Adrenal Fatigue (or HPA axis dysfunction)
Adrenal fatigue has always existed, but it has only really gained momentum in the past 10 years. Why? It all boils down to how much more demanding our lives have become and how much more stress our bodies can handle. The adrenal glands are part of a larger chain of glands called the HPA axis - they are all connected. The H is the Hypothalamus at the top of the chain or axis. The P is the Pituitary gland next in line then the A are the adrenal glands which sit at the bottom of the axis. The messages sent from the hypothalamus control everything down the chain from there.
So what are the adrenal glands and what do they do?
The adrenal glands play a huge role in your body and although only the size of a walnut, they are a very powerful part of us. Sitting at the top of each kidney, these powerful little hormone producing glands manufacture and secrete almost 50 different hormones, two of which are your stress hormones, namely adrenaline and cortisol. Basically these little glands are what keeps your body’s reactions to stress in balance.
Adrenaline is your short-term, acute stress hormone, it’s produced when you get a fright. In the past we made adrenalin when our life was being threatened, often known as the “fight or flight” response. When activated, the blood supply from your digestive system is diverted away and sent to your arms and legs, giving the ability to fight or run and get out of danger. You also need fuel for extra energy so your body converts glycogen back into glucose and dumps this into your blood, giving you an increase in blood sugar levels and an overall feeling of being amped!
Cortisol is your long term stress hormone, again in the past this hormone was only activated when there was some concern around food becoming scarce due to a war or flooding etc. Today our long term stress tends to be more around financial pressures, health, relationships and weight! If we become stressed about these things daily then our cortisol output increases which can in turn lead to a change in your metabolism and behaviour.
It is really important to understand this hormone as it can be a great friend or a nasty enemy. Cortisol is one of the body’s anti-inflammatory helpers, so when there is inflammation in your body cortisol dampens down the effect of that inflammation. It also helps with the utilisation of carbohydrates and fats keeping your weight stable and it can have a huge effect on your sleep patterns.
Basically the adrenal glands are designed to help you cope with stress but only for ‘short’ periods of time - like anything, over work them and they will start to get tired.
So why are more people suffering with Adrenal fatigue?
The modern day world is very different to what it was in days of old, there is an expectation that we can manage 5 things at once and that our bodies will be able to cope. Often this is the case but too much stress, be it mental, emotional or physical can take its toll on our bodies and our adrenal glands.
What are the symptoms?
What should I do if I think I am suffering from adrenal fatigue?
There are tests that you can do to see if your adrenal glands are tired and these are available from Fit 4 Life. We use a saliva test which tracks the stress hormone cortisol over the course of a day. Cortisol should be high in the morning to give us energy to get going for the day and then slowly decline into the afternoon and evening so that we can then drop off to sleep at night time. If your body has been in a stressed state for some time this may not be the case and the testing can help identify what stage of fatigue you are in so the appropriate action plan can be put into place to improve it. There are also adrenal fatigue supplements that you can take to help support your adrenal glands or you can introduce some foods that help feed your adrenals like kidney beans, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, dates, avocados, lemons and of course kale! But most of all you probably need to STOP, SLOW DOWN AND TAKE A BREATH EVERY NOW AND AGAIN.
If you would like to know more or improve your adrenal health, why not take our quiz or give me a call and let's see how we can make a difference.
"Rich understands adrenal fatigue better than any other health professional I have found.