Adrenal fatigue is becoming a common term in the modern world but what exactly is it? Let’s start by looking at what your adrenal glands actually do.
“Your adrenal glands allow your hormones to send chemical messages around your body, telling your cells what to do.”
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and regulate many of your hormones. They essentially allow your hormones to send chemical messages around your body, telling your cells what to do. This includes your main stress hormone cortisol which is also your daytime energy hormone. Your cortisol is for giving you the alertness to get out of bed in the morning, so it’s a hormone you definitely need, but only in just the right amount.
Adrenal fatigue is a term used to explain that your adrenal glands have struggled to keep up with the demands of stress.
“Adrenal fatigue is when your adrenal glands struggle to keep up with the demands of stress.”
Nowadays, we experience the hormonal, physical and physiological changes that accompany stress, a lot more regularly and for longer periods of time, than our traditional ancestors. Our ancestors were only under threat from predators or famine several times a year.
Whereas, nowadays we experience the demands of the modern world on a daily basis. This means that our adrenal glands keep producing cortisol to keep us alert. This leaves us feeling stressed or anxious and diminishes the quality of what little time we have left to relax.
“Many people who experience prolonged stress run into adrenal fatigue at some point.”
Many people who experience prolonged stress run into adrenal fatigue at some point. Let’s take a closer look at how this happens:
When our adrenal glands are constantly perceiving stress, high cortisol leads to a continuous cycle where the brain becomes hard-wired in a constant state of ‘flight or fight’. When our adrenal glands are working in overdrive, this leads to exhaustion, commonly referred to as 'burn out'.
When we are continuously in adrenal overdrive, eventually we will reach a tipping point where our adrenals just can’t cope and end up flatlining. When this happens, you will feel fatigued, exhausted and you may become moody or start craving salty and sweet foods and caffeinated beverages. These are just some of the signs of adrenal fatigue.
"When we are continuously in adrenal overdrive, eventually we will reach a tipping point where our adrenals just can’t cope and end up flatlining."
We often think of adrenal fatigue as a condition you either have or you don’t, but adrenal fatigue, like thyroid conditions, has a scale. You may not have full-blown fatigue yet, but you could be well on your way. If you think you might have some level of adrenal fatigue, try these 4 ways to naturally nurture your adrenal glands.
Stress the big culprit when it comes to adrenal fatigue. This is because when we perceive stress it stimulates the release of cortisol. This response starts by sending messages from the hypothalamus, down to the pituitary gland and through to the adrenal glands, based on what’s lighting up our brain.
“Stress the big culprit when it comes to adrenal fatigue.”
Calming the mind is very beneficial for quieting the physiology of the body and activates your parasympathetic nervous system. Meditation, restorative yoga and massage therapy are all great ways to help calm your mind, reduce your body’s stress levels and enhance energy and wellbeing. If you’d like to try meditation we recommend using these apps, 1 Giant Mind or Insight Timer.
Magnesium is not only important for muscle relaxation, it’s also vital for good quality sleep. Good quality sleep is necessary for your cortisol levels to come back to normal balance. Add more magnesium into your diet with this Breakfast Rice Pudding recipe.
“Sleep is vital for your cortisol levels to come back to normal balance.”
Research has shown that magnesium increases sleep time, sleep efficiency, sleep time hormone melatonin and decreases serum cortisol concentration. So it’s incredibly important we have good magnesium status.
Simple breathing exercises can help us cultivate a healthy relationship with stress, giving you more energy in your life.
This is because, while we don’t have any conscious control over our autonomic nervous system, we do have the ability to directly tap into it by controlling our breathing. Your breathing can directly change physiological parameters such as blood pressure and helps to switch off your ‘flight or fight’ response, activating your ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic nervous system. There are many breathing exercises you can try from diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing and yogic breathing to name a few.
“Taking stimulants at any time of the day will impact your quality of sleep.”
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