Have you heard of adrenal burn-out?
If you live in modern society, have a high-demand job, commute, have kids, or are building a new business (or all 4!) then it’s possible you likely are on the brink if not already over.
Being burnt out is so common in today’s society, but did you know that upsetting your adrenals too much can potentially lead to other health conditions such as hypothyroidism, heart disease or nutritional deficiencies?
But first, what are your adrenals?
Your adrenals are two glands that sit on top of your kidneys on either side of your body and are part of your endocrine system (which includes your thyroid, ovaries, testes, pancreas, pituitary, hypothalamus and pineal glands in the brain, and your thymus) . They are responsible for producing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. They also help to regulate sodium levels in the body.
What are common symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
When the body has been in a stressful state for long enough that your cortisol levels go out of whack, you can start to gain weight around your belly, and start to feel really tired all the time and have a feeling of not being able to cope with the little things.
Why do they affect so many other areas?
As you can see, the endocrine system covers all sorts of areas in our body. Each of the hormones released from these glands have an impact on each other. For example, the adrenals secrete cortisol when we are stressed. Cortisol, in its simplest form, helps to break down fats and proteins for energy, it increases our blood sugar and suppresses our immune system. The breakdown of fats and proteins help our muscles, the blood sugar increase gives us energy and the suppressing of the immune system forces the body into an anti-inflammatory state, reducing pain and swelling.
This is a good thing when, say, you’ve been shot. You want your system to pump out all these hormones that control all these things so that you stay alive. But more often than not, we aren’t getting shot most days (hopefully!) yet we are forcing our bodies to release these hormones on a consistent basis. They are really only designed to be released when we absolutely need it – so like when being chased by a sabre toothed tiger or, as in the previous example, we’ve been shot.
Continued stress brought on from daily pressures of work, life, your business, your family or kids or whatever it may be, that is relentless, doesn’t allow your body to come back to normal, so these hormones are constantly circulating resulting in issues such as:
Immune system breakdown Because it’s being activated so much from the release of cortisol it starts to weaken and so you tend to catch more colds/flu etc.
Reproductive issues such as the inability to get pregnant, or really bad menopause symptoms. Even men need to be concerned here because the hormone DHEA, which helps smooth over hormone swings in menopause, also can convert to testosterone which is important as males start to age and testosterone levels decline.
Nervous system issues such as headaches and migraines because of muscle tension (remember that stimulating cortisol that gives fuel to our muscles?) and from excess serotonin release.
Hypothyroid issues can stem from overactive adrenals. Basically, the amino acid tyroseine makes epinepherine (or adrenaline) and thyroid hormones. Too much stress shunts tyroseine from the thyroid to the adrenals resulting in hypothyroid, slower metabolism, and depression. It’s a chicken and egg scenario and unfortunately most doctors don’t check adrenals when there is a thyroid issue.
Digestive system When we are in that fight or flight mode the blood is shunted away from things like digestion and sex organs (cause really, who is having sex while running away from a tiger?). But what we do in modern society is be so freakin stressed out, yet we still eat. Cause we’re stressed at work/lunch, we’re stressed and rushed when we leave the house in the morning, we’re stressed at dinnertime cause we have to rush off to do something, or we got home late and are starving. There is never time to just sit and eat anymore.
But what happens is, because we’re stressed, our digestive system is shut down, so the enzymes and digestive fire we need to properly assimilate our food isn’t turned on. What ends up happening? Bloating, constipation, heartburn, and eventually, nutrient loss because the foods we’re eating aren’t being broken down properly.
Cardiovascular issues because cortisol increases blood pressure which can lead to heart disease.
Weight Gain from the regular release of cortisol. Muffin tops are generally a result of too much cortisol (stress), and we have a lot of cortisol receptors in our gut so the more stressed we are, the bigger it gets.
What can I do about it?
The steps to real, true adrenal burnout are thankfully paved with lots of body signals so hopefully you are in tune enough with it to realize when things are just getting too much. That’s probably when you decide you need a vacation, or take some time off work or from your business. And that is just friggen awesome.
- Stress management is quite obviously the number one treatment for adrenal fatigue. Stress can be defined as feeling helpless in the face of a given situation. So find out how you can be powerful instead of powerless in any given situation in your life.
- There are other ways to manage stress as well, such as really giving meditation and yoga a chance. It’s not for everyone, and I understand as an A-Type personality it’s hard to get into that meditative, quiet space, but it’s not impossible. I am a much calmer person now that I’ve really started to incorporate the meditative and breathing side of my yoga practice (it used to just be about getting into the pose). Deep breathing and counting are other ways to force yourself to slow down. Massage, acupuncture and reiki are also good therapies to try out.
- Being constantly stressed depletes some very specific minerals and vitamins (due to the whole digestive thing and that there is an increased demand for these nutrients when you are stressed). The B Vitamins and Vitamin C are especially depleted so it’s important to eat a varied, whole foods diet.
- The other thing to be aware of is stimulants such as coffee and alcohol. While these may seem like a good idea (coffee to wake you up; wine to wind you down), they actually have the opposite effect, especially if you’re close to burnout. So see if you can find other ways to rev up/calm down, such as green tea or chamomile.
How can I tell if I have burnout?
A lot of people take being stressed for granted (myself included) and dismiss it as a part of every day life. And it definitely is. There is no such thing as finding balance, it’s about prioritizing what’s important. However, it’s important we listen to our bodies, and with most of us having lived for many years in a low-volume state of stress, it’s possible we may be more affected by it than we think.
Take my Adrenal Stress quiz to see if you have any of the common signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue. I’ve also provided more tips on how to manage burnout. Click the below image to get the quiz now!.
I hope you have found this article helpful, feel free to let me know your thoughts below in the comments! What do you do when you start to feel stressed out?
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