Adrenal Fatigue – Crash and Burn
Alexander Mostovoy, H.D., D.H.M.S.,BCCT
Do you find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning? Does it take a long time to get going? Do you start to feel awake by about noon only to experience another slump in your energy level after lunch? Do you feel better by the end of the day, but feel as though you must go to bed as you tire easily? Once in bed, do you lie awake, exhausted but too wired to go to sleep? Once asleep, do wake up after only a few hours, and find this cycle continuing night after night? Are you lacking the stamina to exercise during the day, or feel totally drained after exercising? Perhaps you pick up every infection going around – and take a very long time to recover. Despair and depression may even be have set in. For too many people, this fatigue and weakness are a constant part of daily life.
If the picture painted here sounds familiar, read on … you may be experiencing Adrenal Fatigue. It is estimated that up to 80% of people in the industrialized world suffer from Adrenal Fatigue at some point in their lives. For some, it may last a few days, for others, this debilitating condition can last decades. The problem is most common among women, and is often ignored or misdiagnosed as main symptoms mirror those of other conditions.
Adrenal fatigue affects people in many different ways and for many different reasons. Although the etiology (cause) of Adrenal Fatigue may differ, the symptoms, regardless of the cause are very similar. Adrenal Fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands function on a sub-optimal level. The adrenals are responsible for secreting 50 different hormones in an exact and very precise manner depending on the body's requirements. Adrenal glands become the major source of hormone production in a menopausal woman and will secrete hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and adrenaline.
Adrenal glands are very responsive to changes in physical, emotional and psychological stressors, and many factors may interfere with this amazingly intricate balance. Stress, for example will put your body into a "fight or flight" response, however, your adrenals cannot differentiate between different types of stressors such as being attacked by a tiger in the jungle or having a heated argument with your boss. The adrenal gland responds by producing cortisol – the major hormone responsible for helping the body deal with stress. Unfortunately, in today's modern society, most of us are under constant stress – be it physical stress from infection or illness, or emotional stress such as from a divorce or the death of a loved one. The adrenal gland will adjust to this constant and prolonged stress but may eventually become unable to meet the demand and dysfunction either by not producing enough cortisol, or by releasing too much cortisol. The extremes of adrenal dysfunction are Addison's disease (no cortisol produced) and Cushing's Syndrome (excessive cortisol released).
You may notice subtle changes at first: salt and sugar cravings may give you occasional relief. You may constantly need a caffeine fix via coffee or cola, you may become absentminded, have weak muscles, have low sex drive, feel that you cannot get enough sleep, you also may have constipation alternating with diarrhea. You eventually reduce activity and try to avoid any stressful situation because you feel overwhelmed. You are starting to isolate.
Unless your situation is addressed properly, you may develop adult onset diabetes, autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia (in fact most people suffering from hypoglycemia have low adrenal function) and even fybromyalgia. Many people will suffer from anxiety and depression, have problems with concentration, with periods of confusion, searching for words, making mistakes with names and simple math. Most women with sub-optimal adrenals will complain of PMS, terrible menopausal symptoms and a decrease in immune function.
Adrenal gland function is so important to your well being, but is often overlooked as the cause of these symptoms. Adrenal function can be assessed with a simple saliva test taken to measure cortisol levels. The test is easy and can be done at home.
An Adrenal Care Program can be very successful in restoring Adrenal Function. Any program chosen should include finding the underlying cause, and making the necessary changes to your lifestyle, diet, supplement approach, and may also include herbal and homeopathic remedies.
Lifestyle changes include getting plenty of rest, reducing stressors (such as watching the news on TV while in bed), eliminating caffeine, taking time to relax, pray, and meditate. Diet changes should include reducing your consumption of refined carbohydrates (white bread and sugar) and increasing consumption of vegetables and whole grains.
The body needs vitamins and minerals to make adrenal hormones. The best way to get your vitamins and minerals is from your diet, however this would only apply to healthy individuals. Most people suffering from this or other types of disorders are nutritionally deficient with sub optimal diets requiring supplementation and support. Supplements necessary would include Vitamin C, a good multivitamin, vitamin B-complex, niacin, Pantothenic Acid and Magnesium Citrate, along with a mineral supplement.
Many herbs are useful in the treatment of adrenal issues. Many function as adaptogens, that is, assisting the body in adapting to stress. Adaptogenic herbs help to lower or raise cortisol levels depending of the need that time. One of my favorites is Eleutherococcus Senticocus (Siberian Ginseng) (not to be confused with regular ginseng), which is without a doubt the most researched botanical that has been used safely for many years. Some other examples of adaptogenic herbals include: Rhodeola Rosea, Whithenia Somnifera (Aashwaganda), and Schisandra Chinensis.
Under the supervision of a competent physician, hormone supplementation with DHEA, Pregnenolone and Progesterone may yield some amazing results.
Homeopathic treatment and medications have been very useful to many in my practice. Although homeopathic medicines are prescribed on an individual basis specifically tailored to many specific symptoms presented by the patient, there are several medicines that come up more frequently than others such as:
Phosphoric Acid will be suitable to a patient presenting with extreme physical exhaustion, inertia, apathy, and sexual weakness. These people often complain about the loss of hair and even change in visual acuity. Their whole pathology arises from hypo function of the endocrine system – particularly the adrenals.
Argentum Nitricum will suit most weak and trembling patients. There is going to be periodical weakness, one day they will be well, but then, they will be overtaken by weakness. Sometimes their fatigue may become very pervasive to the point that they cannot dress themselves or even lift a book. This weakness may come with exact periodicity or more at irregular intervals. They will become irritable with a lot of anxiety, to the point that will stat crying because they feel nothing can be done to help them. This state of debility is caused by adrenal insufficiency.
Kalium Phosphoricum personality is nervous, oversensitive and excitable. Everything is too much for them and when they get tired they get irritable. They have a feeling that something bad will happen to them, they startle easily. They have difficulty with concentration, and they are forgetful of words and names. There is a profound state of mental and physical exhaustion.
Gelsemium patient will present with slow pulse tired feeling and mental apathy. Usually there will be muscular weakness, drowsiness and even dizziness. There are sensitive to falling barometric pressure, with many symptoms aggravated by cold and damp weather. They are very lethargic, dull, and even apathetic to their own complains. They want to be left alone because any excitement, even good news, will make them feel worse physically.
You do not need to suffer from the debilitating exhaustion and other issues caused by Adrenal Fatigue. This is by no means a comprehensive list of supplements and solutions. Talk to your health care professional, have your adrenal gland function tested, develop a customized program that will help resolve this condition, and relax.