Ever have that feeling of no matter what you do you just can’t keep up? You are feeling stressed and exhausted by matters that never used to be a deal – now you just can’t “even deal”. Or no matter how well you are eating, sleeping and always exercising, you still feel tired? Putting on weight? Or losing too much?
Life really does throw it at you sometimes. And the first thing most of us reach for when we feel like this are our “stimulant saviours” – coffee, sugar and alcohol. Oh how we love thee. Let me tell you something for nothing about these bad boys – they won’t help. In fact they will totally hinder your health when in this viscious cycle.
I am speaking from experience. I know it’s time to cut back (ahem, not have at all) when my beloved coffee doesn’t stimulate me at all. The only thing it stimulates is my anxiety, sweaty armpits and bad breath. Not too mention alcohol leaves me a dribbling mess. Sometimes for many reasons but for the purpose of this story – let’s go with adrenal fatigue : ) And sugar? Ever heard of carb crash? Yep that’s the same thing as dribbling mess really.
Ok, I get this is considered normal behaviour for some and on the odd occasion a reaction like that is somewhat desired, however for people who are feeling all of the above all the time or just need to get their mojo and energy back, their adrenals might only be just surviving (i.e. being thrashed) and constitutionally they just don’t thrive off these stimulants that we so understandably crave. It is our bodies response to not being able to cope.
A LITTLE ABOUT ADRENAL FATIGUE AND WHAT CAUSES IT.
Adrenal fatigue is produced when your adrenal glands (that sit on top of your kidneys) cannot adequately meet the demands of stress. The adrenal glands mobilize your body’s responses to every kind of stress (whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological) through hormones that regulate energy production and storage, immune function, heart rate, muscle tone, and other processes that enable you to cope with the stress. Whether you have an emotional crisis such as the death of a loved one, a physical crisis such as major surgery or chronic health condition, or any type of severe repeated or constant stress in your life, your adrenals have to respond to the stress and maintain homeostasis. If their response is inadequate, you are likely to experience some degree of adrenal fatigue.
During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain optimal homeostasis because their output of regulatory hormones has been diminished – usually by over-stimulation. Over-stimulation of your adrenals can be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.
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 through your day to 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.
A recent health concern/scare for me has really made me sit up and focus. And these are some of the steps I would suggest to begin addressing adrenal fatigue and get your mojo back.
ELIMINATE COFFEE, EXCESS SUGAR AND ALCOHOL – There are no two ways about it. You need to back off these stress drivers and cortisol creators. Enjoy plenty of herbal teas – cinnamon tea (blood sugar) licorice tea (adrenal support), green tea (still a little caffeine to reduce the withdrawal process) and dandelion tea (amazing for liver detoxification support). I know this is a hard one and there are ways around it. I do know and understand how hard it is to let go of these “addictions” and some good support goes along way. It starts with at least cutting back. The worst thing to do is let coffee hit your adrenals first thing before you have even put food in your mouth. Try a new habit of fresh lemon or apple cider vinegar in warm water in the morning and cafes do take away herbal teas as well (so it looks like you are still drinking coffee!).
SAY NO – Don’t be afraid to say no to social events, extra jobs, working back, helping out. You need to say no before your body says no. On that note a great book to read is “When the body says no” By Gabor Mate about the cost of hidden stress on the body and the causes of chronic disease and illness.
LEGS UP THE WALL– Can’t sleep? One of my saviours here is the yoga pose of legs up the wall. Lying flat on the floor with your bottom pushed up close to a wall and holding your legs up the wall for 10 minutes. It really helps to bring the nervous system back to balance, relieves tired leg muscles (especially if you are struggling with restless legs at night – a magnesium and iron deficiency telltale) and reduces fluid retention. I usually have a candle or essential oils burning and/or my favourite soulful music playing if I am really struggling to relax.
MORE SLEEP -Ha! Easier said than done, as that is the problem right? However you must prioritise sleep like you do everything else you do first. It goes in your diary like everything else does. At this vital point, there is no exception. Sleep first. And in bed at a reasonable hour. Sleep hygiene is essential here too. No phones or screens at least 30 minutes before bed. A routine of a chamomile tea and/or a bath or warm shower. Cuddles and kisses are also completely essential. Human or animal or teddy bear. All ok. : )
MAGNESIUM – Magnesium is required for every metabolic process in the body – including sleeping and energy production. Plenty of fresh leafy greens every day or better still a therapeutic powdered supplement form could be the trick especially when chronically deficient.
EXERCISE GENTLY – 30 mins a day of fresh air and movement. Walking, swimming, yoga, dancing – anything to keep your energy production going, in order to make energy you need to use it.But only lightly. Similarly if you have been going too hard at the gym or running 10 kms every day – back it up and move freely and easily. “Gentle exercise makes me feel terrible” – says no one ever.
SEEK SUPPORT – From your loved ones and from a capable nutritionist/naturopath, acupuncturist and doctor. Sometimes you need to put your hand up for help. Herbal preparations and acupuncture can really be the clincher in giving you enough energy to doing some of the above things. Functional testing can be used to help determine the key areas to address first as there may be some bigger physiological drivers. Nutritional and emotional support can really help make all the difference to getting things going again for you.