Monday, June 16, 2014

Adrenal Fatigue

I keep coming across this phrase Adrenal Fatigue in various articles, pod-casts and such and I feel like I have been beaten over the head with it lately.  So I decided to explore this further and found out a ton of information that has changed my life.  Not to sound dramatic, but seriously I can't possibly ignore the facts.

 So what on earth is Adrenal Fatigue?  In a nut shell I will attempt to explain a somewhat technical system.  The Adrenal Glands which are two triangle-shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys, their function is to secrete various hormones that regulate stress, sex hormones, sleep, etc.  Pretty much a big deal those little glands.  Cortisol is one of the main hormones that when the body is put under systemic stress, it is released.  The main functions of Cortisol are to increase blood-sugar levels through gluconeogenesis, suppress the immune system and aid in digestion of macro-nutrients.

The system of communication called the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis is essentially a messenger system.

Here is a little diagram that helps to show in more detail what goes on:  Basically when there is stress (physical, mental, emotional, etc)  the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis responds by sending chemical messengers that transmit signals from the neurons to the target cells across synapses.  Its confusing to wrap your head around, but this diagram really helps to see the connection.  Eventually the cycle continues and unfortunately in most people stress is far more abundant than it should be, therefore homeostasis (the ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes...aka balance) is very difficult to reach. 

Here is a link that helps to show the importance of different essential neurotransmitters, if your mind isn't boggled at this point then wow you are a super star.  So overtime you can see that if these little glands are continually put under chronic stress then they are over worked and things start to go haywire and the body is unable to achieve homeostasis.  I know I said "In a nut shell"  but briefly describing a complicated system is near to impossible.

So what are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?  Well first obvious one is exhaustion for no explained or obvious reason.  Here are some other less obvious but sure fire signs you may have adrenal fatigue.

  • difficulty sleeping, getting a good night's rest
  • depression
  • constantly feeling stressed
  • poor diet
  • difficulty gaining or losing weight
  • trouble having clarity
  • memory loss
  • low libido
  • quick temper 
  • irregular menstruation
  • general unhappiness 
Adrenal Fatigue is not something commonly diagnosed or even fully understood by doctors so really kind of pointless to go to a Dr. give him these symptoms and hope for a reasonable explanation or resolution.  So needless to say I used my own intuition and did my own research to find out that I am pretty sure I have been struggling with a little bit of adrenal fatigue myself.  I have the tendency to overdo things such as working out too hard, overextending my commitments, stressing out about the cleanliness of my house etc etc etc....
Things to do to overcome adrenal fatigue and repair the body: (things I am working on)
  • Sleep!!! (first and most importantly)
  • Stop dieting super strict (no low calorie/low fat diets)
  • Stop chronic exercise (no more 5 mile runs 7x a week)
  • Lift weights
  • Eat plenty of calories/fat until satiation
  • Cut out any unnecessary stress from your life don't volunteer in the PTA if it is not the right time in your life
  • no your limits and don't feel bad taking a break every now and again
Things I am working on are all of the above...I cut out my long runs, going to bed earlier, eating until I am full (good paleo foods of course!).  I have noticed dramatic improvements in my mood mostly, energy levels and so much more! 

I hope this post isn't too much information to digest, but I sincerely think that many people I know could benefit from hearing this so please message me if you have any specific questions.  I am not a Dr., but anything food related I can help you try to figure out what to do to help combat some adrenal fatigue. 

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