Does this sound familiar?
You feel tired. All. The. Time.
No matter how much you sleep and rest it feels like you can’t recover. The moment you get out of bed in the morning, you start yawning, and counting down the hours until you can take a nap.
You push through. You drink loads of caffeine and crave sugar to get you through the day.
And, the worst part? When you finally lay down to sleep you feel wired and can’t fall asleep.
You know you’re not your best self and something feels “off”.
You feel down. Your brain feels foggy. And, you carry extra weight around your midsection that you can’t seem to lose.
You start many sentences or thoughts like this: If I just had more energy I could…
You don’t feel like you.
These are all symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Almost every single person in my practice has symptoms of adrenal fatigue — especially if they have an autoimmune condition.
Adrenal fatigue is often overlooked when treating autoimmune conditions.
And it’s a problem.
If you feel tired all the time it’s really difficult to take great care of yourself and follow a healthy lifestyle.
Let’s be honest. Cooking healthy meals, moving your body, and practicing excellent self-care become difficult when it’s a struggle to just get out of bed.
You’re fighting an uphill battle because your body doesn’t have the energy it needs to function and heal efficiently.
What Are the Adrenal Glands?
In short, the adrenal glands play a major role in your stress response through the actions of the hormone cortisol.
Your body is designed to release large amounts of cortisol from the adrenal glands during periods of stress or the “fight or flight response”. It thrives under periods of short-term stress (like running from a tiger) — cortisol levels surge and return to normal after the threat has passed.
However, if you experience constant levels of stress, cortisol levels will remain elevated for extended periods of time, making it difficult for your body to return to a state of rest (where you restore energy and do your best healing).
Over time, your adrenal glands get “overused and tired” and you experience symptoms of adrenal fatigue or “adrenal burnout.”
Not only do you feel exhausted but your body isn’t going to heal optimally.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue or Burnout?
Simply put, the number one cause of adrenal fatigue is chronic stress — physical, emotional or spiritual.
Physical stress includes things like too much exercise or a physical injury. But, it also includes things like chronic health issues or infections, improper dietary choices, not enough sleep, lack of “downtime” for rest and play, and over-scheduled lifestyles.
Emotional stress includes significant events such as a death in the family or death of a relationship, changes in employment, financial stressors and even so-called “good stress” like planning a wedding or a family vacation. But it also includes unresolved emotional pain such as anger, grief, shame or loneliness.
Perhaps the most overlooked are spiritual stressors. Not loving yourself fully, being critical of yourself, allowing ruminating negative thoughts, and the pursuit of perfection all cause chronic long-term stress.
With any kind of stress (physical, emotional or spiritual) your body tells your brain “something isn’t okay” and your adrenal glands respond by releasing cortisol.
If the stress remains a short-term event and you’re able to fully process, recover and let-go then you return back to your normal state of homeostasis.
However, if stress remains high for long periods of time you may start to experience some of the following symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Keep in mind that having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t automatically mean you have adrenal fatigue but it’s definitely something that should be considered.
Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:
- Chronic fatigue that is not relieved by rest.
- Sleep disturbances such as insomnia, or trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Memory or cognition issues like brain fog, feeling spacey, or trouble concentrating.
- Mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, feelings of overwhelm or crying more easily.
- Hormonal imbalances or changes such as worsening PMS, changes in menstruation or irregular cycles.
- Thyroid disorders or symptoms like hypothyroidism, cold or heat intolerance, or dry skin and hair.
- Metabolic disorders or weight issues like excess belly fat, and high or low blood sugar issues.
- Craving salt, sugar or caffeine to help “boost” your energy throughout the day.
- Low blood pressure symptoms like feeling dizzy or woozy if you stand up too quickly.
If you have one or more of these symptoms of adrenal fatigue ask your functional medicine health provider to order a “Cortisol Saliva Test”. It’s a test you can do at home by collecting 4 saliva samples throughout the day. It typically costs between $100-200.
Putting It All Together.
Adrenal fatigue is a very common condition and it directly effects your energy levels and your body’s ability to heal. This is especially important if you have an autoimmune condition or other chronic health issues.
Simply put, if your adrenal glands aren’t working properly you won’t feel great and your body won’t heal well. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to your health.
However, the good news is that it’s a treatable condition. Yep. You don’t have to feel tired all the time.
What’s your take?
Do you feel exhausted all the time? Do you have any of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue? Is treating your adrenal glands part of your long-term health plan?
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.