by Leslie G. Shew, PhD, CTN
The symptoms of chronic fatigue are growing in epidemic proportions in the U.S. One of the chief complaints I hear from clients is, “I’m so tired.” In fact, fatigue is one of the things that plagued my life for many years until I found help in the natural health field. “Your blood work is normal,” “There is nothing wrong with you,” “You must be depressed,” were just a few phrases I heard over and over from my medical doctors, and the common complaint I get from my clients.
You are not crazy and probably not depressed….at least not yet. What you may be experiencing is adrenal fatigue. This happens when the adrenals have been managing long term or sometimes short term stress in the body and begin to lose the ability to function normally.
The adrenal glands are responsible for our “fight or flight” response and were designed to help protect us in times of danger or immediate stress. They produce adrenaline to increase our heart rate, help us focus more clearly and give us an extra rush of energy to get through a stressful situation safely. In response to this adrenaline rush, they then release cortisol to help return the heart rate back to normal and basically bring our body back to a place of rest so that our adrenals can recover for the next episode.
The problem is that in today’s society, we are in a constant state of fight or flight mode. We work non-stop, answer multiple email accounts, never put down our phones and if we begin to feel fatigued then we run to the nearest Starbucks or grab an energy drink so that we can keep going. This leaves our poor adrenals gasping for air and eventually running out of steam. The process can happen quickly for some, but more often takes months or years to build up to a debilitating level.
Fatigue, often beginning in late afternoon
Inability to handle stress
Irritability or easily frustrated
Weight gain, especially around the belly
Tired, even after a long night’s sleep
Dr. J.A. Wilson, a leading researcher on the subject of adrenal fatigue stated that “It is possible that we experience more stressful events in one year than our ancestors experienced in a life time. Our constant ‘pedal to the metal’ lifestyle leaves little room for an adequate response when adrenal glands never get the chance to recoup and are already responding at their maximum capacity.” (from his book, Adrenal Fatigue).
Is it possible that in an attempt to make life easier with the use of computers and more technology that we have created a much more dangerous and health destroying problem?
Chronic adrenal fatigue can lead to changes in blood sugar, digestive distress, muscle tension, low thyroid and even auto immune diseases. If you’re having trouble losing weight, it might just be from too much stress on your adrenal glands which can cause an over production of cortisol. Excess cortisol may switch the cells into “idle” mode where they actually begin to store fat, especially the visceral fat around the belly!
SO, WHAT DO WE DO?
Ideally, we SLOW DOWN! However, that’s not something most are willing to do in our over demanding lifestyles. However, there are a few things you can do to help give your adrenal glands some love.
Eat healthy foods – organic meats, veggies, fruits, raw nuts and drink clean water.
No more negative thoughts. Thoughts become things! Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want!
Exercise- but don’t over do it. Keep cardio under 30 minutes and consider adding in meditative practices such as yoga. No marathon training with pooped adrenals!
Remember to breathe! Take time out. Give yourself at least 15 min of quiet time twice a day. Meditate. Rest. Be still and quiet.
Get adequate sleep. Use natural sleep aids such as valerian root, passion flower, or 5-HTP if needed.
Your body will tell you what it needs! If you are tired, don’t reach for caffeine! That will only trick the adrenals into thinking they have energy they really do not. It’s a chemical energy that will only lead to further adrenal disfunction.
Adrenal fatigue does not happen over night so don’t expect over night changes. There are many ways to help re-build the adrenals. In my practice, I have found the most effective program involves the use of Chinese herbs which not only work on the physical but the emotional part of the body, as well. In addition, I recommend working on stress management and mindset. You must change the behaviors that got you here to begin with. Whatever program you choose, I highly recommend working with a trained, holistic practitioner who can assist you on your healing journey.
Leslie G. Shew, PhD, CTN