Adrenal fatigue and burnout – what are your adrenals and how do you look after them?
Adrenal fatigue and burnout are the most common issues I see in my clinic. I find the adrenals are underlying so many of our health problems, even if people don’t come to see me for fatigue. So I thought I’d talk a little bit more about your adrenal glands – what they are, how they may be affecting your health and what you can do about adrenal burnout and adrenal imbalances. If you have any questions about adrenal problems and want to find out more about how I may be able to support you, then do get in touch.
So what are your adrenals and what do you need to know?
If you imagine 2 walnut-sized glands that sit on top of your kidneys… these are your adrenal glands. They are responsible for production and release of your stress hormones, predominantly cortisol and adrenaline, as well as other hormones.
When we get stressed out and remain continually stressed, our adrenal glands produce various hormones that help our bodies to manage the stress we are experiencing. And when we were cave men and women, actually helped us to stay alive.
So why do our adrenals become fatigued? Well the “fight or flight stress response” is only meant to be a temporary state. A tiger or bear comes along, we produce hormones which help us to fight or run, until we’re out of danger. But fast forward to our modern day lives, and we’re pretty much remaining in the stress response all the time!
Imagine sitting in your car and revving constantly… what happens? Eventually you will run out of fuel – this is the same with our adrenals. If stress is equivalent to putting your foot on the accelerator continually… your car will still function, but it may not function optimally after a while! And eventually will run out of fuel!
Just a little bit of stress is okay…
It’s important to say that it’s okay to be stressed and rev the engine every so often. In fact it’s good for us! Yet it’s also vital to recognise when we’re over-stressed, continually overwhelmed, burning out and not balancing our stress with times of relaxation.
Often we don’t realise the impact over-working our adrenals can have on so many areas of our bodies, and here are some of the things to look out for and be aware of:
- Continual tiredness
- Feeling like a heavy weight is on your shoulders continually; particularly in the mornings.
- Difficulty managing any level of stress – when your adrenals are fatigued, even small stressors can leave you tired and emotional
- Niggley digestive issues
- PMT and hormonal imbalances, fertility problems
- Low sex drive
How to test for Adrenal Imbalances and Adrenal Fatigue?
There can be many reasons why you could be experiencing fatigue and difficulty managing stress. So the first point of call is to have a chat with your GP or medical consultant. They can offer an adrenal test, but it’s unlikely to pick up adrenal fatigue as this is more of a functional deficiency, rather than an illness.
I offer a number of adrenal tests in my clinic – both using saliva testing and also DUTCH testing (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones). These tests enable us to look at how your adrenals are performing on a functional level – with measurements of cortisol, DHEA and other adrenal metabolites. If you are interested in adrenal fatigue testing, then do get in touch.
Here are my 3 top tips for simple ways to look after your adrenal glands
If you suspect you could have adrenal fatigue or imbalances, then there are a number of areas you can begin to work on with your diet and lifestyle. Here are my top 3 tips:
- Focus on Blood Sugar Balancing and Stop your Diet from Adding to the Stress Load: our daily “stress buckets” are full enough, so you don’t want your diet to add to your stress load. Keep your blood sugar levels balanced with regular meals incorporating protein with every meal, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds or pulses. And reduce the amount of sugar and white carbs you have in your diet. In my experience, intermittent fasting is not a good idea for someone suffering from adrenal stress.
- Don’t over-train! For some, a solution for dealing with stress is exercise, because it helps to release feel good endorphins. However, my advice would be, if you know you are suffering from stress, don’t go and start intense exercise. Things such as long runs, spinning and intense cardio might actually place more stress on your adrenal glands if you’re fatigued. Definitely exercise… but choose more relaxing and restorative forms of movement such as yoga, Pilates, gentle jogs or walk/jog/walk/jog, swimming and walking in the forest.
- Pace yourself. If your body is tired, give yourself time. Go to bed early, take ten minutes to breathe or meditate, read a book or have a long bath. If you are going through a stressful period, recognise it and be pro-active in helping yourself and not being afraid to ask those around you for help.
For more information about helping your adrenals, you can go to my Youtube channel here to watch my video all about adrenal fatigue – or click on the video link below.