While often overlooked, the adrenal glands are critical to our mental & physical performance, energy levels, and overall sense of well-being. There is a common misconception that these glands are only responsible for releasing adrenaline in flight-or-fight situations. While this is a major function, adrenal glands also play an important role in the body’s health even when not under extreme stress.
Aside from adrenaline (also known as epinephrine), the adrenal glands release a variety of hormones that have important functions in our day-to-day lives:
While there do exist some very serious and rare conditions related to malfunctioning adrenal glands, such as Addison’s disease, a much more common issue to be concerned about is adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of symptoms that occur when the glands are functioning below their normal, healthy levels. This is the list of symptoms to look out for, from James Wilson’s best-selling book “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”
- Feeling tired for no explainable reason, especially in the early morning and mid-afternoon.
- Even after 8+ hours of sleep, it is very difficult to get up.
- A general feeling of being overwhelmed or worn out.
- Difficulty recovering from stressful events or illnesses.
- Unusual craving for salty and/or sweet snacks.
- In the late evening, you feel more alert and awake than you do at any other point in the day.
- Sexual performance issues in men.
Why does adrenal fatigue occur? To sum it up in a word: stress. Repeated, cumulative, and prolonged stress causes the adrenal glands to work to maintain a sort of homeostasis for us to function in difficult times. When life is still stressful but the glands cannot compensate with the proper mix of hormone release, then fatigue occurs. This could include:
- Recovering from an illness or disease
- Stress from poor nutrition, surgical procedures, addiction to controlled substances, injury, or physical exhaustion
- Emotional/psychological stress from relationships, work issues, etc.
- Environmental issues such as toxic chemical exposure or pollutants.
So what can be done to counteract Adrenal Fatigue?
For starters, obviously stress is the key ingredient in experiencing adrenal fatigue. Figuring out how to eliminate or greatly reduce stressors in your life should come first. Perhaps it is negotiating a more sane work schedule with your boss or changing jobs altogether. Maybe a relationship is troubled enough to warrant therapy. Maybe creating a meal plan to ensure enough nutrients and making it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep needs to happen.
However, if your life is mostly squared away and adrenal fatigue seems to be a possibility, then there are other steps that can be taken:
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Evaluate Your Sugar Intake
Energy levels can be thrown for a loop when too much refined sugar is consumed. Take an honest look at what you consume and figure out how to greatly reduce sugar intake. Consider a ketogenic diet (high in healthy fats and proteins) in order to improve your energy levels.
Get tested to be sure that you don’t have a serious issue related to your body’s endocrine system.
NOTE: By no means is this post supposed to provide the tools for any reader to self-diagnose. Seek professional medical attention for any issues and consult your doctor before taking any course of action.