Adrenal fatigue is quite an ambiguous condition. For those of you who don't know, I suffered from a chronic case of adrenal fatigue for a few years and even though I am a million times better now, the truth remains that I am still battling hormone imbalances and trying to let my adrenals recover completely. It can take a long time to recover once you have burnt the candle at both ends, and it can be a very long and frustrating process.
I was at a point where I was in a deep hole of a hormonal and fatigue shiz storm where even something as simple as brushing my teeth before bed seemed like the biggest and most strenuous task, which took up all of my effort and energy.
Hormone imbalance and a certain level (mild or severe) adrenal fatigue can be quite common, and you don’t need to be an athlete for it to occur. So let me make you aware of what it is and the things you can do if you feel you may have this condition.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is where the adrenal glands decrease their ability to carry out their normal functions due to the imbalances in the body. I think it's important to note that adrenal fatigue is not the issue, but is actually the result of other hormonal imbalances in the body. The first sign of adrenal fatigue is in fact fatigue and tiredness itself, however, there are many signs and symptoms that come with it as well which vary in intensity from each individual depending on the severity of the problem.
What causes it?
Our body is a very clever thing. It is after all built to survive. When your body becomes stressed it has coping mechanisms to deal with that stress and the body will make adjustments depending on the amount of stress it is placed under at any given time. Adrenal fatigue occurs when your body is placed under stress, whether that be physical, emotions, mental or environmental stressors (or a combination) and the demands of those stressors exceed the body’s ability to cope and adjust. So basically, your coping mechanisms can no longer cope with the stress. When this happens the adrenal glands simply can’t keep up so they become fatigued and no longer respond properly to any further stress.
The most common causes of adrenal fatigue that overwhelm the body and its coping mechanisms include:
Surgery, poor nutrition, injury, exhaustion
Relationships, work related, psychological
Continuous environmental stress
From toxins, household chemicals, pollutants, food intolerances
Bronchitis or flu, autoimmune, pneumonia
Adrenal fatigue signs and symptoms
Continuously repeated stress, no matter where the stress comes from, can add up over time and make an individual more prone to having adrenal fatigue. The tough part is, for many of us, that we don’t recognize certain things as stressors, but instead as normal day-to-day life. This is what happened to me. I thought I was invincible and continued to say “yes” to everything. Eventually, my crazy 6am-10pm days were pretty much the norm. However, I did not realize that this continuous stress on my body from long work hours, long training hours, poor nutrition and little downtime, lead to my body's breaking point.
Stressors can be something as simple as being a single parent, constant lack of sleep, unhappy in work life, little or no downtime, financial stress, a death of a close friend or family member to name a few. Here are some signs and symptoms that could be a good indication that you may have some level of adrenal exhaustion. If you have one or more of these it’s OK, don't panic, it will just make you aware of what the situation may be from and may be worth investigating.
1. Difficulty waking up and getting up in the morning
You are a snoozer and even after a few alarms you still struggle to get your head up off the pillow let alone yourself out of bed.
2. Fatigue that continues to hang around
When you are constantly tired and exhausted and you cannot relieve it no matter how much sleep you get. No matter what you just cannot seem to feel refreshed.
3. Decreased libido
You hardly have the energy to function let alone have sex.
4. Lethargic and lack of energy
Even the simplest and smallest of tasks seem like a huge chose that takes maximum effort and energy.
5. Simple tasks take extra effort
Everything seems to be so much harder than it should be.
6. Cravings for salty foods
All the salt! You find you are drawn to salty foods and even add extra salt most of the time.
7. Reduced ability to handle stress or higher stress situations
You’re are more irritable, the smallest things get to you easily. You may react by yelling, rage, anxiety, or compulsive eating.
8. Frequent colds and longer time to recover from illness, injury
Your cold lingers around for a few months instead of a couple of weeks or day, or that small cut takes weeks to heal.
9. Lightheaded or dizzy when you stand up
Sometimes you get dizzy spells or feel like you might pass out when you stand up too quickly after sitting down.
10. Mild depression
Everything seems pointless and you find yourself down a lot of the time.
11. Less happiness with everyday life
You have a lack of interest in life or fun events. You would rather stay home and lay on the couch than go to a party or social gathering.
12. Increased PMS
Bloating, tired, moody, cramping more than usual.
13. Brain fog
Constant loss of train of thought. It becomes harder to concentrate and to make decisions, and you are less productive.
14. Memory loss or fuzziness
You forget things easily, like where you left your keys or why you walked into a room.
15. Decreased tolerance and patience
People become more irritating.
16. Highest energy after dinner
The only time you feel better is after your evening meal where you start to feel more alive than you do all day.
Now that’s a huge list of possible symptoms I know because looking back now, I had pretty much every single one of these. However, it had gotten to a point where it just felt “normal” to feel like this, but I can assure you it most definitely is not. It's important to note that no single one of these symptoms indicates that you have adrenal fatigue however they are a good indication that adrenal fatigue may be present and it could be worth investigating further.
Regardless, if you are feeling like this, then it’s no way to live, they are mere warning signs that something needs to change in order to ensure you are living life to its fullest potential and at the most optimal of health possible.
So now what?
If you think you may have some adrenal fatigue then it is important that you investigate it further. But I want you to know what to expect. It's a tough condition to diagnose because many medical practitioners and even some endocrinologists (hormones specialists) have never heard of or have never dealt with the condition. This is because it's something that is not readily taught in medical school (to my knowledge) and is something that has become difficult to detect in modern medicine.
I went to many different GPs stating my symptoms and they were all dismissed. Luckily I knew something was really wrong and I kept trying to find the answers, I didn’t give up until I found someone who was familiar with the condition and could help me out of it. I think it's important that you keep asking questions and never take one opinion as gospel. If something feels wrong then find out what it is, because it's not normal to live the life that way.
Even though we turn to doctors for help (and with good reason) there are some things you can do on your own to help heal things as much as possible too which I will talk about in part 2 of this article… stay tuned ☺