If you have been firing on all cylinders and then hit a stage of complete fatigue, you may refer to this feeling as being burnt out. But what is really happening?
High periods of physical and/or mental stress can result in producing low amounts of cortisol, which leads to adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is not Addison’s disease, which is when your body does not produce cortisol, it is when your body is still producing some cortisol, but not enough to keep you functioning healthily and happily.
SIGNS YOU MAY BE SUFFERING ADRENAL FATIGUE
ALLERGIES & ASTHMA
Allergies are not always histamine based, often it can be triggered by inflammation. If you are not producing enough cortisol, norepinephrine or adrenaline then you will struggle to fight inflammation and therefore be more likely to develop allergies and asthma.
Low cortisol lowers secretory igA antibodies, which are produced mainly in the gut. These are your first line of defence and they protect against infections and also play a huge role for establishing a healthy microbiota.
A decrease in igA combined with an overall weakening of the body due to adrenal fatigue, will make you more susceptible to illness due to being less equipped to fight off infections.
Melasma is a condition that affects the appearance of your skin. Brown or blue-grey patches of freckle-like spots appear on the skin, like hyperpigmentation. This skin condition is almost always linked to abnormal cortisol levels. Melasmais often triggered to an extended period of chronic stress, and therefore increased cortisol, followed by a crash.
Low cortisol is usually the result of previously producing too much cortisol because you have been in an alarmed state. When your body was in ‘fight or flight’ it was producing too much cortisol and not enough stomach acid, enzymes and bile, resulting in your digestive system not operating as it should.
Stomach acid is crucial for the effective digestion of food, and when it is reduced, some food particles will not be fully digested allowing the bacteria in the digestive tract to feed on them. This will lead to what? Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth! Think bloating, gas, constipation and/or loose stools!
WHAT CAUSES ADRENAL FATIGUE?
1. ALARM STAGE
If you are in a state of stress or anxiety, you will be producing more cortisol and adrenaline than you need to. This is because you are in ‘fight or flight’ mode. The adrenaline and cortisol were released to help you react quickly to immediate threats.
With the go-go society we live in, we never switch off and so our body rarely returns to homeostasis. This constant alarmed stage will cause a constant release of adrenaline and cortisol.
Minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium will be used to support this response. Hair tissue tests can analyse your body’s minerals over time, which is fantastic for evaluating your levels of oxidative stress.
Cortisol levels that are lower in the morning and higher in the evening indicate that you are no longer adapting to the stress in your life.
I see this very often in clients when they test their cortisol levels upon waking, at lunch, in the evening and before bed through the cortisol test.
Cortisol should spike in the morning; if it spikes in the evening instead it will cause sleep issues and you may struggle to get moving in the morning due to feeling groggy and fatigued. This happens because the reserves have been used up due to prolonged extensive cortisol release and therefore you are unable to produce enough cortisol in the morning. This is also when people tend to become reliant on caffeine.
3. ADRENAL FATIGUE
Your body’s HPA Axis begins to shut down and cortisol levels are unable to be elevated enough to cope with stress.
As a result, you may suffer from low anti-inflammatory responses, low libido, lack of motivation, poor response to exercise, flu-like symptoms, fatigueand the inability to regulate systems in the body, such as blood sugar.
You may be at risk of developing Addison’s disease if you don’t address the adrenal fatigue.
HOW TO OVERCOME ADRENAL FATIGUE
Over time, your body has had a maladaptive response to stress and, as a result, it has begun to shut down bodily functions and adrenal glands to stop producing cortisol in an attempt to rebalance itself. This is why you are suffering symptoms of fatigue, lack of motivation and flu-like symptoms.
Unfortunately, conventional medicine isn’t administered until you have reached an extreme point, such as Addison’s disease. You need help before this, to either overcome adrenal fatigue or to prevent it all together.
In integrative medicine, we acknowledge the phases before you reach this extreme point. A lot can be done by identifying the above symptoms alone, but testing can help us understand your exact levels and give us better insight in how to address your adrenal fatigue, or chronic stress ahead of experiencing burnout.
You could do a cortisol test, which will look at your cortisol levels at 4 different times of the day. Or, you could do a hair tissue test to look at the mineral imbalances. Both of these tests are on my Shop.
If you have reached adrenal fatigue already, it is not an overnight fix. However, once we know exactly what stage you are at, we can slowly start to rebuild the body by working on the internal and external stressors.
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