Adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, adrenal burnout is this where your stress overload is taking you?
The adrenal glands, which sit just above the kidneys, are hormone producers. As well as secreting hormones like estrogens and testosterone, they are also the production house for the stress response hormones, adrenalin and cortisol.
Under normal stress conditions, the adrenal glands in a healthy individual are able to adequately regulate hormone secretions. However, with severe or prolonged stress, the adrenals can take a beating. Essentially, what happens is that the adrenal glands go into overdrive, trying to keep up with the body’s need for adrenalin. Eventually, this wears the adrenals down and they become underactive. It may begin with mild symptoms of adrenal fatigue, but over time can lead to severely debilitating adrenal burnout.
Excessive stress is the main cause. Working too much, sleeping too little, the constant demands of a fast-paced, high-stress lifestyle, and even stressful life events can compromise the adrenals. Although it can affect anybody, those most at risk are Type A personalities who are seen as highly productive and highly successful; the sort of people who burn the midnight oil, never switch off their iPhone or Blackberry, answer emails on Sundays, and cram their day with an endless list of “to do’s’.
It’s easy to see how this lifestyle can have a negative impact on our health over the long-term. For some people, damage to their health is obvious – they are depleted and feel it. Others, at least on the surface, can appear vital. In most cases, adrenal burnout affects successful, dynamic individuals; high achievers who can seemingly cope with any and every challenge life throws at them. In some ways, this type of personality will thrive on these challenges and pushing limits is natural for them. Often they may not realize their body is asking them to slow down and stop ‘doing’, and even when they understand it’s time to slow down, they can find it impossible to do so. Instead, they may even try to replace constant work with intensive exercise and a busy schedule of classes and activities.
Adrenal burnout is not something that can be fixed with a few good night’s sleep. It is a deep imbalance of the body’s energy-producing system, and rest alone is not enough to restore balance.
- Adrenal burnout is a syndrome – a combination of different symptoms that can vary from person to person. Some of these symptoms include:
- Constant fatigue that is not relieved by rest.
- Low blood pressure and/or blood sugar levels
- Back and joint pain
- Decreased immunity – susceptibility to colds, flus, infections
- Emotional symptoms such as apathy, despair, anxiety and irritability
- Excessive behaviour such as working at a furious pace, intense exercise, loud music (your body’s attempt to stimulate adrenals).
- Other glandular imbalances, such as hypothyroidism and lowered immunity, can be secondary.
For complete recovery, you need to consider both the physical and emotional aspects. Adrenal burnout is a lifestyle illness fuelled by cultural values and a personal psychological disposition; a lifestyle approach is needed to deal with it. Diet is very important, as the body’s nutritional needs increase under stress. Things like excessive carbohydrates and stimulants and insufficient protein can further stress the adrenals. Nutritional supplements may be required, and holistic healing therapies can help to restore both your physical and emotional condition. It is also important to address the emotional and psychological issues and stressors. It has been said that if you want something different, you need to do things differently. In the case of adrenal imbalance, this is not only true for your recovery but also for your ongoing health.
Early to bed
Research has shown that our adrenal glands recover best when we go to bed between 9 and 10 pm. Prepare for sleep by starting to wind down 30 minutes to one hour before bed time. If you have severe sleeping issues, you may wish to consult with a holistic health practitioner.
Mediation is an effective tool to calm your mind, alter your brain waves and achieve a sense of deeper relaxation and serenity. Meditation can be difficult to achieve as a beginner, especially when our minds are busy and we’re under stress. By practicing daily, it will get easier. Physical activity prior to meditation can also help (nothing too strenuous though – yoga or tai chi is ideal) and guided meditation recordings are also useful. Another tools is to use the environment as a focus point – a quiet nature walk, followed by some time of simply sitting still and drawing focus from the calmness around you.
Mindfulness, the art of slowing down
Slowing down in every aspect of your being is important for the recovery from stress. Mindfulness is an acknowledged mental training for successful stress reduction, allowing your mind to become aware of the external environment in the present moment rather than focusing on internal stresses and worries. By practicing mindfulness while walking, talking, eating and breathing it is possible to be more conscious of the moment of now, which can help to calm and quiet the mind.
Small to moderate amounts of exercise can be beneficial to increase energy, mood and vitality. This may include 40 – 60 mins, three to five times a week of walking, swimming, yoga, chi gong or similar activities. If you are severely exhausted exercise may be counterproductive and not recommended.
Eating and drinking
It is best to eat warm cooked food and minimise your intake of raw foods and cold beverages. Cooked foods and warm beverages have a greater ability to nourish the body and are easier on the digestive systems. It is also essential that your protein intake is sufficient to support the repair process.
Herbal stimulants including yerba mate, ma huang, etc.
All recreational drugs
Refined carbohydrates eg. White rice, white breads, white flour pastas
Deep fried and oily foods.
Kamalaya Koh Samui Solutions
Stress is a major cause of disease and premature ageing in our modern, fast-paced world, so treating the symptoms, supporting the body’s systems, and learning stress management techniques makes good health sense. Kamalaya Koh Samui’s deeply restorative Basic Balance & Revitalise and Comprehensive Balance & Revitalise programs deal holistically with the symptoms and underlying causes of adrenal burnout and address stress prevention from a mind, body and spirit perspective. If you are unsure which program would be most appropriate, you can request a telephone consultation with one of our Naturopaths. Alternatively, you can discuss your needs and concerns in person with one of our Naturopaths when you arrive; there’s no need to book your program in advance.
Caffeine is a fast-acting stimulant that makes you feel more awake and energetic. Depending on the strength and quantity of caffeine consumed, its effects can last for many hours.
The signs of adrenal burnout are often hard to diagnose correctly, since they seem like part of everyday life. But if you suffer from an afternoon energy crash that is followed by a boost of energy late in the evening, you should take a closer look.