adrenal exhaustionDoes this sound familiar?  

You wake up groggy, grab a cup (or three) of coffee, rush off to work, fight off (maybe not so successfully) an overwhelming desire to eat a couple of doughnuts just because they are there, fall asleep at your desk at 1 pm, and then trudge home, too exhausted to hit the gym, but then you can’t fall asleep because you can’t stop thinking about stuff?  

This, or some combination of these symptoms, is the state of adrenal gland fatigue, or chronic fatigue, or just feeling really, really tired all the time.  

Your adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys and they secrete several different hormones and chemicals including adrenaline (epinephrine), estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, cortisol, cortisone, steroids, dopamine, and norepinephrine.  

Your adrenal glands go into overdrive when you are under stress.  

This stress could be from daily pressures, or from chronic illness, pain, times of hormone fluctuation (menopause, pregnancy), exercising too much (most athletes have some adrenal fatigue), or staying up too late (most night-shift workers have some type of adrenal gland imbalance).  

Step 1 of adrenal exhaustion is cortisol and adrenaline overload.  Adrenaline makes your heart pump, and you prepare for battle.  To give you fast-working energy, cortisol makes you feel hungrier and your body becomes more resistant to insulin.   

Step 2 of adrenal exhaustion is that you don’t return to “normal.”  Step 1 is normal only for short periods of time.  Prolonged stress is what causes dis-ease.  When cortisol increases, DHEA decreases.  DHEA is an adrenal gland hormone that helps your body repair from stressful situations; it guards your immune system, and regulates your body temperature. Increased cortisol levels over time leads to a deficiency of DHEA and can be the cause of decreased bone density, lowered immunity, low libido (low testosterone), foggy thinking, fatigue, and insomnia.  DHEA also helps you stay happy.   

Step 3 of adrenal exhaustion is that your cortisol levels start to wane.  This is when people find themselves on prescriptions of prednisone or cortisone.  If you can no longer produce it on your own, your body seems to lack all energy.  Inflammation doesn’t go away easily.  It may be difficult to get out of bed for more than a few hours.  It is easy to feel depressed and lack motivation or excitement about life.  

Here’s an easy test to check your adrenal function:  take your blood pressure.  Now, take it again after you stand up.  The top number should go up by 5 – 10 points when you stand.  If it stays the same or drops, you have adrenal exhaustion.  If it goes up 20 or more points, you have too much cortisol.  

Taking a DHEA supplement may help, but to truly get to the underlying cause of the problem, lifestyle must be addressed.  

  • Rest when it’s time to rest.  Of course, some of us have to work at night.  If you are not sleeping at night, try to take a nap some time in the afternoon.  Try a nap before trying more caffeine.  
  • Even when you crave crappy food, at least make try to eat healthy.  If you don’t have time because you are too busy working, then hire someone to cook for you or use a meal preparation service.  Another option are pre-made healthy meals from the grocery store deli.  
  • Vitamins and proper nutrition give your body what it needs to recuperate.  Your adrenal glands are actually a store-house of Vitamin C!  So eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Your body needs trace minerals like magnesium and zinc and Vitamin B-complex to adjust to stressors as well.
  • Get some acupuncture.  Help to shut off that “fight or flight” of the adrenal glands and rebalance.
  • Book a massage…or a vacation.