Adrenal Fatigue: Stress Is The Likely Culprit

Written for The Healthy Planet by TJ Williams, DC, PhD

Adrenal fatigue is a condition estimated to affect approximately eighty percent of people around the world. The prevalence of adrenal fatigue is predominantly due to something most of us are dealing with: stress.

What are Adrenals?

Your adrenal glands are two thumb-sized organs that sit above your kidneys and are part of the endocrine system. Also known as the suprarenal glands, they’re involved in producing over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function, many of which are essential for life.

Hormones affect every function, organ and tissue in the body directly or indirectly. They react to each other as well as respond to conditions in the body in an intricate and highly sensitive balancing act. The adrenal glands work closely with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in a system known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis).
Adrenal glands play a huge role in our stress response — whether the stress is emotional, mental or physical. The adrenal medulla is triggered to release adrenaline hormones to help you react to the threat (the fight-or-flight response) by rushing blood to your brain, heart and muscles. The adrenal cortex then releases corticosteroids to dampen processes like digestion, immune system response and other functions not necessary for immediate survival.

What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your body and adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience. Since adrenal fatigue can mimic some precursors to other common illnesses and disease, many patients have no idea adrenal fatigue is the cause of their symptoms. In fact, despite its prevalence adrenal fatigue is not even recognized by most conventional medicine doctors. This is similar to what we’ve discussed in previous articles with leaky gut—conditions are not generally acknowledged by mainstream medicine until there is a known pharmaceutical “fix” to the problem.

An episode of acute stress or prolonged, chronic stress can cause adrenal glands to become overloaded and ineffective. Specifically, we know adrenal fatigue can be caused by:

  • Stressful experiences like death of loved one, divorce or surgery
  • Exposure to environmental toxins and pollution
  • Prolonged stress due to financial hardship, bad relationships or work environment, and other conditions that entail feelings of helplessness
  • Negative thinking and emotional trauma
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor diet and lack of exercise

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

When the adrenal glands stop producing hormones efficiently, every bodily function is affected. And as adrenal hormone levels shrink, even the normal “get-up-and-go” you get from them disappears. Adrenal fatigue symptoms include:

  • Morning fatigue or trouble waking up
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor focus
  • Inflammation
  • Increased allergies
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Cravings for sugar or salt
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle tension

These symptoms can be indicative of a few different disorders and are often overlooked by doctors, but more and more people are starting to realize that a combination of these could indicate the onset of adrenal fatigue. In addition to the above symptoms, adrenal fatigue can also be a major cause of excess fat storage and low energy levels. Luckily, with a personalized plan, it is possible to heal adrenal fatigue and get your adrenals to function properly again.

If you would like more information on Adrenal Fatigue please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 3:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.

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