Let me ask you some questions:
- Do you struggle to get up in the morning?
- Are you still tired even though you had a great nights sleep?
- Does it take you ages to get over an illness or injury?
Well if you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone my friend.
You may well be suffering from a condition called Adrenal Fatigue. Most people may not have heard of this condition however, it is estimated that over 80% of American’s suffer from it and I for one believe that the number of sufferers will be very similar over here in the UK.
So what is Adrenal Fatigue?
Well its exactly how it sounds, it is the fatigue of the adrenal glands which make them unable to carry out their normal functions.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when the body is unable to respond to the amount of stress it is put under. Now the body is amazing but every now and then it is not the sharpest knife in the draw. Your body cannot tell the difference between stresses. For example, exercise is a physical stress that can help the body get stronger, however, at the other end of the spectrum we have a disease of some kind or another which, is another stress on the body. These are two separate causes of stress but, your body doesn’t know that, all it sees is stress coming at it from all angles.
This is not a healthy situation, eventually if we bombarded our body with too much stress it will breakdown, leading to chronic illness, tiredness and in extreme situations Addisons disease.
What can cause adrenal fatigue?
Most experts believe that adrenal fatigue can be caused in 4 main ways.
- Disease: severe/ recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, flu, cancer, AIDS and auto-immune diseases to name a few
- Physical Stress: Poor nutrition, surgery, injury, exhaustion, addictions etc etc
- Emotional Stress: Relationships, work etc etc
- Environmental Stress: Toxic chemicals, pollutants in air, water, food and clothing.
The adrenal glands are tiny and are are found just above your kidneys, one on each side. They have some effect on every tissue and organ in the body. These glands produce 10 hormones, how we act, how we behave and how we perform can be put down to the effect hormones have on us. The hormones that the little adrenal glands produce are:
- Adrenalin (Epinephrine)
- Noradrenalin (Norepinephrine)
The main one I am going to concentrate on for this blog post is Cortisol.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. It is a naturally circulating anti-inflammatory hormone that has a number of key functions within the body, it is produced and secreted by the adrenal glands whenever we are exposed to any source of stress.
We have a natural cycle of Cortisol, it reaches its peak at about 8am which helps us wake, it continues to stay at a good level throughout the day but dips a little between 3-5pm (mid afternoon tiredness anyone??) it then starts to decrease slightly throughout the rest of the evening allowing us to sleep and it reaches its lowest point between midnight and 4am. This cycle is normal if you have healthy working adrenal glands………….MOST PEOPLE DON’T!!
If we expose ourselves to so much stress, our adrenals are constanly on the go and keep on churning that Cortisol out. Eventually over time our adrenal glands tire themselves out and need a little rest thus adrenal fatigue has occurred.
Why does Cortisol matter?
Why, why, I will tell you why:
Blood sugar regulation
When our blood sugar level drops, the brain signals to the adrenal glands to secrete Cortisol which then metabolises fats and proteins into glucose by a process called gluconeogenisis (fancy word…please feel free to drop it in conversations and make yourself sound super brainy) This then causes our blood sugar level to rise and normal functioning is maintained.
When we expose ourselves to stress of any kind, our tissues and organs have to work harder to maintain homeostatis (a constant internal environment that shouldn’t change ie, body temperature, blood pH etc) This mean that all these tissues are working harder and so need more glucose to fuel them, this means more Cortisol is required to maintain normal functioning.
Cortisol is a major anti-inflammatory within the body (cortisol injections!!!) it is stated that if you are suffering from any inappropriate redness or swelling you are showing the signs of having low cortisol within the body. Also if you have an allergy that is suddenly worse or you are now allergic to something new a lack of Cortisol and its healing anti-inflammatory effects might be to blame. Cortisol is there to stop inflammation and help keep the body in tip top shape!
White Blood Cell Control:
Cortisol helps regulate lymphocytes which are the main white blood cells in the body. It does this by controlling the rate of which lymphocytes multiply and accelerates the cells death rate too. This is important as white blood cells cause major inflammation with the body, wherever they are, the cause swelling and inflammation. Cortisol is there to keep them under control and put out any “fires” they may have started. Without Cortisol it would be a very a very painful existence.
Cortisol helps maintain contractions of arterial walls, this ensures that blood pressure stays at an adequate level and doesn’t drop too low. It also has a key role within the heart by regulating Sodium and Potassium which causes each contraction of the heart to be strong and maximally efficient.
Cortisol is a major player in your overall health and well being both mentally and physically. Without it we cannot function and yest a lot of us are running on a level far below the optimum level due to the amount of Stress in our lives.
What to do:
Sit down and write down all those things in your life that are causing you stress presently. These could be relationships, money, poor food choices, what people think of you, whatever they are write them down.
Now look at that piece of paper and look at the areas that you have full control in, if you have written diet you are definitely in control of that, no one else. Then start to make decisions about what you can do to cut that stress out or reduce it significantly.
Things to eat or drink:
(legal disclaimer the following are suggestions from experts on the topics, I am not a medical doctor, I am providing you with information. It is down to you if you want to try these…….phew!!)
Licorice root or tea: it is an anti-stress herb that helps increase energy, it also helps to strengthen Cortisol levels.
Vitamins B complex, C, E, are needed to maintain health of the adrenal glands. Vitamin C is used to produce Cortiosl.
Magnesium and Calcium: help to awaken the adrenal glands and help to calm the body down.
You are in control of your life, you are the one that has to take action to change they way you feel. If you think you may be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue get rid of your stress!!! Don’t exercise as much until you start to feel better, take rest days, go for walks to get out in the sunshine, eat good food, don’t drink alcohol for a while, distance yourself from people who drain you. Be selfish for a change and think about you because in the long run your body will thank you for it.
Until next time folks