Adrenal fatigue is a common source of tiredness yet not many people know a lot about it.
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys, each about the size of a walnut. Despite being small, they are very important for health and well-being.
The adrenals affect virtually every system in our body. They aid our bodies in responding to stress, maintaining energy, regulating the immune system and our heart rate. They also maintain levels of minerals and keep blood sugar, fluid levels and blood pressure within a healthy range.
They produce adrenaline and noradrenaline: the so-called ‘fight or flight’ hormones which help the body deal with acute stress. These are the hormones that give a person superhuman strength, such as to lift up a car when a child is trapped underneath or the energy to run away from an attacker.
The adrenal glands manufacture over 30 different steroids including cortisol, DHEA and cortisone which help the body control fats, proteins, carbohydrates, regulate insulin levels, reduce inflammation and influence the immune system. When the adrenal glands are healthy, they secrete precise amounts of the steroid hormones.
However, too much physical, emotional, environmental or psychological stress causes imbalances in their functioning. This can result in adrenal fatigue, when the adrenal glands are no longer coping with the strains put on them. The classic symptoms are tiredness, low energy, cravings, insomnia, irritability, anxiety and poor concentration.
Many people with adrenal fatigue get into the habit of relying on stimulants like caffeine and sugar to keep them going as they feel so fatigued in the day, and then alcohol or other relaxants to wind down at the end of the day as they have trouble switching off at night.
There can be many causes of adrenal fatigue, such as work pressures, emotional traumas, relationship strains, chronic illness, infections, surgery, pain, grief, financial difficulties, lack of sleep or depression and anxiety.
Do you have adrenal fatigue? The quiz below will help you find out:
Have you in the last week…
1. Felt stressed, restless, overwhelmed and/or exhausted?
2. Experienced anxiety, nervousness, irritability, phobias or panic attacks?
3. Kept yourself going on sugar, caffeine and/or snacks?
4. Experienced light-headedness on standing?
5. Felt more awake at night?
6. Craved salty food, sugar or liquorice?
7. Had dark circles under your eyes or feel your eyes sensitive to bright lights?
8. Spent the whole day rushing from one thing to another?
9. Suffered from interrupted sleep or insomnia?
10. Got absent-minded or felt that your short-term memory lets you down?
If you’ve answered YES to 5 or more of these you may have adrenal fatigue. To learn how to combat this yourself, read my article on How to treat Adrenal Fatigue.