I wrote about my Adrenal Fatigue diagnosis in an earlier post and would love to share more of my adrenal fatigue story. To be honest, that would be very difficult because I experienced severe brain fog when my symptoms were at their worst and don’t really accurately remember the details of that time. When I look back at that time in my life I remember it as a big cloudy, groggy blur. Unfortunately, I’m probably not alone, since fatigue, lightheadedness, and brain fog are all common symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
My Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
When my Adrenal Fatigue was at it’s worse, I had more symptoms than I could name off the top of my head! They included:
- Body aches
- Dry skin
- Low blood pressure
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Difficulty waking in the AM
- Overuse of caffeine (thus my Diet Pepsi addiction)
- Numbness in fingers (poor circulation)
- Sensitivity to noises and background noise
- Unexplained weight gain
- This strange wired but tired feeling. Have you ever felt it? It’s kind of like being overtired – all of the time!
- And, If you promise not to tell my Husband I am admitting to this, I will admit, I was very irritable.
A Doctors Explanation of Adrenal Fatigue
In Adrenal Fatigue Explained: This is Karen’s Story the Walls team explains:
Cortisol, DHEA, and another hormone, adrenaline, are the three main hormones secreted by the adrenal glands in response to stress. In the short run, they provide protection to the body against a variety of threats—anything perceived by the unconscious brain as potentially dangerous—from infection to a hungry lion, particularly if you happen to be a hunter-gatherer (our remarkably close ancestor). It is cortisol, DHEA, and adrenaline that allow the bystander to lift a car when a child is suddenly pinned underneath. There is a rise in cortisol in the morning for all of us whose adrenals are functioning normally.
Fight or flight
This rise prepares our bodies for the things we might encounter during the day. In contemporary life that might mean navigating the morning rush to get our children to school and ourselves to work on time. Or possibly, the normal reaction to a bug bite or a cut on the skin, surgery, or childbirth. It might mean worry about a sick parent. It can even be a reaction to a fast food meal. In a nutshell, there are social, psychological, and physical stressors, and in all cases, the brain reacts similarly. The nervous system sends a signal to the adrenal glands to produce these protective hormones. This is, in fact, what we sometimes refer to as our “sympathetic nervous system” response, aptly nicknamed “fight or flight.”
Dr. Wals team explains what happens when the fight or flight response is always on
But what happens when this fight or flight response is always turned on? What happens to people who consciously and unconsciously exist in this state of stress due to a variety of circumstances that characterize their lives? To answer this question, it is first important to understand that the body always strives for a state of balance between all the functional systems that govern how we work as human beings. This includes our digestive system, our immune system, our hormone-producing system, and the systems that govern energy production, among others. We call this state of balance “homeostasis.” The human body operates by constantly detecting perturbations, slight imbalances, and adjusting in minor ways to maintain function.
When Stress Is More Than The Body Can Handle
A second important concept is that of “allostatic overload.” This is the tipping point when the sum of all stresses is more than the body can handle. When allostatic overload is reached, the body shifts to an entirely new state, for survival, even when patients like Karen experience this adaptation as detrimental. We have all met these people. They are the over-achievers, the multi-taskers, who handle children, job, and relationships on little sleep, no exercise, and insufficient nutrition. That is, they handle it until the house of cards comes crashing down. They are survivors of childhood trauma who encounter new stressors in adulthood from which they can no longer adapt.
The causes of this breakdown may not be so obvious. In this hierarchy of needs, alongside physical preservation the remainder of the physical need of nutrient absorption and hydration, reproduction, and healing, all require input from the counterpart to the sympathetic nervous system, called the parasympathetic nervous system, nicknamed “rest and digest.” In truth, survival requires a balance of both sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.
Another Doctors Explanation of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected.
Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.
What I did to help my Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
Thankfully my adrenal fatigue is in a much better place today than it was back then. I have done several things to treat it including:
- Use lavender essential oils
- Practice relaxation breaths, meditation and yoga
- Take a few Epsom salt baths a week
- Take supplements to support my adrenals
- Cleaned up my diet and removed foods that don’t resonate with my body
- And occasionally drink Roobios tea
- Be mindful of how stress impacts my adrenals and try to support them whenever possible
Current status of my symptoms
Having said and done all of the above, I can still feel my adrenals over firing a few times a day. Probably because at the end of the day I’m still hardwired to be a type-A super freak :). When this happens I tend to feel overwhelmed, irritable and like it is all but impossible to focus. Being mindful is key because the sooner I catch myself, the easier it is to calm my adrenal system. I practice deep breathing exercises, meditation and use lavender essential oils and it works!
I would love to be able to tell you my Adrenal Fatigue is cured and give you a few easy steps to cure your adrenal fatigue but I’m still a work in progress.
An Adrenal Fatigue Protocol That Worked
A colleague of mine, Christy Cegleski, who is much farther in her adrenal fatigue recovery than I am, shared her story in a guest blog for Weight-Loss-Confessions An Adrenal Fatigue Protocol That Worked. I hope you enjoy Christy’s adrenal fatigue success story as much as I did.
For now, please be kind to your adrenals!