Stress Related Adrenal Fatigue

Article written by Miessence Colleague, G. B.

Stress related Adrenal Fatigue is so common that an estimated 80% or more of people in Western developed nations worldwide suffer from it at some time in their lives, unfortunately conventional medicine still does not recognise, adequately diagnose or treat this debilitating fatigue and stress syndrome. Yes, it’s a syndrome, and this means it will often be multifaceted which makes it a difficult condition to assess or diagnose.

Interestingly, I was watching a show on Netflix just this week and one of the characters was a mother with a teenage son who had been admitted to hospital. The conversation revolved around her son working with a “natural therapist” who had made an assessment that her teenager was suffering adrenal fatigue – the retort immediately from the attending doctor was an emphatic “there’s no such thing!!” – unfortunately this is still the view of many doctors, if you have had this type of response from your doctor, you are not on your own.

According to American experts from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) “Persistent or chronic stress has the potential to put individuals at a substantially increased risk of depression, anxiety and many other emotional difficulties”.

The important thing to understand is this, stress comes in many different forms, and the effect of stress is not isolated to what happens with a person’s mental health. It also takes a physical toll on the body. Regardless of the types of stress, our physiological response is the same – the adrenal glands are sent a message and it causes a release of Inflammatory hormones, this immediately increases cardiovascular and cancer risk, just to name two major concerns.

We know that in recent years governments and employers have become more aware of “stress related outcomes” and research now shows stress results in accidents, absenteeism, *presenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, and direct medical, legal, and insurance costs that are estimated to cost in the United States alone somewhere around $300 billion every year.

Image take from Dr. Wison’s Book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome

With compromised adrenal function, conventional medicine only recognises Addinsons disease, named after Sir Thomas Addison, who first described it in 1855. Addison’s disease is life threatening if left untreated and can involve structural and physiological damage to the adrenal glands. Addison’s disease, also called adrenal insufficiency is when your body doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones, too little cortisol and, often, too little aldosterone. People suffering from Addison’s disease have to take corticosteroids for the remainder of their lives in order to function. Luckily, it is the rarest form of poor adrenal function, with an occurence of about 4 persons per 100,000.

But what about people who suffer on a daily basis with poor adrenal function, who are not Addison’s patients? Those people who have simply been under too much stress for too long. The result is that millions of people needlessly suffer decreased quality of life for long periods of time. Adrenal Fatigue is a common health disorder that can affect anyone who experiences persistent or severe emotional or physical stress. It is an important contributing factor in many acute & chronic health conditions.

Once Adrenal Fatigue sets in, you may become susceptible to a long list of health complaints including respiratory infections, asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other immune disorders.

Manifestations of adrenal fatigue:

  1. Alcoholism
  2. Allergies
  3. Anxiety, anger (short-fuse), irritability, depression
  4. Arthritic pain
  5. Asthma
  6. Adult-onset diabetes – Type 2 Diabetes
  7. Auto-immune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, many more)
  8. Confusion, poor concentration, and memory recall
  9. Chronic fatigue syndrome
  10. Cravings for salt or sweet foods
  11. Decreased immune response – recurrent coughs, colds, flu
  12. Difficulty during menopause (the adrenals take over the role of the ovaries after menopause)
  13. Fatigue in spite of sufficient sleep
  14. Fibromyalgia
  15. Frequent respiratory infections
  16. Hypoglycemia – erratic or abnormal blood sugar levels (very common)
  17. Increased fears, anxiety, and depression
  18. Insomnia
  19. Libido issues
  20. Premenstrual tension
  21. Post viral syndromes (history of glandular fever)
  22. Reliance on stimulants such as coffee, tea, energy drinks
  23. Reliance on alcohol to “unwind”
  24. Reliance on sleeping pills, antidepressants, and a host of other pharmaceutical medications related to stress-induced diseases.
  25. Thyroid problems (many hypothyroid patients potentially have Adrenal Fatigue)
  26. Weight gain

If any of this sounds like you, here are some simple tips on what to do to help.

Thinking about all the things you need to get done each day is an easy way to feel overwhelmed, most of us will operate far more efficiently by having a system that allows us to plan our days. Create a “to do list” and be gentle on yourself as you work through things and if you don’t get it all done, put it in your planner for the next day. Don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t get done.

This is the paradox of our modern age where we are so connected, that we actually feel disconnected. The best thing to do is get disciplined about having time out from our devices, if possible go into the evening with your cell phone, tablet or laptop turned off and shutdown. Try getting out for a walk, or turn your hand to something for you, it could be as simple as reading a good book or favourite magazine. I suggest you do this in small “bites”, perhaps try just twice a week to start with and you may be surprised at how relaxed you find yourself.

This is so simple and so basic, and yet can be so beneficial. With stress in our lives we tend to breath very inefficiently, we need oxygen and lots of it. You will find all sorts of breathing techniques available, ayurveda and yoga books and videos can be great to show the way, you could even start with something as simple as closing your eyes, taking a breath and counting to 10 while exhaling slowly. Find a way to spend just a few minutes a day to regather yourself with mindful breathing.

EXERCISE We all know it is the one thing that we should do, but often it’s the last to be put into your routine. If you can make the effort and get your heart pumping at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes or more there will be benefits. If you have a partner or buddy to exercise with this can be particularly helpful, and try something that you enjoy or try something you hadn’t thought of – running is not everyone’s choice, look at swimming, cycling, yoga or pilates: it will be worth every second and will get easier.

Life can get boring when we have so many “things” to do, so it is great to rekindle an old hobby or even try something completely new. Find something that you really enjoy, some sort of art or craft, playing music whatever it is that you know can bring you joy. Do not feel that this is a selfish approach, it is in fact critical to put you first and it’s not about excluding anyone else, but importantly including you in your life.

When we are stress many of us will turn off the creativity of producing tasty, healthy meals and so we tend to reach for the less than desirable foods. It’s here that we will benefit from making small consistent improvements, healthy food choices, not wholesale changes that we are unlikely to maintain over time. Make it easy and begin by adding fresh fruit and vegetables into your day. Set a target of 3 fresh fruits or vegetables added to your diet each day for a week. Discipline yourself to drink small amounts of water regularly throughout the day, aim for approximately 1.5-2 litres of water a day. Commit to getting a full 8 hours of sleep a night. Start small and keep working on it each day, each week, you don’t climb a mountain in one giant step, it’s one step at a time.

Whatever it is that you decide to change, just go slow, ensure what you are changing can be maintained and remember it’s about one step at a time, slow and steady will get you to where you want to be.

*Presenteeism is defined as the lost productivity that occurs when employees come to work but, as a consequence of illness or other conditions, are not fully functioning. In comparison, absenteeism occurs when employees do not come to work.

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