Is Adrenal Fatigue Destroying Your Life?
It’s morning… The alarm clock is going off, and it’s time to get up, but you probably don’t want to. The bed is so comfortable and you were in the middle of a great dream. So you hit the snooze button once, and then one more time, and then once more, until you finally can’t make up any more excuses to stay in bed. It’s time to get up.
This is a typical scenario for many Americans. It’s nice to sleep in; to get a little extra shut-eye so you can feel refreshed before facing the day. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it, and it doesn’t mean you’re lazy.
But what if your grogginess in the morning isn’t really from lack of sleep?
Even worse…What if it doesn’t seem to be helped by additional sleep? What if it can’t be helped by extra sleep?
You go to bed earlier, but still wake up in a haze. You guzzle cups of coffee and energy drinks, but these barely seem to help. And during some days, you’re functioning on autopilot; counting the minutes until you can lay down again…
In such cases, your sluggishness and feelings of being tired might have nothing to do with sleep at all – it could very well be Adrenal Fatigue; a health complication that isn’t just making you tired, but is actively hurting your body and vital organs.
Sleeping Beauty or Ugly Duckling?
Before I explain the Adrenal Fatigue syndrome in detail, let me tell you about a very severe case of Adrenal Fatigue suffered by one of my patients, let’s call him “Robert.”
Robert came in to see me a few years ago, because he could barely stay awake. He had just left a very stressful job, where he worked for over a year, logging in over 80 hours of work per week, without any vacation days. The stress and lack of sleep really took a toll on his body.
He was only in his mid-20s, but was always tired, and gained quite a bit of weight. So finally, he left this job because he couldn’t handle the hours and the stress anymore.
However, he noticed an interesting occurrence after leaving and taking time off for himself; he couldn’t stay awake!
When he visited my office, he told me that he would wake up in the morning, at around 8AM, have breakfast, and would need to lie down by around 9:30AM. He would then wake up in mid-afternoon, have lunch, and go back to sleep at around 4PM. Then, he would wake up again at around 8 in the evening, have a snack and watch a little TV, and go to sleep again at around 10PM. This cycle seemed to continue without an end in sight.
Certainly, Robert expected to get some extra shut-eye for a few days after leaving his job and thought he’d recover quickly – but he didn’t. In fact, three weeks into his “time off” he was still barely functioning during the day, and spent most of his time sleeping.
It wasn’t a choice; he simply couldn’t help it!
Obviously, the lack of sleep wasn’t the issue here – because he was getting plenty of it now. So, I requested a complete workup with a number of blood panels, a urine test and a saliva hormone test to narrow down the problem. Everything came back very clean, except the saliva test, which revealed that Robert was suffering from a serious hormonal imbalance.
Adrenal Fatigue is a problem that began to interest me many years ago, when I started looking deeper at various scientific studies about the long term effects of stress on the human body.
You see, a big part of human existence is governed by hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. These are chemical messengers that tell our body what to do and how to respond in certain situations. They are very useful in automating many responses, so that we don’t have to think about what to do, but instinctively take the right action.
One such response is called “fight or flight.” In this case, the adrenal glands secrete hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which quickly prepare our bodies to deal with stressful situations. However, this mechanism was “designed” by evolution to help us get away from predators in the wild. As such, it can be very powerful in short term situations, where you have to make split-second decisions to run away from a tiger.
But these stress responses do quite the opposite in our lives today; because the daily stress we all experience forces our bodies to respond with stress hormones for months at a time, and sometimes years at a time.
The stress of work, family, children, helping relatives and the 24 hour news cycle which keeps telling us things like “the economy will crash tomorrow” forces the adrenal glands to continue producing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline virtually all the time!
Our bodies are not adapted to this type of hormonal imbalance! And because of this, our bodies become quickly worn out by the constant presence of stress hormones.
Even worse, the adrenal glands become severely overworked. This constant production of hormones makes them inefficient, which makes it harder for your body to regulate vital processes, like blood pressure, for example.
Treating Adrenal Fatigue
Over the years, I’ve helped many patients who were dealing with Adrenal Fatigue. Usually, a patient suffering from this syndrome will present with symptoms like:
- Constant feelings of being tired
- Consuming large quantities of caffeine just to start the day
- Craving salty foods and snacks
- Having difficulty dealing with stressful situations (Many patients have reported that they’ve completely forgotten that they used to be resilient under stress!)
- Being unable to find enjoyment in previously-fun activities
- Feeling constantly stressed and tense
However, having these symptoms alone is not enough for me to diagnose Adrenal Fatigue. I have always believed that hard data is better than subjective assessments. Therefore, when I suspect that a patient may be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, I will order a round of tests to confirm the diagnosis.
The most reliable test for this syndrome is a hormone test of saliva. This is a non-invasive way to assess hormone levels throughout the day, to see if an imbalance exists.
Treating Adrenal Fatigue
When the test results show that a patient is likely suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, I can then create a custom treatment plan specifically for their individual needs. Typically, this will include a variety of dietary supplements that promote the health of adrenal glands. In this situation, the glands have become very overworked, and specialized supplements can go a long way in repairing their function.
Additionally, learning stress management techniques can play a big role in dealing with Adrenal Fatigue. If a patient can train their mind to process stressful information differently, then the production of stress hormones can be minimized. This can be achieved with practicing yoga and meditation, to make the mind more resilient.
Unfortunately, in some situations there can already be extensive health damage from the high levels of stress hormones. Some patients may even need blood pressure medication, because their body can no longer regulate these functions effectively.
Take the First Step
Adrenal Fatigue is a serious problem that can affect your health and the quality of your life. It can take the enjoyment out of every-day events, and can make you feel miserable.
If you’ve found yourself under continuous bouts of stress, or if you’re feeling constantly tired and run down, call my office at (714) 930-1351 to set up an Adrenal Fatigue consultation.