Adrenal Exhaustion: When Stress Becomes Something More

Everyone gets stressed out at some point. We feel that rush of adrenaline as our heartbeat gets louder; we might feel irritable and on-edge; some nights, we can’t even get to sleep because of all the thoughts racing through our minds. Late nights at the office, traffic, family issues, little complications, and all the other pressures of modern life can really take their toll. For some of us, these feelings occur quite often. But how do you know if what you’re feeling is a typical, temporary case of being stressed out, or something more? Healthcare professionals are starting to notice a strong connection between stress and the adrenal glands—and how too much stress can turn into a debilitating problem.

First, here’s some information about the adrenal glands. On top of each of your kidneys sits a walnut sized gland that controls many of your body’s hormones. By choosing what hormones to produce at what times, your adrenal glands play a large role in regulating vital bodily functions such as: energy production for daily activities, muscle and joint function, bone health, immune health, sleep quality, thyroid function, and a healthy stress response.

When you get stressed out, your adrenals put you into “fight or flight” mode. They can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release stored energy for you to use, and sharpen your senses. To activate this response, the adrenals produce three main stress hormones: DHEA, adrenaline, and cortisol. These hormones can be very useful in short bursts. For example, when you’re in a situation with high stakes and you need to be on your toes.

But our bodies are not designed to continuously be in stress mode. When your adrenals produce high levels of stress hormones for too long, you might experience some very serious side effects. This is because the body’s stress response takes priority over all other metabolic functions. Remember all those important things that your adrenals are responsible for? They all get put on the back-burner so that your body can react to stress. As a result, your health is compromised. We call this Adrenal Exhaustion.

When cortisol levels are too high, you could experience everything from loss of bone density and spiking blood sugar levels to increased vulnerability to bacteria, depression, and more. Abnormal adrenal rhythms can make it harder for tissue to heal, leading to joint breakdown and chronic pain. You might have a hard time rising in the morning or feel lethargic during the day. High cortisol makes it harder to enter regenerative sleep cycles, and a lack of regenerative sleep can induce depression. Your immune system will be suppressed, and you might find yourself getting sick more often, especially with a cough. All this translates into several very common symptoms that can indicate adrenal exhaustion: low energy, behavior, mood, and memory problems, muscle and joint pain, weak bones, poor immune system health, low-quality sleep, hypoglycemia and salt cravings.

Some healthcare professionals estimate that as much as 80% of the population suffers from at least some form of adrenal exhaustion. Yet, conventional medicine avoids this diagnosis. Most mainstream doctors hear these symptoms and look for Addison’s disease—an adrenal disorder that causes weight loss, fatigue, low-blood pressure, and muscle weakness. It also only affects only every 1 in 100,000 people—making it extremely rare—and is related very serious adrenal malfunction, not stress.

But if you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of adrenal exhaustion, you probably know how frustrating it can be to feel so unwell, yet be overlooked by mainstream medicine. Luckily, there are many effective, natural courses of treatment and many find that their adrenal exhaustion is completely curable. Here are some of my recommendations for abating stress and helping your adrenals function at their full capacity:

1)   Please visit a healthcare practitioner to discuss your symptoms in full and rule out other possibilities.

2)   Ashwaganda is an Indian herb that reduces anxiety by lowering cortisol levels. It can boost your immune system and also help you sleep at night. You can purchase it from a trusted provider in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms.

3)   Eleuthero Root is a Siberian herb that also works to reduce stress hormones. Its known to sharpen the memory, combat fatigue, and speed up recovery from illness.

4)   Vitamin B5 helps the body convert food into fuel. We all need it to get through the day, so please make sure you’re getting enough of it. A deficiency in B5 could contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, depression, irritability, and more.

5)   Vitamin C is used up quickly during times of stress, so you need to make an effort to replenish it. You should aim for 2,000-4,000 mg a day.

6)   Simple stress reduction techniques, like getting some moderate exercise, taking time for yourself, and just resting when you can find the time.

It’s important for every single one of us to take time to rest in our busy lives, especially in times of stress. Again, if you’re experiencing lethargy, depression, frequent illness, chronic pain, low-quality sleep, low-blood sugar/cravings, or  general feelings of being physically and mentally unwell, then you could be suffering from adrenal exhaustion. You’re healthcare provider can put you on the road to feeling like your old self again.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.