Why do I feel so exhausted? Why am I waking up at 2am everynight? Why don’t I ever feel refreshed in the morning? Why do I crash out in the afternoons, only to get a second wind at night time?

All these questions and more are common occurrences in my clinic. In fact – it is because of these particular issues that I am seeing droves of clients coming through my doors wanting help because they are feeling exhausted and worn-out. Clients are visiting their Doctors where they “couldn’t find anything wrong” with them, only to send them back out the door with a clean bill of health and them scratching their heads thinking maybe this is all in their head? No, I am not finger-pointing at their GP’s as this isn’t an area that they are often well versed in. As far as I’m concerned, Adrenal Burnout or Adrenal Fatigue, is the new illness of the 21st Century. Approximately 80% of clients I see in clinic have been affected by this and most of them have never ever heard of it!

In a world where we now have more obligations, longer work hours, higher living costs and higher child care costs, it is no wonder that stress is the new “hot” word to describe how you feel. Perhaps the word should be “stretched” as it better explains how people these days are feeling with regard to their finances, their down-time, their family and their work time. Not only that, but this constant pressure for people to be connected to their Social Media outlets creates a huge amount of FOMO for people. What’s FOMO you ask? Fear Of Missing Out. These ongoing stresses in our lives are coming at us from all angles (your Grandma didn’t have the pressures of keeping her Facebook up to date nor the living expenses we now have). This is massively affecting us as humans and whilst our environments have changed dramatically, we have basically stayed the same and have no new coping mechanisms to help balance out all the crazy that gets thrown at us. And worst of all – no one is talking about it properly! We just call it “stress” and push on.

Could I have Adrenal Burn Out?

  • Energy – Ongoing fatigue, lack of stamina, feeling tired-and-wired (especially at night), waking up feeling un-refreshed, dragging yourself out of bed, crashing in the afternoon or getting a second-wind at night time.
  • Rushing & can’t relax – Unable to stop, always rushing, can’t settle your mind, restless legs.
  • Blood Pressure – High or low blood pressure are signs to be aware of. Low blood pressure can often have the symptom of lightheadedness associated with it.
  • Food cravings – Quite often for lots of salt but also for energy foods as you feel so depleted – breads, pasta, chocolate, sugar. Coffee is a common one as people are looking for that extra kick!
  • weight changes – weight gain (particularly around the belly area) that is often stubborn to lose and won’t budge.
  • Emotions and coping ability – Inability to deal with day to day stress, feeling overwhelmed, struggling to get through the day, having a very “short fuse”, anxiety or feelings of uneasiness.
  • Foggy Thinking – Unclear thinking. Not able to focus on tasks and poor memory recall.
  • Poor Immunity – an overactive Adrenal system can inhibit your natural Immune response which means that you can be more prone to catching colds or bugs and they can take much longer to recover from thank normal.
  • Sleep Issues – Maybe your mind races when you’re trying to go to sleep or you wake up often during the night. Waking in the early hours of the night (around 2-3am) is common when your adrenals are overworked. Waking with feelings of hot flushes, sweating or nightmares is very common.
  • Hormonal Issues – Menopausal symptoms can get much worse (or give menopausal symptoms to woman who are under 40), low libido and worsening of PMT.

What are the Adrenal Glands?

You have two Adrenal glands which sit on top of each of your Kidneys in the lower back area. The right Adrenal gland is triangular shaped and the left one is shaped more like a half-moon. They are only very small but they play a huge role in your wellness and your stress responses. When under stress, our brain sends a signal to the Adrenal glands, which reacts instantly by releasing stress hormones to help you cope and deal with the situation at hand. This is often where the “Fight or Flight” response kicks into gear. When this happens, “not-so-important” mechanisms such as our digestion and other hormones, are down-regulated so the body can increase extra blood flow and energy to areas they deem “important” to help you cope with your stress – areas like your brain and your muscles. So when you hear about people gaining Super-Human strength in a stressful situation, this is why!

Not only do the Adrenals secrete hormones for stress responses, but they have many hormones they secrete on a regular basis for day to day health and vitality. Examples of such hormones are:

  • Cortisol – a very important hormone that we literally cannot live without. It controls our sleep/waking cycle, makes you feel alive in the morning, suppresses inflammation, it helps us generate energy from non-carbohydrate foods and even assists in regulating our blood pressure. Cortisol is produced in higher amounts during times of high stress, but should not remain there for a long period of time, as this can make you feel shaky, anxious and is where Burn Out can begin. Cortisol is usually quite high when you wake up in the morning, but will drop away to a low level after lunchtime and be almost non-existent by bedtime. This is to enable your sleeping chemicals (Melatonin) to kick in and send you off to a nice restful sleep. This is a huge topic so I will be going into Cortisol and how it affects your energy, moods and weight gain (particularly around the belly) later on this month (stay tuned!)
  • DHEA – or Dehydroepiandrostenedione, helps to regulate metabolism and converts into more potent hormones, such as the Estrogens and Testosterone. Also has been found in studies to have it’s own action to boost the immune system and prevent atherosclerosis (deposits & hardening of arteries). DHEA production generally decreases under high and chronic stress which can affect your other sex hormones such as Testosterone, Estrogen and Thyroid hormone.
  • Androstenedione – This is known as an Androgen hormone (or a male sex hormone) although both women and men produce it. In women, the Adrenal glands (and also the Ovaries) secrete this hormone into the blood where it is then used to convert into half of your Testosterone and almost all of the bodies Oestrone (one of the Estrogens). In men, these hormones can be converted into Testosterone within the Testes directly, so this hormone coming from the Adrenals is less important as the production that goes on within the Testes kind of cancels it out.
  • Aldosterone – This hormone regulates your fluid and mineral excretion from the Kidneys (is also part of the reason why the Adrenals sit right next to the Kidneys). This regulates your blood volume, which regulates your blood pressure.
  • Catecholamines – This is the name given to a group of Neurotransmitters that are produced in high amounts in times of high stress or anxiety. Examples of these include Epinephrine (Adrenalin), Norepinephrine, and Dopamine. They are Neurotransmitters in the brain that assist with functioning but they are also primitive stress responses that help to keep us alive in moments of trauma or danger. Dopamine is known as the “Love Chemical” in the Brain as it is the chemical responsible for feelings of pure joy, ecstasy, love, motivation, libido and concentration.

All of this sound familiar?

Tick, Tick, Tick? If you are nodding your head and saying YES to many of these above questions then you are in the right place and you need to stay tuned this month whilst we tackle the issues surrounding Adrenal Burnout and what we can do to help support, reverse and prevent it. We will be touching on areas such as the nutrients needed to help restore and support your Adrenal function:

  • Vitamin C
  • the B vitamin Group
  • Amino Acids such as Tyrosine
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Iodine

We will also go into detail how some amazing Herbal Medicines you can use to help support your Adrenals and some simple lifestyle changes you can make to help you create more balance. Now that you have a good understanding what the Adrenal Glands are, this week we will be delving into how your consistent stress levels can lead to abnormally High Cortisol levels in the body and how that impacts your body weight (particularly tummy weight), fatigue, anxiety, low motivation, sugar cravings and depression, and what we can do about it! Keep an eye on your inboxes and Facebook!

Monique Kelly Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist