue sufferer could find that he/she is tired all day but then in the late evening experience a surge of energy. Usually cortisol reaches a peak in late morning and then reduces during the day.
The normal body’s response to stress is to release specific hormones so that stress can be handled effectively. The two specific hormones are cortisol and adrenaline, and knowing how these affect the body helps us understand the relationship to stress.
Cortisol. Gives the body extra energy to cope with the stress, it increases memory function and lowers sensitivity to pain. It also increases glucose in the bloodstream and enhances your brain’s use of glucose. However, the body needs a rest period after cortisol has been released in a stress-related situation. If a person is suffering from adrenal fatigue and rarely gets to have the ‘rest period’, over time less and less cortisol is produced.Adrenaline. Probably the most well-known stress response hormone. This gives us the initial burst of energy needed to respond to stress because it increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. Once again, adrenal fatigue will affect the amount of this hormone and therefore the response to stress is reduced.
Cortisol helps to regulate the immune system in the body and works as an anti-inflammatory. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time hinders the response of the immune system and this results in having more infections. On the other hand if the adrenal glands are so weakened that they produce too little cortisol then the body’s response is to over-react to infections resulting in certain autoimmune disorders.
1. Start taking natural supplements that help in balancing your stress hormones. Here are three products we carry at Shanti Wellness Centre:
2. Create a healthy sleep routine and ensure you get at least 7-9 hours of sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try Magnesium with melatonin or diffuse lavender essential oil in your bedroom. Grab either at Shanti Wellness Centre.
3. Create boundaries and ‘staycations’ by learning how to say NO and taking a mental health break. Here’s a 1-page handout that gives you the tools on “How to Say NO with Integrity”