- Struggle to get up in the mornings?
- Feel fatigued or exhausted throughout the day?
- Often experience food cravings?
If these three questions grabbed your attention, you might just be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands, situated on top of the kidneys, form part of the endocrine system. This means they secrete hormones in response to stimuli from the brain and other parts of the body.
They secrete quite a few different hormones, some regulating reproductive organs, others electrolytes (salts) and water as well as blood sugar levels. Very importantly, they also regulate our response to stress.
How You Respond To Stress
Imagine a deer grazing peacefully in the jungle. It seems to have no care in the world until it meets with a lion. This is when activation of our fright, flight or fight response is crucial. It will help the deer react instantly by fleeing to escape from the lion.
The hormone adrenaline is responsible for just that. It is one of the hormones secreted by the adrenal glands with functions of increasing heart rate, blood pressure and redistributing blood to the muscles as well as glucose to the brain. In this way the deer's body is prepared to react appropriately to the stressor at hand.
Priorities shift from healing, repairing, restoring and digesting to purely doing the best possible thing for survival at that specific moment in time. The same processes occur in your body when you perceive stressors such as encountering a spider on your arm.
How Adrenal Fatigue Occurs
In today's life it is almost impossible not to have some degree of adrenal fatigue. So many areas of our lives are demanding our time and energy. Things like:
- Unrewarding relationships
- Stressful jobs
- Deadlines to meet
- Sleepless nights with a newborn
- Working nightshifts
- High sugar and processed food intake
- Pollution and other environmental toxins
- Too much screen-time (mobile phones, laptops, etc)
- Chronic illnesses
The list is endless.
Your body was not designed to be in constant stress as you rush to get more done than what you are able to. By now you may be feeling the effects of being overworked and underpaid. And yes, your body is capable of letting you know it cannot cope with all the high amounts of stress in your busy, everyday life.
The Three Signs Of Adrenal Fatigue
1. You struggle to wake up in the mornings
A very important hormone in any stress response is Cortisol. Released by the adrenals, It helps your body cope with long term or ongoing stress by stimulating a rise in blood glucose.
Cortisol is normally high in the mornings to aid you in starting your day afresh, and its levels reduce throughout the day until at its lowest it allows your body to switch off and fall asleep.
When the adrenals are under high demand for prolonged periods, this cycle goes out of balance leaving you tired in the mornings with more energy in the evenings.
2. You are constantly tired
When you go through stressful periods of your life a higher demand is placed on your adrenals to produce more cortisol than usual. These glands are able to do this by placing the production of other hormones on hold so that enough resources are available to maintain adequate levels of cortisol.
Eventually these resources will run out which is when cortisol levels will decline as well. You may notice that you start struggling to cope with daily stress.
3. You have food cravings
At this point you may find you are tired, fatigued with a lack of energy. And to make things worse, you have to put up with food cravings. These can include salty or savory snacks and meals. The hormone Aldosterone is also released by the adrenals and it aids in the kidney function of maintaining an optimal balance of salt and water.
Levels of this hormone will decline as cortisol gets preference. Your body starts craving these minerals in an attempt to correct their levels which is when you may notice that your meals do not seem to satisfy you any longer.
Unfortunately we have no choice but to face stressful situations on a daily basis. Our adrenals struggle to uphold the supply versus demand. We may exceed through the first three stages of adrenal fatigue unawares and only when we reached the fourth phase does it become apparent.
For many of us the three signs discussed may seem normal and perhaps you think you have no choice but to just power through them. We are here to tell you, they are not! Your body is telling you it can no longer cope.