Adrenal gland fatigue syndrome, also known as adrenal fatigue, is the idea of your adrenal gland growing tired or sluggish due to chronic stress.
One needs to understand this condition is not a mainstream medical diagnosis; however, most alternative doctors and a signigicant number of conventional doctors are beginning to realize chronic stress is impacting the adrenal glands.
In my personal story, I carefully ruled out other possible conditions before accepting adrenal fatigue as my issue. Conditions such as hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia and depression.
The following article is specific to addressing the various aspects of this syndrome. Please be advised, I am not a doctor myself but used the information gleaned from Dr. James Wilson’s book and my naturopath.
What and Where Is The Adrenal Gland
Your adrenal gland is located on top of each kidney. They are responsible for your stress hormones, often referred to as your “fight or flight” hormones. Three major types are produced:
- Mineralocorticoids: mostly important of these is aldersterone.
- Glucocorticoids: think cortisol.
- Androgens: most well-known are DHEA and testosterone.
However, the most common type of hormone produced in the adrenal gland is epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline.
Begins to make a bit of sense, doesn’t it?
When Your Adrenals Kick In
I’m sure with the above information you’re beginning to get an inkling of when your adrenals kick in. We can all think of examples when we were playing hide-and-go-seek as a kid or when we were walking through a parking garage at night all alone. We experienced a heightened level of awareness.
This is good. These are times when we need to hear better, see better and sense our surroundings better. How about all the times when we experience this heightened awareness but it is actually not really needed.
The times when you are typing up a report for a deadline, last night when your teenager was a half hour past curfew, or when someone cuts you off on the drive home. We still feel the effects of our adrenal hormones whether in needful situations or the annoying ones. Regardless, those hormones get dumped into our system.
Why Oh Why Do They Always Kick In
Again, I will state our adrenals ARE a good thing. In situations of survival, they are one of our best assets. The hormones dumped will give the Herculean strength to either throw a knock-out left hook or run like a cheetah.
The problem is the lack of the ability to distinguish between a survival situation and an annoyance.
Unfortunately most of our world culture elevates non-survival situations to a Code Red situation. Stop and think for a moment, when was the last time you got the adrenaline rush? For me it was last night when I couldn’t park in my driveway due to 3 foot snow drifts. Needful? Yep. I needed those adrenal glands to kick in and give me a surge of strength to shovel for the next 3 hours. The time before that? Not so much, I had a pie order, I am a professional baker during the day hours, that was misplaced. Was the hormone rush needful? Helpful? Not really. It’s a pie for goodness’ sake. It’s not life or death. An issue to be remedied, yes; definitely not life or death.
However, our adrenal glands do not know the difference. It is our brain that make the initial determination – at some point. Sometimes our brain has formed such an auto-pilot response that it seems like the decision to react didn’t begin there, but at some split-second, the decision was made in the brain to tell the adrenals to dump all the fight-or-flight hormones.
And unfortunately, old habits do die hard. Our brain can make such quick response decisions that many times we simply bypass the cognitive area of assessment. Plus our bodie’s systems are so tuned into each other that the communication between the brain and the adrenals is lightning fast.
This is why they kick in. Plus adrenals and the stress response do not discriminate.
Who Do The Adrenals Discriminate
The adrenal glands function the same universally. You can be any color, any nationality, any blood type, first world or third world habitant, man, woman or child. They function the same.
What can happen though is the following. Individuals can each make such reactive habits of non-survival situations that the adrenal glands never stop pumping out hormones. They get caught in a loop, so to speak. This can lead to an insufficiency of the proper amount of hormones, a “tired out” adrenal gland, so to speak. In extreme cases, a medically recognized disease called Addison’s will occur. Addison’s ain’t no joke. However, that is an entirely different topic.
Now You’re Armed
You are now armed with basic information. You have a general understanding of your adrenal hormones and how they function.
Hopefully you can begin to grasp how adrenal fatigue occurs. It is the nearly automatic response of stress hormones, dumped by your adrenals in both survival and non-survival situations, to the point of forming a loop, a gerbil wheel effect, until the adrenals get tired out.
Which in turn tires you out. All. The. Time. You also begin to crave salt. You have little to no mood control; you hyper-react with anger, tears or anxiety. You experience heart palpitations. To top it all off, you consistently wake up at night, taking hours to go back to sleep.
What to do?
First see a doctor to rule out other possible issues. Personally, I am biased towards naturopaths as they look for root causes and they examine the whole person.
Second, grab Dr. Wilson’s book. Read the book cover to cover. Follow the protocols.
Last, keep reading my blog. I’m in year four of my healing from adrenal fatigue. I have found the best brands of supplements; i.e. the best quality and best bang for your buck. I have found the best form of exercise. I can recommend the best healing diet too!
With much grace upon you,