Spotlight Specialist Samantha George from H Personal Coaching explains what Adrenal Fatigue is and how it can adversely affect healing and recovery from chronic pain and injury. Here she is....
A lot of us seem to be suffering from tiredness. I don't mean we are just feeling a bit sleepy, I mean that we are TIRED. We have that deep, bone-aching exhaustion...and we have it all too often. We struggle to get out of bed in the mornings, barely feeling rested. We have difficulty handling stress the kind of thing that wouldn't have even phased us before, now has us in meltdown mode. We want to workout hard (God how we want to workout!!) but it almost feels like someone is stepping on the brake whilst we are trying to push the accelerator. When we do get to workout, our bodies take their sweet time to recover and if we overdo it, we can get muscle soreness for up to a week we keep gaining weight (particularly around the abdomen) no matter what exercise we do or how we eat we get cravings for salt, sugar, fat and/or caffeine. It's all we can think about some days well that's if we COULD think. Our brains are so fuzzy, our memories struggle and we often feel dizzy. We keep getting injured and can't seem to recover like we used to. We are thirsty. In fact it almost feels like water doesn't even quench our thirst, it just makes us pee all of the time we have started to suffer from digestive issues like bloating, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea. Our sex drive has hit rock bottom, we seem to pick up every bug and virus going we suffer from various aches & pains that come and go for no known reason our skin probably doesn't glow like it used to, our hormones are all over the place and our moods can change by the minute but mostly we don't care that much, because we are just too tired to give it all that much attention. We start to feel fed up because we are just so, so tired.
This is a pretty extreme example but if even just a few of the above points resonate with you, I'd urge you to check your adrenal function.
So what is adrenal fatigue? 'Adrenal fatigue' is the common name for what a medical professional would call hypo- or hyper-adrenia. This occurs when our adrenal glands don't make enough, or make too much of a certain hormone.
The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit atop our kidneys and they secrete our stress hormones. Cortisol is our long-term stress hormone that rises when we encounter continuous stressors such as long working hours, nutrient deficiencies, prolonged emotional stress, chronic pain, lack of sleep & over exercise. Cortisol isn't all bad though. It's also the hormone that wakes us up and gets us going. It's designed to rise in the morning and slowly dwindle throughout the day, dropping to it's lowest level at night so that we can sleep. During adrenal fatigue, our levels of cortisol can become imbalanced in several ways:
Stage 1: High cortisol levels can lead to hyperadrenia or stage 1 adrenal fatigue. This occurs when our body is stressed and produces excess amounts of this hormone. During this time we will feel hyper, perhaps anxious, have trouble sleeping and feel 'tired but wired'. Due to the high levels of cortisol in this stage we can often actually feel pretty good. We are sure that we don't really need anymore sleep, we can workout hard and we are handling the stress just fine. In fact sometimes we are, and in this case, our cortisol levels return to normal and we carry on living our healthy lives. However sometimes our cortisol levels don't return to normal, they actually start to deplete after this stage instead.
Stage 2: In stage 2 adrenal fatigue, as our cortisol levels begin to drop, we can often end up with an inverse cortisol pattern. This means that we find ourselves exhausted and struggling to get up in the morning but wired and hyper at night when we want to sleep. We can begin to experience the signs of imbalanced sex hormones such as low sex drive or PMS symptoms. Our bodies can start to break down our muscle tissue and it suddenly takes us a lot longer to recovery from physical activity. We can start to ache a lot more than usual. If we hang around this stage for a while, we can slip into stage 3 adrenal fatigue.
Stage 3: Stage 3 occurs when our cortisol levels drop throughout the whole 24 hours of our day. We are permanently low and tired and our bodies begin to compensate for this by reducing our metabolism; our thyroid production slows down (making us get cold and gain weight amongst other things) and our digestion becomes disrupted (this can show up as bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, etc). What's more is that many of our hormones are made from the same building blocks as cortisol. This means that if our bodies are being asked to make more cortisol, our body will shift those building blocks from our other hormones and use them to make our stress hormones instead - this could result in difficulty conceiving, early menopause and erectile dysfunction. The lower level of certain hormones can make it difficult for us to build muscle, making us more prone to injury, pain and weight gain. On top of this, our immune systems are put under a lot of pressure in this state. This can result in difficulty healing from injury or illness. If we add this to the fact that we almost never have a restful night's sleep, we can see that it's very easy for us to end up with chronic pain during this time.
Now before we all start blaming the evils of cortisol and our lazy adrenal glands, please consider that the human body is a synergistic system. Therefore if our adrenal glands aren't producing enough cortisol, it's often because: A. They can't keep up with the amount they are being asked to produce and B. They're being told to reduce the amount they are making.
In the instance that the body is asking for extraordinarily large cortisol production it is often to combat a particular stress. This could be high emotional stress, over-exercise, under exercise, nutritional deficiencies, or very commonly, hidden infections (these like to hang out in the digestive tract as fungal or bacterial overgrowth, parasites and viral infections). The key to solving this is to find the cause of the stress and work with a qualified practitioner to gently eliminate it, whilst revitalizing the body.
In the case of the adrenal glands being instructed to make less cortisol, we will need to delve a little deeper into our biochemistry to work out what is happening with our individual hormones and neurotransmitters which requires specialist assistance.
Whatever you suspect the cause to be, if you feel anything like the description at the start of this article, I would like you to know that you do not have to feel this way. I strongly advise you to work with a qualified Nutritional Therapist who will help you to run a simple saliva test to evaluate your cortisol levels. You can then identify the root cause of your pain and fatigue, whilst at the same time, make a few simple lifestyle changes to boost your energy levels and get you back to feeling like YOU again.
If you'd like to know more about Samantha's Nutrition & Lifestyle coaching for people who are always tired, often stressed & fed up with the way they look, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website www.hpersonalcoaching.com to claim a free Energy- Boost Consultation.