Are you finding yourself constantly exhausted, even after a long night of sleep? Are you easily overwhelmed by stressful situations and lacking in your usual liveliness? Are you experiencing weight gain, a low sex drive, or cravings for salty foods? Do you feel energetic in the evening but like a zombie in the morning?
You may be more than just terribly tired. You may be suffering from a stress-related condition known as Adrenal Fatigue.
The adrenals are responsible for numerous functions that support optimal health. The adrenals control our stress responses through the release of cortisol, DHEA and epinephrine. These hormones regulate our energy levels, heart rate and immune system functions. Adrenal Fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands are functioning below their optimal level.
During long periods of emotional stress (caused by chronic disease, employment, and/or relationships), our adrenal glands become overstimulated, begin to weaken, and produce less of the hormones used in “fight-or-flight” responses. When this happens, our adrenal glands do not respond appropriately during periods of stress, causing us to feel exhausted, depressed and flat or numb.
Traditional medical doctors do not typically recognize adrenal dysfunction until the adrenal glands stop working completely (such as in the case of Addison’s disease, an autoimmune condition). But a functional medical doctor recognizes the significant impact that decreased adrenal function can have on overall health.
If you suspect you may suffer from symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue, your adrenal output can be measured with a salivary cortisol test. Cortisol is a steroid hormone responsible for blood sugar, immunity, and controlling inflammation within the body. In optimal adrenals, cortisol levels are highest in the morning and drop to their lowest point in the evening. The opposite occurs in adrenals that are functioning at a sub-optimal level.
Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue involves exercise, stress management (yoga, meditation, etc.) and diet changes. Vitamins and herbs that support balance and healthy adrenal gland function are also suggested.
With guidance from a functional medical doctor, some simple lifestyle changes and a little bit of patience, we can recover our energy levels, rejuvenate our adrenal glands and function at a more optimal level of health and wellness.