Tired of Stress? Is Stress making you Tired?

These scenarios are commonly seen with Adrenal Fatigue, what Dr. James Wilson termed “The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.”

Although oftentimes missed in conventional medicine, Adrenal Fatigue is a very real problem.  Most of us actually experience it to some extent, but don’t deal with it, mainly because amidst the million and one things we have to tend to, we just don’t have enough time to care for ourselves.

What exactly are the adrenals?

Two small bean shaped organs that rest atop our kidneys, the adrenal glands secrete hormones that are involved in a multitude of actions, including responding to “fight or flight” situations, helping to regulate blood sugar and tissue repair, modulating the immune and inflammatory response.   Our adrenals help us adapt to stressful events.

Stress can come in mental, physical and/or emotional forms: chronic colds, surgeries, relationship strife,  death in the family, project deadlines. Our forefathers dealt predominantly with hunting and gathering. The stressors that we experience nowadays take on a much different form, but they affect our bodies the same way. When we encounter a stressful event, our body secretes cortisol, which will then initiate a cascade of physiological and biochemical reactions that help us to deal with our environment. Fat and protein are broken down to make more glucose, a consistent form of energy utilized by our body. Cortisol also helps to bring blood flow and nutrients to the organs that need it, i.e. the heart, the extremities, etc. Additionally, it improves alertness and nervous system responsiveness.

Can the adrenals fight on forever?

Our bodies are amazingly resilient, as long as we are provided the opportunity to rest. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we can’t afford the extra time to rest, to restore and replenish our adrenal stores. We learn to endure and move on. Too often, I’ve heard patients say, “I just suck it up,” when asked how he/she copes with stress. Stress, in whatever shape or form, and as unrelated as they may seem, produce a cumulative effect. With time, with no respite, our body begins to break down, crumbling under the pressures of stress. Our bodies become exhausted. Whereas before, cortisol was used to help us bounce back, it undergoes a downward spiral towards depletion, for demands are now far exceeding supply.

Can I test for adrenal fatigue?

YES! There are now salivary and blood tests that can help assess your adrenal function.

If I have adrenal fatigue, do I still have hope?

YES! First, it needs to be understood that in order to truly get well, we need to reframe our mindset. Although we can’t always quit that job, leave unfinished our school/work projects, or predict arguments with loved ones, we can, to an extent, control how we deal with these stressors.

1. Choose a clean, balanced diet. Nourish your body with regular meals. Sugar and processed foods tend to provide us with a quick sugar fix. Unfortunately, it’ll also cause insulin to release quickly, thus resulting in an equally quick sugar crash.

2. Engage in stress relieving practices, i.e. meditation, etc. This allows the adrenals to recover, and promotes a relaxation response: breathing and heart rate calm down, muscles relax, and brain emits alpha waves

3. Exercise will help raise depleted cortisol stores

4. Sleep promotes adrenal recovery.

Additionally, there are nutrients and herbs that can help restore and optimize your stress response. Stress increases cellular metabolism, depleting vitamins and nutrients more quickly.  B vitamins are used heavily by the adrenal cascade, and thus these should be supplemented. Vitamin C can also help boost the body’s immunity, thus improving the body’s ability to handle stress better.

Herbs such as glycyrrhiza, ashwaganda, ginseng all help to support as well as optimize function of the adrenals.


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