Understanding stress and adrenal fatigue
Updated: Mar 2
Stress; we deal with it every day, whether it is stress related to our work, family, finances, or even our health, it is a part of everyday life.
Today, it takes two people working, just to make ends meet and pay the bills. Stress is an ever-growing problem. How do we find the time to fit everything into the day, which needs to be done? How do we work the number of hours we need to work, to survive and still have time for our family and ourselves? Most of us feel like we are maintaining a state of constant juggling, just to keep everyone, including ourselves happy.
The more important question is: What is going on in our bodies, while we are trying to juggle long work hours, family, exercise, time with our spouses and children and time for ourselves? There are only so many hours in one day!
I would guess, that most of you, aren’t practicing a proper bedtime routine of getting to bed by ten PM at night. You are up late at night, trying to get things done. Maybe after ten, is the only time that you have for yourself, at the end of a very busy day? Staying up late, puts stress on our bodies, causing the adrenal glands to be activated and releasing cortisol into our bodies.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue
Our adrenal glands are responsible for handling stress. The Adrenal glands, sit on top of our kidneys. When all of the stress of our busy lifestyles, start to catch up with us, the adrenal glands become activated, protecting our bodies by releasing cortisol.
Cortisol shuts down fat burning to preserve energy, gives you a short-term energy rush (the flight or fight response), inhibits immune system functions, shuts down the digestive tract and shunts blood to muscles so you can fight back or run away (fight or flight response). If you are under a large amount of stress for a long time, eventually your cortisol levels will probably crash, as the cortisol crashes you will develop different symptoms. This stage of stress is called adrenal burnout. At the point of adrenal burn out you may notice weight gain around your mid-section, a drop in your energy level, fatigue, a change in moods, perhaps depression, and digestive issues such as heartburn and ulcers.
For women the adrenal burn-out and the sudden drop in cortisol often burns out the sex hormones, leading to loss of libido and hormonal imbalances. Left untreated, low cortisol levels can lead to problems with heart and cardiovascular function, memory loss and cognitive decline. Research studies have shown that poor cortisol levels often translate to long-term degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Stress itself isn’t harmful, stress drives us to accomplish things. It is the chronic, long term, long lasting stress, without a break, that has an adverse effect on our adrenal system. Constantly overdoing things, going to bed late at night and not getting enough sleep, working forty plus hours a week and not taking the time to rest and relax. These are all examples of stress that is not good for our adrenals.
We must learn to balance work with rest, recuperation and play. We must try and find an outlet for our stress that works to help relax us, and deal with the negative effects that stress has on our bodies. That is why exercise is so important, 30 minutes a day five times a week is what you should to aim for. It doesn’t have to be a high intensity activity, walking, bicycling, and yoga are great forms of exercise that can be very low impact, low intensity and relaxing. These types of exercise can help you to deal with daily stress.
You should be mindful of symptoms of high cortisol levels, if you notice that you suddenly can’t get to sleep at night, you feel tired, but you are wired, and find it hard to get to sleep, this is a common sign of high cortisol levels, which means you are under more stress than you think you are, and your adrenals have been activated.
Slow digestion, food sensitivities
Are you feeling bloated and heavy after eating? Or like your digestion is really, slow? This is another sign of high cortisol levels. Are you craving sweet things? This could be an indicator that your cortisol is low, and your body is trying to maintain energy from sweet sugary foods. Try to avoid the sweet sugary foods, as this will only momentarily help your energy levels. Eating a balanced diet is the best way to maintain energy levels. If you are experiencing symptoms of high or low cortisol levels and suspect that stress could be the cause of your problems, it is a good idea to seek the help of a natural health practitioner. There are many ways, natural health practitioners can help with adrenal issues including diet modification, supplement suggestions. Saliva cortisol testing is an option that most natural health practitioner’s can offer you. Stress, adrenal issues and related digestive issues can often cause increased food sensitivities.
Holistic Nutritionist, Certified BASE allergy consultant
Inner Balance Health Solutions
5 Wellington Street East,
Omemee, ON K0l 2W0