"I have adrenal fatigue"
It breaks my heart each time I hear a client say these words. You can see and feel the sense of control fade away as these words hang in the air. All that remains in the silence is a profound sense of helplessness - my adrenals...they've given up on me.
Often this phrase has come from a well meaning practitioner or a self diagnosis while trying to figure out why you feel empty and broken and just so tired all the time. I refer to it as feeling like someone is playing with a dimmer switch on your vitality or like you are a muted version of yourself.
But I detest that phrase 'adrenal fatigue' because it's simply not true. Your adrenals aren't tired. They definitely aren't fatigued. And they haven't given up on you. They are protecting you from, well, you. And this means once you understand how your choices are impacting your health (and your adrenals), you can make small sustainable changes and see your health return to the robust level you deserve.
Don't love science?
Your Health Message is that your body loves you and is doing the best it can with the resources you are giving it. To protect you, sometimes the experiences we want have must be put on the back burner so our bodies can focus on the things we need.
Want to get a little nerdy? Science time!
Our adrenals are little pyramid shaped organs that 'sit' above our kidneys in our lower to mid back on the back of the body.
They govern three things in our body - sex, sugar, and salt. They are busy little worker bees! It's an epic understatement to say they play a key role in not only keeping us alive, but also helping us thrive... BUT ONLY WHEN OUR SURVIVAL IS GUARANTEED AND FELT BY THE BODY.
Yes. I just yelled that at you. It's a key point in our health. Above all else, please remember that our bodies are looking to feel a sense of guaranteed survival before they can shift gears from
'oh, no, this person may not live'
'oh, yes, let's give this person all of the juicy goodness they want out of life!'.
When you undergo a stressful experience - mental, emotional, physical - the adrenal glands are obligated to pump out cortisol. Cortisol is amazing and wonderful and helps you run away from a predator. It's the shining star of our Sympathetic Nervous System (aka 'fight or flight' mode or as I call it 'survival mode'). The thing about cortisol is that it is actually very stressful on the body because it is forcing a LOT of resources to mobilize. Therefore, over time a decision has to be made to put the brakes on it.
It's like if you were in a car driving away from a threat. You would hold the gas down as long as possible until you HAVE to hit the brakes to keep from going off a cliff.
The body handles cortisol the same way.
It has to hit the brakes because the damage is building up, and it needs you to rest so it can repair the damage. And repair takes a lot of resources so you don't get the energy that you want. You can't.
Maybe you push yourself harder and harder and your body goes to the backup reserve system of adrenaline for the slightest stressor. And the crash on the other side of that is nasty. You can feel wired and tired or completely crashed out after your energy burst.
If you ever feel too exhausted to do gentle yoga, but feel amazing with an aggressive workout, that's a clue that your body has shifted to using adrenaline for stress. It's a powerful wake up to start paying attention to your choices and prioritize self care and rest.
So what do you do?
Thank your body for keeping you alive.
Appreciate all of the choices it makes every day for you - they are the best choices and most logical (even if they aren't what you want).
Take inventory of the choices you make because they impact the choices your body makes.
Are you hydrated?
Do you get enough sleep?
Are you moving your body in a way that is natural and fun and works into your life?
Do you breathe shallow or deeply?
Are you eating to fuel your body?
What thoughts are you feeding your mind with?
These are all things we can control - even if we need help formulating a plan and some accountability.
There can also be deeper imbalances in our bodies that take more investigation such as if there is hidden toxicity, microbial overgrowths, or unique blockages. Thankfully all of these can be assessed and addressed with a functional medicine mindset.
Ready to take the next step? Schedule your free Health Strategy Call today here.
Yours in healthing and wellness,
P.S. Remember above when I said the adrenals govern sugar, salt, and sex? In a follow up blog, I'll dive into this deeper so you can really appreciate your lovely adrenal glands even more.