Could You Have Adrenal Fatigue?

Come to think of it, I’ve been dealing with adrenal fatigue for years. 
I constantly felt exhausted.
I’d get a full night’s sleep and still wake up tired.
I’d get ‘hangry’... all the time.
I’d crash every day by the late afternoon.
Then, I’d reach for sugary and salty foods in the search for energy (candy/chip queen) .
And then, in a form of ironic rebellion – my body would perk up around night time!
I wondered for years what on earth was up with my body?
Something clearly wasn’t right – wasn’t the evening the time my body was supposed to start feeling tired?

It turns out, I had adrenal fatigue, which is brought on by continual stress.

For me, this wasn’t just triggered by emotional stress, but from physical triggers as a result of food intolerances, high toxin load, gut dysfunction, inflammation and the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

My health was out of balance, my body systems weren’t talking properly to each other and they needed support!

But the good news is that once I identified my stress triggers, I was able to heal and balance my health.

What are the adrenal glands and what do they do?

Our adrenal glands sit on top of our kidneys. They are our allies when dealing with stress. It’s their job to pump out hormones like cortisol & adrenaline. These tell our body to switch from a ‘relaxed & digesting’ state to a ‘fight or flight’ state.

So when our body perceives a situation as stressful – it’s biologically hardwired to use all its resources to make the hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, to get ready to either ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ (run away!)

There’s no problem with this ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. I mean, from an evolutionary perspective it’s great. Especially in the instance that you’re being attacked by a bear, but not so great in the modern world  – when it’s set off by a stressful work environment.

But what is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue occurs when the cortisol rhythm in the body becomes imbalanced.

In stressful situations, the hypothalamus (in the brain) signals to the pituitary gland (in the brain) – which talks to the adrenal glands – to release more cortisol.  This is all fine, until stress becomes continuous.

In our cave-dwelling days, the immediate dangers we faced were typically short-lived and once we were safe, our bodies were able to rest and we went back to normal.

Similarly, in the modern world, it’s normal to face fear and stress, so long as there’s also time for the body to feel times of safety and relaxation! But too many of us are now living with stress on a continual basis – either from work, illness, family… because the kids are sick, and just won’t sleep at night, or get in their carseat… and you have a work deadline, then someone cuts you off in traffic… the list goes on. Life can be stressful!

The problem therefore arises when we remain in this constant state of ‘fight or flight.’ Cortisol levels remain consistently high, and the body puts things like metabolizing, digesting and repairing on the back burner.

In a very simplistic little nutshell  -> continual high cortisol levels eventually results in the stress hormone off-switch (in the brain) to become less responsive and leads to a reduction and imbalance in cortisol and sex-hormone production.

Common symptoms people face with adrenal fatigue are:

  • consistent low energy/fatigue

  • weakened immunity/frequent infections

  • increased overwhelm

  • irritability/mood swings

  • low blood pressure

  • brain fog

  • sugar/salt cravings

  • decreased libido

  • anxiety

  • inability to shift weight

  • reduced ability to make decisions

Many people unfortunately see many of these symptoms as normal, especially if they’ve felt like it for so long. People also tend to look around and see loads of other people feeling the same way. But just because it is common – doesn’t make it normal.

I can now tell if I’m becoming continually stressed and my adrenals are becoming taxed. It starts to show up as brain fog, lethargy and irritability (AKA. ‘Mummy is going to blow her top very soon’ or ‘run, hubby run!!’)

It’s not just emotional stress that can trigger stress in the body. There are a whole list of potential triggers:

  • Physical stress (poor nutrition habits, poor lifestyle choices, sleep disorders, injury, surgery etc.)

  • Emotional stress (work, relationships etc.)

  • Recurring exposure to food intolerances

  • Chronic gut imbalance

  • Autoimmune conditions

  • Infection and illness

  • Excessive prolonged exercise

  • Prolonged environmental stress (toxins/chemicals)

Through research, trial & error and learning to listen to my body, I was able to identify my stress triggers.

By nourishing my body with healing anti-inflammatory foods, balancing my blood sugar levels, reducing toxins, healing my gut, and a whole lot of self-care  – I was able to get my health back into balance.  

If you identify with some of the adrenal fatigue symptoms, it may be worth examining your life and the daily stressors you face.

Start listening to your body and seeing how it reacts during certain situations. Are there triggers that you know set off your stress response? Is it emotional or physical? Are there ways that you can reduce this stress? Are you getting enough self-care in your life?

Unfortunately, conventional medicine doesn’t generally recognize adrenal dysfunction until the adrenal gland has dramatically decreased in function and presents as the autoimmune condition, Addison’s Disease.

However, an integrative practitioner will acknowledge adrenal fatigue and can help you with testing. They can also play a beneficial role in helping you find lifestyle modifications to get you back into a healthy balance.

I originally had adrenal saliva testing done with a practitioner which clearly showed adrenal fatigue. But I’m now aware of my triggers and listen carefully to my body. I can feel when my adrenals are becoming taxed and I get many early warning signs – which can help me to get on top of it, and calm my system, before the stress escalates.

If you want to dig a little deeper, I’ve created this free health journal below. It can be a really helpful tool if you know you’ve not been feeling your best. It can help you to reflect and pinpoint your health triggers. Give it a go!

And keep your eyes out next week for tips and tools to help recover and support your adrenal health!