Have you ever woke-up one morning and felt like your “get up and go” has – well, just got up and gone? Many of us are familiar with this feeling as we juggle our busy work schedules and endless obligations. We often explain away this exhaustion by saying, “I am not getting any younger” or “I am just too busy”. But did you know these feeling of tiredness can be more than just “getting older” it may actually be a sign of “adrenal exhaustion” or “adrenal fatigue”.
Adrenal fatigue can come on slowly over many months/years due to strenuous school schedules, caring for a sick loved one or just the rigors of busy every life. Adrenal exhaustion can also come on quickly following a significantly traumatic event such as a car accident or passing of a loved one.
The adrenals are responsible for producing many essential hormones such as cortisone, your body’s natural anti-inflammatory. Other hormones produced by the adrenals such as cortisol, adrenaline and DHEA help with normal stress responses. The adrenals hormones affect many areas of the body and because of this adrenal exhaustion can cause a wide range of symptoms from immune system dysfunction to digestive problems (constipation and diarrhea).
Adrenal fatigue has been known to be a cause of chronic pain due to imbalances in cortisone and cortisol levels. Imbalances in these hormones cause your ligaments to become weakened, putting more stress on muscles and bones. As well, imbalances in cortisone affect your body’s ability to control inflammation and pain.
Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep are common with adrenal stress and fatigue. In more primitive times stress would have meant a saber tooth tiger trying to eat you for dinner, as you can imagine this would not have been the greatest time to be going into a deep sleep. In today’s world our bodies do not recognize the difference between stress in the form of your out of control teenager and the tiger (though sometimes it seems your teenager may bite your head off too!!)
Other common signs of adrenal dysfunction include blood sugar disorders, food cravings (especially sugar and salt), memory troubles, headaches, fatigue, fainting spells, weight gain, ulcers, chronic upper respiratory tract infections, asthma and the list could go on and on.
If we can’t completely remove stress from our lives (although moving to a deserted tropical island can sound appealing) are we doomed to a life of forgetting where we put our keys and eating every pretzel in sight?? Thankfully this does not have to be your destiny. There are many ways to help your body and mind cope with everyday stressors and strengthen your adrenal glands.
Herbs, vitamins, and exercises can all help strengthen your adrenal glands. Exercises such as breathing exercises (the Pranayama i-phone application is a great and easy way to do this), listening to music you enjoy, a good work out, yoga, meditation and guided imagery can all help.
Vitamins including the B-vitamin complex, vitamin C and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and manganese are all helpful for restoring adrenal health. Herbs such as siberian ginseng, panax ginseng, licorice, schizandra and ashwaganda (withania) are very helpful in restoring and balancing the adrenals. Herbs, however, should be used with caution as some can interact negatively with medications you may be taking and others can raise blood pressure. Please consult with your natural care provider before you consider taking any of these herbs.
If it seems you have lost that “joie de vivre” or your “get up and go” is gone try giving your adrenals a litte support, it may be just what you need to start enjoying a full life again!!