If, like many women, you have difficulty getting up in the morning, feel tired for much of the day and are easily overwhelmed by stress, you could be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Conventional medicine doesn’t recognise adrenal fatigue as a condition, but there’s no ignoring the fact that these common symptoms, suffered by so many, can’t be overlooked and simply blamed on a busy lifestyle.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of symptoms that occur when the adrenal glands are no longer able to make the stress hormone cortisol in response to stress, in the right amounts and at the right times.
When your body and mind are under stress for long periods of time, your adrenals have to keep firing to supply you with the cortisol you need – a function designed to happen only in a fight or flight situation.
If this continues, the adrenals reach a stage when they can no longer do their job properly.
The top five causes
Physical stress in the form of acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections, such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia, can trigger adrenal fatigue and leave you with symptoms such as low energy levels and weakened immunity.
It might surprise you to find out some other factors that can place the body in stress mode.
Lack of sleep
We’re getting less sleep than we need – with over 35 per cent of Kiwis suffering from inadequate sleep. The result is overworked adrenals that need to keep producing increased amounts of stress hormones.
Health advice dictates that we keep our cholesterol levels lower and lower, but without adequate cholesterol our adrenal glands can’t make sufficient hormones.
To make sufficient amounts of adrenal hormones, we need a healthy supply of B vitamins and minerals.
A 2016 report in Australia found that less than four per cent of the population consumed enough vegetables, with more than a third of people getting their total daily energy intake from nutrient-poor foods like sugary drinks, alcohol, cakes and pastries.
A diet based on refined carbs, sugar and processed foods increases strain on the adrenals, reducing the ability to make hormones.
Because these hormones help manage the mineral levels, inadequate adrenal hormones can lead to further loss of minerals.
Low magnesium levels
A combination of nutrient-poor diets and chronic stress has resulted in a large number of us becoming deficient in magnesium.
Lower magnesium levels increase the risk of insomnia and poor sleep, which in turn raises stress levels.
This leads to further loss of magnesium and poorer sleep and even higher stress levels.
Too much sugar
Diets high in sugar lead to increased production of the adrenal stress hormones because of unstable blood sugar levels – this places further strain on the adrenals.