‘Adrenal fatigue’ supporters say that your adrenal glands, in response to constant stress, lack of quality sleep and too many late nights partying, get really tired and mixed up. They become exhausted by your lifestyle, causing them to excrete less of the hormones you need to be healthy. The result? ADRENAL FATIGUE! Only thing, it’s not entirely true at all!
Adrenal glands and what they do
What are your adrenals?
Your adrenals are two little triangular endocrine (meaning, they make hormones) glands that sit on top of your kidneys. These guys secrete hormones like cortisol, aldosterone, and adrenaline to name a few.
Let’s take a look at each one of these hormones because they’re the ones that most closely relate to ‘adrenal fatigue’.
Cortisol: is released in response to low blood sugar and stress. It increases blood sugar, suppresses the immune system, and helps us metabolize carbohydrates, fat, and protein. When you drink coffee, this can increase your cortisol levels. When you’re not sleeping, or your boss yells at you, or you haven’t eaten all day, these things can increase your cortisol levels too. Cortisol has a role in our sleep, our mood, and even our memory, among plenty of other things.
Aldosterone: regulates how much you pee and how much sodium and potassium your body retains. It helps keep our blood pressure stable.
Adrenaline: is released in response to stress. Ever hear of the ‘fight or flight’ response? That’s adrenaline that causes it. Adrenaline increases blood flow to the muscles, increases blood sugar, and makes your heart pump harder. Exercise increases your body’s epinephrine secretion.
The adrenal glands are part of a pathway that responds to stress. No one said the adrenals weren’t complicated business, but our main question is that of adrenal fatigue, so I will spare you the deep dive into physiology.
Our bodies have to have a mechanism to control and respond to stress, and our adrenals are equipped to do just that, so it’s all good.
Where did ‘adrenal fatigue’ come from?
The term ‘adrenal fatigue’ was invented in 1998, so it’s relatively new. If you look at ‘adrenal fatigue’ sites, they claim that the overuse of your adrenal glands causes the following symptoms:
- Mild depression or anxiety
- Multiple food and or inhalant allergies
- Lethargy and lack of energy
- Increased effort to perform daily tasks
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Dry and thin skin
- Low blood sugar
- Low body temperature
- Heart palpitations
- Unexplained hair loss
- Alternating diarrhea or constipation
Does adrenal fatigue REALLY exist?
The truth is, your adrenal glands don’t get tired! They don’t suffer from an inability to keep pace with your busy lifestyle and crazy stress levels. What if someone told you, ‘Your heart never stops beating, so at some point it’s gonna need a rest! You have cardiac fatigue!’?
There are definitely some real adrenal problems that exist, such as adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison’s Disease. Addison’s Disease is very serious. Interestingly enough, the symptoms of Addison’s Disease, and many other recognized conditions, overlap with many of the symptoms of ‘adrenal fatigue’!
The problem with ‘adrenal fatigue’ testing is that it’s not accurate. Blood hormone levels fluctuate and because ‘adrenal fatigue’ is subclinical, you can’t really detect small shifts in the necessary hormones to diagnose it.
If the symptoms of ‘adrenal fatigue’ are so random and non-specific, and the tests that are done to diagnose it aren’t accurate, how do you know if you have it? And, how do you know if, after a few rounds of supplements you bought off the internet, you’re ‘cured’?
So what if you’re experiencing all or some of the ‘adrenal fatigue’ symptoms?
Organs and glands are made to work until you drop. But, if your life is stressful, it’s time to make some changes. Being stressed all the time is more of a culprit. It is safe to say that chronic high levels of stress can leave that ‘fight or flight’ impulse turned on in your body, and this may cause all sorts of issues like anxiety, lack of sleep, weight gain, digestion issues, and mood disorders among other things. This is more taxing on your heart and nervous system than anything else. And the remedy to your chronic stress may be simple: more sleep, a healthier diet, and better management of stress.
Most of us get too little sleep, we eat not the best food while running from one place to the other, and we rarely get the chance to fully disconnect and chill out. If this sounds like you, it’s probably not your adrenal glands as much as it’s your lifestyle. No supplements, books, or tests for cortisol are going to have a magical effect on this. And if you’re really not feeling well, get yourself checked out. Blaming symptoms on ‘adrenal fatigue’ when they could actually be something worse can be dangerous.
Being a Toronto weight loss coach, I deal with women who are extremely busy and always on the go. It’s easy to get exhausted in this city, when trying to keep up with it’s relentless pace. My clients are no exception and this is why I develop weight loss strategies that accommodate their hectic lifestyle. If you are looking to get fit, while staying energized and focused at work, contact me to set up a free consultation!