Our adrenals are important glands in our body as they help our body in dealing with stress and anxiety. As per James Wilson, who wrote the book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, they are “the glands of stress”. Our endurance, resilience, and energy are dependent on the proper functioning of our adrenals. Whenever our adrenals start getting overworked, it will lead to a reduction of cortisol levels and imbalances in our hormones.
There is a dysfunction present between the adrenal glands and the brain. The glands are present on top of the kidney and produce sex hormones and cortisol. A proper balance would result in good sleep, healthy body weight, great sex drive, and proper metabolism rates. But when there is stress, our body will produce hormones to get rid of it.
Our hypothalamus will release corticotropin-releasing hormone, which on the other hand will trigger the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone. The adrenocorticotropic hormone acts as a stimulant, releasing cortisol which raises the sugar and blood pressure levels. During chronic stress, the cortisol continues to stay high in our body and this results in adrenal burnouts, depression, etc. Also, there is depletion of serotonin and in the process, one gets neuroendocrine dysfunction.
When you have adrenal fatigue, your normal life gets disrupted. You end up having anxiety, brain fog, etc.
Some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are:
- Gain in weight
- Brain fog
- Digestive conditions like constipation, diarrhea, etc.
- Salt or sugar cravings or both
- The 3 pm crash
- Vulnerability to different illnesses
- Inability to take stress
- Not getting enough sleep
- Hot flashes which are generally associated with menopause
- Problems with concentration
- Stage of Burnout
The condition has been divided into three stages by Wellness Mama.
STAGE 1 – TIRED AND WIRED
Cortisol levels generally stay high during the morning, but when you have elevated levels at night, then it is a problem. Cortisol levels should stay low at night. You will have difficulty sleeping and you will always feel like you are on the edge.
STAGE 2 – TIRED AND STRESSED
When there is a serious cortisol disruption, you will have a high cortisol level during the morning but this will suddenly fall after lunch. It will result in exhaustion and afternoon fog. They may also wake up while sleeping and fail to fall asleep throughout the night.
STAGE 3 – COMPLETE BURNOUT
During complete burnout, you will feel like a pregnant woman or the time when a new-born baby is present in the house. You do not know how much sleep is required since you are always tired. Your cortisol patterns are fully disrupted and you are at risk of autoimmune diseases, gut issues, and thyroid diseases.
Generally, when you are going through emotional stress emerging from breakup, death, unemployment or even positive stress like getting married or getting pregnant, it leads to adrenal fatigue. Processed food can also result in chronic inflammation, sleep deficiency, and gut issues which can result in stress.
When you are under stress, then cortisol is released. But staying under constant stress will elevate cortisol to such a major degree that it will be too much to take in. For women, this results in painful PMS, irregular periods, gaining weight and thinning of hair. Even when you are forcing ‘healthy’ habits like eating less or skipping meals, or when you are working hard and thus depriving yourself of sleep, you will experience burnouts.
REVERSING THE BURNOUT
However, there are ways to reverse the burnout:
- Get a saliva test to check your cortisol level. It should be high during the morning but it should lower at night.
- You should maintain a schedule every day right from waking up, to sleeping. Try having a 4-hour gap between meals.
- Add more vegetables into your diet which are organic. Add coconut or olive oil, sea salt, and probiotics. Avoid gluten, white sugar, and coffee.
- Have probiotic food to aid digestion.
- Start using adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, holy basil, maca, and licorice root to lower stress levels.
- Try to calm your mind before sleeping by meditation or yoga and then sleep well.
- Start taking useful supplements like Vitamins B and C, Tulsi, blood sugar support, etc. to help with your health and stress levels.