Always feeling tired? Always lacking energy? Feeling run down? Always getting one illness to the next? 

Yes these are symptoms that we all experience from time to time as part of normal life. However when these symptoms become chronic and start to affect your ability to function in your daily life it may be a sign that your health has been effected and the underlying cause needs to be found and managed in order to feel better in the long term.

Excessive tiredness, fatigue, recurrent infections are some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. For years medical professionals have been divided in their opinion of whether adrenal fatigue actually exists or not. The fact that more and more people report these symptoms on an ever increasing basis has meant that the it’s existence is being considered more frequently by doctors when trying to improve patient’s health and general well being.

So what exactly is adrenal fatigue?

Your adrenals are small, nut shaped glands that sit above the kidneys.  Their primaryrole is to produce hormones. The adrenal glands produce adrenaline and cortisol,which are our stress hormones and are essential for the control of our autonomic nervous system which is behind our “fight or flight response” which is triggered by acute stressors on the body. They also produce other hormones including aldosterone which is involved in blood pressure control, and androgens, which are sex hormones such as testosterone. 

Short bursts of cortisol is release is perfectly natural and without it our bodycouldn’t function.

Adrenal fatigue occurs when the body is placed under chronic stress, rather than short bursts of acute stress caused by illness, stress, anxiety etc. In this situation the adrenal glands are placed under great pressure to meet the demand of cortisol production required by the body to deal with the intense level of stress for long periods. As a result the adrenal glands cannot cope with the intense, ongoingdemand for cortisol and they become exhausted.

What are the causes of chronic stress that can lead to adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue occurs when the body is placed under intense mental, emotional or physical stress.  This can be caused by some or all of the below;• Poor sleep• Poor nutrition• Job related Stress• Emotional turmoil• Yo yo dieting• Excessive workouts• Poor work – play – rest balance• Chronic disease• Trauma

What are the symptoms?• Extreme fatigue• Decrease in muscle mass• Decrease in bone density• Depression• Aching joints• Loss of libido• Lowered immunity• â€śFuzzy” thinking• Poor concentration â€˘ Irritability â€˘ Feeling unable to cope and easily over whelmed• Food cravings, especially salty and sugary foods• Weight gain especially around the tummy• Difficulty in losing weight• Problems sleeping; both falling asleep and staying asleep

How can we manage it?

On a positive note there are many things we can do to improve these symptoms. The management of adrenal fatigue starts first and foremost with lifestyle. Taking a step back and reflecting on your lifestyle is key. 

Making small changes can make a big difference; looking at the primary stressors in your life and developing strategies to manage them in the long term is the way forward.

In addition to lifestyle; blood tests to measure your hormone levels is also very useful. Many people with adrenal fatigue have low levels of the hormone DHEA. DHEA is also made by the adrenal glands. It is known as the “mother hormone” because it is the precursor to the production of other hormones, such as sex hormones like testosterone. If your DHEA levels are found to low or sub-optimal replacing your DHEA many help improve the symptoms of adrenal fatigue along side lifestyle changes. Bio-identical hormone replacement of DHEA is an effective option.

Final thoughts 

In summary, whether people believe in the existence of “adrenal fatigue” or not, the symptoms are very real and can detrimentally effect our health and quality of life. 

As the stress of our hectic lifestyles is not going away, I believe we need to increase our awareness of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Recognising the symptoms early and making positive changes to our lifestyle will help to support our body and help it cope with multiple stressors at any one time to help maintain our health and well being in the long term.

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