We all have had times in our lives when responsibilities pile onto responsibilities and life crises through wrenches into plans. We are living in a society where everything is becoming faster and faster and more energy is needed to catch up. How does your body do this? Your adrenal glands amp up their work by making more cortisol. The high cortisol production will keep you up to speed for a while, but only a while before you crash down. HPA-axis dysfunction (Adrenal Fatigue) results from prolonged stress.

Stress can be physical, mental, emotional, environmental, and even somewhat ‘infectious.’
Cortisol production starts with the hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus sends a hormone to your pituitary gland called corticotropin-releasing hormone, (CRH.) This causes your pituitary gland to produce the adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH. ACTH tells your adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

Cortisol is a critical part of our day-to-day functioning. It is the Hormone that wakes us up in the morning and it is the hormone that can control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. Cortisol is not the enemy. But too much

cortisol could be. Under stress, your body keeps producing cortisol at large amounts that after a while your body will not respond well to it. 

Although adrenal fatigue has been around for over one hundred years, it is only now being recognized as a unique condition with its own set of symptoms.  Some of the major symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and tiredness; general feeling of being wiped out
  • Weight gain and inability to lose weight despite effort
  • Frequent colds and flu
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Difficulty concentrating and problems retaining information
  • Allergies
  • Symptoms of PMS

Although many of us might be in a constant “Fight” mode we might not even know it because we have become so used to this stressed state.

The human body has a 3 Stage Stress Adaptation Response. We need to be able to identify overstimulation before it’s too late. 

The 3 Stage Stress Adaptation Response works as follows. 

  1. ALARM PHASE

Periodic activation of the sympathetic nervous system (Fight mode), causing cortisol and adrenaline release, breakdown of proteins and muscle tissue, blood sugar dysregulation, decreased production of thyroid and sex hormones, decreased white blood cell production. During this phase the DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) to Cortisol Ratio is Optimal.

This is a normal Healthy stress response. 

  1. RESITANCE PHASE

Progression of the alarm phase in which signs and symptoms become chronic.

During this phase, the sympathetic Nervous system is still stimulated causing higher Adrenaline and Noradrenaline release, higher HP Axis stimulation causing a higher presence of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). This then further increases Cortisol to a point where the cortisol to DHEA ratio is elevated. 

During this phase the increased cortisol also causes these undesired reactions:

  • Glucose utilization to decline
  • Insulin Resistance increases
  • Increased breakdown of Muscle tissue
  • Blood lipids start to rise, and abdominal fat tends to rise
  • Immune suppression occurs
  • Increase chance of Intestinal hyper permeability (Leaky Gut)
  • Increased chance of chronic infection.

3. Exhaustion phase

Occurs with ongoing, unrelieved stress. Cortisol and adrenaline tend to be depleted and low.  Chronic fatigue will probably be present. Can accompany post-traumatic stress disorder and occurs more frequently in people that have undergone major stressors in life, or sustained levels of high stress without recovery.

ADRENAL FATIGUE WILL CAUSES:

  • A decline in the body’s ability to synthesize cortisol and other corticosteroids.
  • Pro-inflammatory cytokines are upregulated.
  • Acute stress with no adrenal response amplifies liver detoxification and increase oxidative stress.
  • This fatigue or maladaptation stage promotes chronic inflammation, tissue damage and degenerative diseases.
  • Decrease in DHEA.

Treatment:

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to adrenal fatigue. Personalized supplementation and dietary changes can treat symptoms while the deeper-lying problem (Stressors) is being addressed. 

Your first step to healing is to seek help from a functional medicine practitioner. Don’t even try visiting an endocrinologist and suggesting you might have adrenal fatigue. They will not take you seriously. 

Conventional medicine usually treats a symptom rather than the root cause and will use the pharmaceutical route to treat symptoms.

We know that adrenal fatigue can’t be treated through pharmaceuticals.

This does not mean that there is not an effective researched treatment. There is. Many conventional doctors are simply not trained in it. 

Healing and treating Adrenal Fatigue comes down to stress management.

Your functional medicine practitioner will help you evaluate your stage of adrenal fatigue and make lifestyle adjustments where necessary. 

Treatment for adrenal fatigue might include:

  • Dietary changes
  • Correct Exercise 
  • Stress management techniques

As mentioned before, there is no quick fix method to adrenal fatigue. The best method is dependant on the root cause and severity of it. Adrenal fatigue recovery time can take up to 18 months, but I’d done correctly it can be quicker. 

You deserve a personalized approach to your healthcare. Make sure you have a practitioner passionate about treating the root cause and not just a symptom

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