What is adrenal fatigue?

“Adrenal fatigue” is a term which is not recognised by conventional medicine. It presents as a broad range of seemingly mild symptoms, that can be quite debilitating if left unchecked.  The adrenal glands sit at the top of your kidneys, and produce hormones known as gluco-corticoids. These include cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline and keep you alert, focused and ready for anything stressful. However, prolonged stress, such as a physically demanding job, or marital separation can put extra strain on the adrenals.  The Sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-flight response) is continually switched on. Over time, the adrenals become less efficient and the rest of the body starts to feel it. At its most extreme, this condition presents as chronic fatigue syndrome.

With the silly season well underway, we are trying to fit even more into our days than usual. Shopping for gifts, meeting work deadlines, and attending Christmas functions; we are asking a lot more from our bodies than it can reasonably handle. Check the list below to see if you are at risk of adrenal fatigue.

5 Signs that you have adrenal fatigue:

1. Your energy levels are imbalanced: If you find that you need lots of stimulants to get going, and don’t really wake up until 10 am, it’s pretty likely that your adrenal glands are overworked. Adrenal fatigue is even more likely if you also feel flat around 3-4 pm, feel better after your evening meal, and get your “second wind” later in the evening. However, even after a good night’s sleep, you still feel tired.

2. Decreased emotional resilience: This may present in a variety of ways. Is a stressful event from long ago still filling you with grief? Do really small things get you super irritated? Or have lost enjoyment of activities you previously enjoyed? If you have stopped doing things for fun, or have lost interest in work and relationships, adrenal fatigue is a probable cause.

3. Compromised immune function: Tell tale signs of adrenal fatigue include a sinus infection or cough that keeps coming back, more days off work feeling unwell, or a sore throat that won’t go away. Or perhaps you aren’t sick, but you don’t exactly feel well either.

4. Food cravings: If you love eating a lot of salty foods, or add salt to everything, adrenal fatigue is often likely. It’s also likely if your PMS has shifted into overdrive and you are cranky, cramping and craving chocolate. Your body is needing extra nutrients that you aren’t even aware of!

5. Brain fog or memory loss: Adrenal fatigue may be the culprit if you are losing focus, forgetting what you are saying mid sentence, or your mind feels fuzzy. You may lose items, or have trouble making decisions as well. This can happen to anyone, at any age if you are pushing too hard.

So what can you do about it?

It’s pretty likely that your adrenals (and you!) are exhausted if you have listed 3+ of the above symptoms. There are many other symptoms that can confirm adrenal fatigue, but the above 5 are the main ones. Keep an eye out for my next blog, which will provide some helpful strategies to assist you. For further advice, visit your Naturopath or complementary health practitioner.