by THOMAS on Jan 10, 2015 • 10:56 am
Folks, I have written about adrenal fatigue in the past. I have stressed the importance of the adrenal gland to patients many times (until I’m blue in the face with some patients). I have articles on my website and a very powerful screening tool that you can download and see for yourself if you are experiencing this problem. So let’s review a listing of the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue and this listing is by no means a complete one:
Cravings for sweets or salty foods, lack of emotional or physical resistance to stress, low blood pressure, hypoglycemia(low blood sugar), dizziness, weakness, insomnia, anxiety and/ or depression, brain fog, and food allergies just to name a few. Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you?
The adrenal glands are small walnut sized glands located atop your kidneys and are responsible for producing over 50 (some say 100) different hormones. These are regulatory hormones and are responsible for maintaining homeostasis throughout the body. The adrenal gland is wired to the brain via the pituitary gland and thus it is the brains right hand regulatory mechanism. Whenever something goes wrong in the body the adrenal gland is notified immediately.
One of the most important functions of the adrenals is regulation of blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammatory processes. This is accomplished by the hormone cortisol, which also affects the immune system and interacts with many other hormones in the body. The body’s cells require cortisol to utilize thyroid hormones so a drop in cortisol due to adrenal fatigue, will result in compromised thyroid function. Many patients reporting to my clinic with thyroid problems actually have adrenal fatigue and low cortisol production. When these patients are placed on adrenal supplements and DHEA, they improve considerably.
Dietary changes and nutritional supplements will often reduce or virtually eliminate the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, especially when the condition is mild. But these are not “silver bullets” and in most cases additional changes must be in the mind, body, and lifestyle. Patients whose lives are continually operating in a fight or flight mode must be made to realize that their decision making is revolving around fear. This is a person who rushes through life because they are afraid they do not have enough time to accomplish all of the tasks they have set for themselves. They frequently either skip meals or don’t eat properly, take on too many obligations, neglect to take time to relax, and do not set boundaries. Many of these folks are described as type “A” personalities; they are perfectionists and intensely driven in almost every aspect of their lives. Not everyone who experiences adrenal fatigue has a type “A” personality but many do and they are highly prone to fear-based behaviors.
There are many things that can contribute to the condition of adrenal fatigue and it can also be an accumulation of things over a person’s lifetime. The following is a listing of some of the contributing factors but again, this is not a complete listing:
Chronic stress, environmental toxins, poor dietary habits, a fast paced lifestyle, serious or even life threatening health problems, surgeries, accidents or injuries, deaths of friends or family members, divorce and many of these can be the beginnings of fear based thought and behavioral patterns.
Nutritional supplements are essential to recovering from adrenal fatigue but if you have been operating with fear based thought and behavioral patterns, you must also learn to adopt strategies that will help you live a much more relaxed lifestyle that does not drive your adrenal glands so hard. This will allow your body’s chemistry to become much more balanced. For some folks this will require a total revamping of the way that they think about and “do business”.
The following is a case history about one patient of mine whose experiences exemplify the classic adrenal fatigue presentation:
I’ll call her Sarah so as not to reveal her true identity. Sarah came to my clinic complaining of chronic pain in the neck, mid back and low back. She had a history of periodic pain episodes throughout her entire lifetime. She also had chronic digestive problems including periodic diarrhea/ constipation and gas with occasional reflux, and very low libido. In addition, she also had a persistent rash that would periodically spread over her neck and shoulder and chest but would never go completely away. She had been to numerous practitioners including naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and MD’s. She had bags of supplements, prescription medications, creams and ointments, herbs, homeopathic remedies, and bioidentical hormones. In other words, she had everything but the kitchen sink. Nothing seemed to work for her and she was at her wits end. Normally I would perform my usual examination with muscle testing etc. but this time I just wanted to listen to what this woman had to say. So I simply asked her to take about ten minutes and tell me a little about her life, family, and experiences over the years so I could get an idea of her thought process and decision making. After listening to her story, a picture began to emerge in my mind of a person who had accomplished many things in the face of adversity and become very successful in life. She had been successful in balancing many activities on a daily basis in order to achieve her goals and successes. She finally retired about three years ago but was still very busy only now it was with hobbies, various organizations, travel, friends, and family. There never seemed to be enough time in the day to accomplish all of her goals. I asked if she saw any similarities between her life before and after her retirement. She looked puzzled for a moment and then replied, “What do you mean”? I said that I didn’t see a whole lot of difference between her life before and after retirement. She still had a very busy schedule even though she was no longer employed. Finally I said that she had tried multiple therapeutic approaches over a period of several years, taken numerous supplements, medications, herbs, homeopathics, and hormones in an attempt to resolve all of her health issues and yet nothing seemed to work. But the one thing she had never attempted was a change in her behavior or lifestyle. I said that if she was really serious about overcoming her health problems she would need to change her fear based thought and behavior patterns and stop living in the fight or flight mode. This would require a considerable restructuring of the way in which she conducted her life but the payoff would be a healthier and happier one. I said this would take time and a considerable amount of effort on her part but there was no point in continuing therapies without making a change in her lifestyle. She agreed to try and it was several months before I saw her again. When she did finally come back in I could tell there was a difference. She appeared more relaxed and friendly, less tired and anxious and I noticed her rash was considerably smaller than before. She said that she had made some big changes in her life and that it was really hard. She could tell the difference and she felt better. She no longer had the chronic pain in her back and neck and her libido was beginning to come back. Over the next several years she continued to improve and so did her health and general outlook on life.
The following are some well thought out lifestyle strategies that have allowed many folks to overcome their adrenal fatigue problem and lead healthier and happier lives:
Live your life with an attitude of trust rather than fear. Make an attempt to NOT rush through the day and instead trust that everything is going to work out OK. Try to avoid treating every event as though it were a crisis. This will allow the body to relax, which will enable the adrenal glands to recover.
Spend quality time with yourself and just relax for an hour or so. Try meditating or take a nap. Read a fun book, go for a hike where there are no people around. Turn your TV off, and do not run any errands or participate in any non-essential activities.
Eat well and do this for yourself. Try higher protein and lower carbohydrate meals. Choose organic whenever possible for all of your nutritional needs. Avoid any and all processed foods, wheat, and diary with the exception of plain full fat yogurt and cheese.
Avoid negative, stressful talk and practice positive thinking. Negative thoughts, emotions, and words will run your adrenal glands down faster than anything.
Improve your sleep patterns. Do not watch TV late into the evening and turn off your computer. Turn off all equipment that produces electromagnetic waves/ radiation. Poor rest is associated with chronic inflammation and excessive cortisol production by the adrenal glands. “Unplugging” will help your adrenals to recover and regenerate.
Learn to set healthy relationship boundaries. Just say “NO” when you need time to yourself or do not wish to engage in an activity or conversation with another. This will help you to become a more generous and caring person down the road. When your adrenal glands are healthy, you tend to be a more patient, kind, and loving person.
And most important of all, seek the help of a professional person knowledgeable about adrenal fatigue recovery and really listen to their advice. But stop looking for the proverbial “silver bullet” because multiple treatments themselves can become a source of stress. You must learn to adopt a healthier lifestyle by changing your behaviors and habits. This will not only benefit your adrenal glands but your mind, body, and spirit as well.
For additional information on adrenal fatigue:
Well Being Journal vol. 24 No. 2 March/ April 2015
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, by James L. Wilson
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: Reclaim your energy and vitality by M. Lam, L. Dorine