Stress, Exhaustion & Adrenal Fatigue

Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body's reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones. These hormones make your brain more alert, cause your muscles to tense, and increase your pulse. In the short term, these reactions are good because they can help you handle the situation causing stress. This is your body's way of protecting itself. 

 

When you have chronic stress, your body stays alert, even though there is no danger.
Over time, this puts you at risk for health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, skin problems.

Stress can cause many types of physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes, you may not realize these symptoms are caused by stress.  Your body's immune system responds by revving up when you're under stress. Your adrenal glands, which are small organs above your kidneys, respond to stress by releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are part of your "fight or flight" response. If you have long-term stress your adrenal glands burn out from prolonged production of cortisol. So adrenal fatigue sets in. So when talking about stress response we are ultimately talking about the adrenals. 

What are Adrenal Glands?

Adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones that are essential to life. They affect a number of functions including: 

  • Response to stress

  • Metabolism

  • Immune System

  • Blood Pressure

  • Sleep and wake cycle

  • Energy Levels

  • Electrolyte Levels

  • Body Temperature Regulation

  • Hair loss or growth

  • Hormone Production

  • Memory Formulation

 

 

Adrenal glands, are small, triangular-shaped glands located on top of each kidney. They produce hormones that help regulate metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress, sleeping patterns, energy levels and other essential functions. The role of the adrenal glands in your body is to release certain hormones directly into the bloodstream. Many of these hormones have to do with how the body responds to stress, and some are vital to existence.  

Each zone of the adrenal cortex secretes a specific hormone. The key hormones produced by the adrenal cortex include:

1. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone produced by the zona fasciculata that plays several important roles in the body. It helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates; suppresses inflammation; regulates blood pressure; increases blood sugar, and assist with memory formulation. It can also decrease bone formation. This hormone also controls the sleep/wake cycle. It is released during times of stress to help your body get an energy boost and better handle an emergency situation.

2. Aldosterone, a mineralocorticoid hormone produced by the zona glomerulosa plays a central role in regulating blood pressure and certain electrolytes (sodium and potassium). Aldosterone sends signals to the kidneys, resulting in the kidneys absorbing more sodium into the bloodstream and releasing potassium into the urine. This means that aldosterone also helps regulate the blood pH by controlling the levels of electrolytes in the blood, hence helps regulate body temperature. Its main role is to regulate salt and water in the body, thus having an effect on blood pressure.

3. DHEA and Androgenic Steroids, these hormones produced by the zona reticularis are weak male hormones. They are precursor hormones that are converted in the ovaries into female hormones (estrogens) and in the testes into male hormones (androgens). However, estrogens and androgens are produced in much larger amounts by the ovaries and testes. Androgen hormones like testosterone and DHEA are the major hormones that dictate hair growth. An excess in these hormones can lead to unwanted hair growth on the face and body, but not having enough can lead to thinning and dull hair

4. Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline)

The adrenal medulla, the inner part of an adrenal gland, controls hormones that initiate the flight or fight response. The main hormones secreted by the adrenal medulla include epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), which have similar functions. Among other things, these hormones are capable of increasing the heart rate and force of heart contractions, increasing blood flow to the muscles and brain, relaxing airway smooth muscles, and assisting in glucose (sugar) metabolism. They also control the squeezing of the blood vessels (vasoconstriction), helping maintain blood pressure and increasing it in response to stress. Like several other hormones produced by the adrenal glands, epinephrine and norepinephrine are often activated in physically and emotionally stressful situations when your body needs additional resources and energy to endure unusual strain.

Symptoms Adrenal Fatigue

You may experience a number these symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia 

  • Excessive Sleeping

  • Salt / Sugar Cravings

  • Digestive Issues

  • Bloating

  • Stomach Aches

  • Increase or Loss of Apetite

  • Unexplained Weight Gain

  • Excessive Thirst

  • Inability to Regulate Body Temp

  • Heart Palpitations

  • Muscle Weakness

  • Headaches

  • Allergies / Sinus Infection

  • Skin Discolouration

  • Low Body Pressure

  • Dizziness

Emotions & Mental Components Stored in

 Adrenal Glands

  • Anger

  • Resentment

  • Irritability

  • Low moods

  • Brain Fog

  • Inability to Concentrate

  • Depression and Anxiety

  • Lack of Interest

What are the symptoms?

There are a number of symptoms of adrenal fatigue and all of them might not be listed here. It's important to remember that any body function that is governed by the hormones adrenal glands produce can be affected and can produce symptoms. 

  • Lethargy & lack of energy

  • Brain fog - inability to remember things

  • Unexplained hair loss

  • Pain in the upper neck or back with no clear reason

  • Weight gain (especially around the waist) with inability to lose it

  • Heart palpitations

  • Lightheadedness

  • Dry and thin skin

  • High frequency of viral and respiratory infections (flu / cold)

  • Alternating constipation and diarrhea

  • Hypoglycemia

  • Low body temperature

  • Mild depression

  • Tightened anxiety

  • Inability to handle heat or cold

  • Irritability

  • Insomnia

  • Heightened emotions

What Affects the Adrenals?

There is a number of lifestyle, diet, environmental, emotional and mental factors that affect adrenals. These factors create stress in the body that ultimately puts pressure on the glands and depletes adrenal function. During stressful episodes adrenal glads are activated to help one deal with those emergency situations. In today's busy world, the body interprets many everyday occurrences as 'danger' and signals out to adrenals for help. 

The five main factors affecting Adrenals:

  • Life Issues

  • Lifestyle 

  • Toxins

  • Body Issues

  • Diet

How to spot Adrenal Fatigue signs?

Adrenal Fatigue tends to come what seems out of nowhere, but there are definite signs that appear long before an actual burnout happens. 

Stage 1 - You are carrying so much responsibility, you are wired and operating at full force. Adrenaline is running high and you can do it all. The problem is that this high adrenal output is designed to last approximately 15 minutes NOT 15 months . And this is the most dangerous stage. 

Stage 2 + 3 - It feels as almost overnight, you are so tired but cannot fall asleep. Insomnia kicks in and in stays. It seems maybe once a week a you get a good night's sleep and the rest of the week you're running on coffee. Your adrenals are burning out and you're experiencing new symptoms every day. You feel pain, agitation, anxiety, and deep exhaustion.

Stage 4 - you can no longer get out of bed, your limbs feel so heavy you simply cannot move. It takes all the energy you have to get out of bed just to eat. Any activity that you force yourself to you only leaves you feeling in pain and exhausted. 

The Four Stages of Adrenal Fatigue

STAGE ONE:

WIRED
The most dangerous stage. Operating at full force and adrenaline is running high. You can do it all. 

STAGE TWO

& THREE:

TIRED AND INSOMNIAC
You are tired but cannot fall asleep. Insomnia kicks in and stays. Adrenaline is burning.

STAGE FOUR:

TOTAL EXHAUSTION
It takes all the energy you have just to get out of bed. Your limbs are heavy. Adrenals are burnt out. 

Next.....

Your symptoms are real. What you are feeling is real. 

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