A hot topic that i'm treating in the clinic at the moment is burnout or "Adrenal fatigue" as it's known in the Nutrition world. Which lets be honest most people haven't even heard of the adrenal glands and yet that are responsible for so many life saving and important reactions that go on in our body.
So firstly lets see,
What are the adrenal glands?
The adrenal glands are located just above the kidneys and produce a variety of hormones such as adrenaline, aldosterone and most importantly cortisol. Their main function is to control your body's ability to handle and deal with stress by triggering our fight or flight response and our relaxation responses. They regulate this through our heartbeat (hence why when you're in danger your heart beats faster) , our immune system (getting sick just as you go on holidays) and our energy levels (that 3pm slump).
What is adrenal fatigue?
Severe burnout or adrenal fatigue is a condition brought on by high amounts of unrelenting physical, emotional or mental stress on your body that your adrenal glands have had to deal with. Putting this much stress and pressure on them 24/7 (which most people now are), they start to function below optimal for an extended period of time and thus can't respond properly when it is most needed and when you are most in danger. Adrenal fatigue can result in symptoms such as a weakened immune system as they are unable to fight off infection, low energy levels due to running on constantly high cortisol and an inability to handle any type of stress.
It's the middle of the year and generally been about 6 months since anyone had a decent holiday and have been working overtime since going back to work in January. Everyone now seems to feel like if they don't have a million things on their plate at once and aren't going at a hundred miles an hour constantly that they don't have enough going on. I know I am definitely a culprit of that so when I feel signs of burnout coming on I know I need to stop, and even if I can't rest for a day or two, just take a few minutes out of my day to relax and calm my nervous system down.
Ever gotten sick just as you've gone on holidays?
Yep, that's adrenal fatigue. You have obviously been working so hard and so stressed that the moment that you can relax the adrenals are like phewwww we can stop working now and that's when your immune system is low and you need them to be working at their best, so an infection has come along and because your adrenals have gone on strike, what usually wouldn't make you sick, causes you to get very run down.
How to recognize the symptoms of adrenal fatigue
- Feelings of constant tiredness no matter how much sleep you get.
- Lack of enthusiasm for things that you used to love
- Mild depression
- Feeling unrefreshed when you wake up
- That 3pm slump and that feeling of you can't get through the day without coffee
- Getting a burst of energy at night when you should be winding down.
- Low blood sugar
- Weight gain.
- low sex drive
Just to name a few
Adrenal fatigue can come in 3 stages
Stage 1 - Wired and tired
This is characterised by exceptionally high cortisol levels especially at night when they are supposed to be going down and calming your body down ready for sleep. If you can pick up the warning signs early enough and help your adrenals recover you may not get past the first stage.
Stage 2 - Stressed and tired
In the second stage, many people wake up in the morning between 2 and 4am and are unable to get back to sleep and are wide awake buzzing. Their cortisol levels generally peak early in the day leaving them feeling tired at lunchtime and then gets a second rise later in the afternoon.
Stage 3 - Full Blown Burnout
This is the final stage of adrenal fatigue. You are continuously exhausted no matter how many hours sleep you get. They have a flat cortisol level that doesn't really peak and leaves you feeling deflated without any energy all the time.
Do any of these sound familiar?
If they do, you might be suffering from adrenal fatigue and seeing a natural health practitioner, they can work with you to help get your adrenals back working properly and improve your general well-being.
Photo credit - Pathathai Chungyam | Dreamstime.com