A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about 5 sneaky reasons you’re always tired and I left out one major reason – on purpose – as I want to go more in-depth. It’s adrenal fatigue and adrenal burnout – it’s likely you’re not familiar with your adrenal glands and what they do for you.
Adrenal fatigue and burnout is very real as I went through this 12 years ago. I had to jump through a million hoops to simply figure out what was going on. Most physicians don’t believe in adrenal fatigue much less burnout.
There’s a lot of controversy and resentment over this issue because the main healing therapy consists of diet and lifestyle adjustments and the medical community doesn’t view these changes as “legitimate medicine”.
Hello – food and exercise are medicine!
Any doctor will tell you that all sorts of problems occur when your hormonal system is out of balance. I was frustrated, exhausted and told that I was fine – just get some rest. No fooling – so tell me again why I need a doctor?
I’m sharing my journey so that hopefully, through a little bit of information, you won’t have to jump through those same hoops that I did. You’ll have an easier time healing your symptoms and maybe – just maybe – you won’t get as far down as I did struggling to find information and help.
What Are Adrenal Glands?
Your adrenals are pea-sized glands that sit on top of your kidneys. Among other things, they regulate the fight-or-flight system of your body, the stress hormone called cortisol, blood pressure and how your heart works.
They’re very important in the grand scheme of your body, but most doctors don’t know enough about the adrenal system to be of any help. That’s where a naturopath, functional medicine physician, herbalist, aromatherapist and/or health coach can all be of assistance.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Dr. James Wilson created the website www.adrenalfatigue.org which brought the subject of adrenal fatigue to the forefront in 1998. He’s a naturopath and chiropractor and, at the time, one of the few physicians that delved into this issue. He describes adrenal fatigue as:
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger.
According to Dr. Josh Axe, in layman’s terms, adrenal fatigue is the over-stimulation of the adrenal glands through long term chronic stress. This could lead to an inconsistent level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the bloodstream, sometimes far more than normal and at other times, far too low. In addition to this overload or improper cortisol level, people with adrenal fatigue often don’t have enough DHEA, the “parent hormone” responsible for the creation of many necessary hormones in the body.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue and Burnout?
At the time that I was diagnosed with adrenal burnout – yes, my adrenal system was completely burned out – I lived a very stressful life. I was a small business owner, I had just finished my bachelor of science degree (going full time at night) and had a very full life on top of that. I was always doing something, going somewhere, staying up late and getting up early, not eating very healthy and pushing, pushing, pushing.
In short, I wasn’t really taking good care of myself. Maybe not all of the above applies in your case; you believe you’re living a fairly healthy lifestyle, but you’re still bone-tired. Some other causes are:
Chronic stress in particular is a major culprit. For instance, anyone who’s a caregiver, has a stressful job, is a frequent flyer, or simply doesn’t handle stress in a healthy manner is prone to adrenal fatigue.
That chronic stress keeps your body in a continuous state of fight-or-flight. When that happens, your adrenal system dumps a lot of cortisol into your bloodstream and if there’s no recuperation period, you ultimately burnout. That’s a very simplified description, but that’s exactly what happened to me.
I knew something was wrong – seriously wrong – but my doctor ran a bunch of blood tests and told me the results “were within generally accepted normal ranges”. She told me I was the picture of health and I was fine.
So why did I feel so depressed, lousy and exhausted?
Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
Here are some common adrenal fatigue symptoms:
- Foggy thinking
- Dependence on caffeine
- Craving sweets and salt
- Sleep disturbances
- Hormone imbalance
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
The biggest symptom that you may experience is the “wired and tired” feeling – all the time. You’re sleeping 8 hours a day, but you’re using caffeine in coffee or sodas to keep you going during the day. Maybe you feel really tired around 9 PM but you push through for just a few minutes so you can get more done and fall into bed at 11 PM or midnight – exhausted but unable to sleep. Or if you do sleep, you wake up just as tired as when you went to bed.
A contributing factor – for me – was a chronic yeast infection. I lived with this for over 30 years and doctors would simply give me that worthless OTC cream and send me on my way. Not once was I told that a chronic yeast infection was suppressing my immune system and a suppressed immune system is prime for adrenal fatigue.
To this day, I feel betrayed by the medical community – why didn’t they ask about this chronic issue? Are you that blasted busy that you can’t help me with something so simple as a yeast infection? Knowing that it makes such a difference?
The Test for Adrenal Fatigue
It wasn’t until 1999 when I found an integrative physician in a town about 75 miles away that I finally got the help I needed. There was absolutely no physician in my town with any real knowledge of the adrenal system.
I can tell you from experience that a blood test will not give true results. I took a saliva test – I spit into a small tube three times a day for 5 days. A blood test tells you what’s happening at that moment in time. A saliva test tells you what’s been going on over the last few months.
When those results came back, it confirmed exactly why I felt so lousy. A word of caution: chances are high that your physician won’t recommend or allow a saliva test.
My hormonal levels (including DHEA) were so out of balance that it’s a wonder I was on two feet.
There are some simple things that you can do to help yourself if you believe your adrenal system is fatigued. Next week, I’ll continue my story of taking matters into my own hands and how I got healthy again. It’s much easier than you might think. In the meantime, if you see yourself in this post, there’s help now.
My blend Stress Support Aromatherapy Roller Ball is made specifically for your adrenal system. The essential oils act as a tonic for your adrenal system to help enhance your vitality.
There’s also Peaceful Ease Aromatherapy Roller Ball to help you with chronic stress.contun
Is aromatherapy a cure? Nope. I can’t fix, cure or heal. You have to do your part and we’ll talk about that next week. In the meantime, aromatherapy can help you begin to make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.
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