Adrenal Fatigue

The term “adrenal fatigue” has become a health buzzword for feeling burned out, stressed out, and exhausted, despite claims from the prominent medical journal BMC Endocrine Disorders that “there is no substantiation that ‘adrenal fatigue’ is an actual condition.” Chronic stress is becoming a way of life. According to a September 2018 Yoga Journal article adrenal fatigue has been dubbed “the stress syndrome of the 21st century” and is described as being sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

However there actually is a connection between your adrenal glands and stress. The adrenal glands are two triangular organs on the top of each kidney which are responsible for secreting the hormones cortisol, your main stress hormone, and adrenaline. Abnormal secretions of cortisol have been linked to anxiety and mood disorders.

Circadian Rhythms

Since cortisol is your main stress hormone, it is helpful to know that it operates on a 24-hour rhythm, also known as your circadian rhythm. Cortisol levels normally peak with the sunrise and waking up, then taper off slowly throughout the day, reaching their lowest level when you are about ready for bed. This coincides with the rise of your body’s sleep hormone melatonin.

Throughout the day, your brain senses you are being attacked. Not by saber-toothed tigers like our ancestors were, but by all sorts of stressful signals and situations that we interpret as dangerous. This puts you in a state of constant red alert, and triggers a continual release of cortisol and adrenaline to help you fight off your stress attack. When these attacks go on without end, maintaining sync with your 24-hour rhythm becomes increasingly more difficult, as surges of cortisol at the wrong time disrupt your cycle.

With some individuals the cycle can become reversed. Low levels in the early morning make it difficult to get out of bed and get your day started, and rise later in the evening to reach their highest levels just as you are ready for bed.

Fight or Flight

The effects of this roller coaster cortisol ride usually begin as sleep disorders, unpredictable energy levels, headaches, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. All due to a lack of proper sleep. Since the brain is on constant alert for danger, the fight or flight system disrupts numerous normal functions, such as digestion, sleep, and menstrual cycles. Fight or flight is more important than eating, sleeping or having babies.

The chronic exhaustion, burnout and stress you feel begins with the brain’s hypothalamic and pituitary glands, the nervous system (yes, it really is called the nervous system), and signals to the adrenal glands. So a better name could be hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation (HPA-D), and according to Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, an American Institute of Stress fellow, the HPA axis “has been studied extensively “for decades and verify that an onslaught of stress hormones can upset every process in your body.”

Make Better Self-Care a Priority

The fact remains that your nervous system is way too nervous, “Self-care is critical,” says Dr, Ackrill. “Our culture has made us feel like better care is selfish, so we ignore our body’s check-engine lights and end up taking better care of our yoga gear than we do ourselves.”

Start a passive yoga program beginning with classic restful poses. Check locally for classes and yoga instructors or check out for online yoga videos. And to reduce stress quickly remember mindfulness is only a breath away.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.
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