Chronic stress has to steal to keep going. Our stress response was designed for short-term action. See danger, get away, recover. Modern life usually has different stressors like work, money, relationships, etc., but the body interprets all stress as though that it is under attack and needs to flee and there is little or no recovery time.
For the body to continue its stress response, it keeps producing cortisol which causes the release of glucose. This fuels the cells and muscles for flight. Excessive production of cortisol prevents the body from producing other needed chemicals like estrogen, testosterone, and progestrone. It literally steals it away so that it can continue to make cortisol. This not only causes deficiencies of many hormones, but ultimately adrenal fatigue and exhaustion.
So how do you tell this is happening? You know you’re stressed but how bad is it?
Signs of Adrenal Fatigue
- Fatigue – especially noted is difficulty getting going in the morning and getting a 2nd wind later in the day around 5 p.m. or so. This is classic.
- Easily overwhelmed
- Salt or sweet cravings
- Urinary frequency
- Hair loss
- Light-headed or dizzy when quickly standing up
- Decreased libido
- Brain fog
Testing at home:
An easy test, best done with another person, in a darkened room. Shine a flashlight from the side of the head across one eye. Do not shine directly into the eye. The pupil should constrict and be able to hold without wavering for a couple of minutes. If the size starts to waver or enlarge in 10-30 seconds that is a positive sign for adrenal distress. The shorter the time, the greater the fatigue.
One of the best test is a 4 sample saliva test. Because cortisol levels change during the day, the 4 samples are needed to see if levels are in the correct range throughout the day.
How to Help the Adrenals
- Decreasing stress is #1.
- If you tend to repeat alarming thoughts or constantly worry, force yourself to think about something else, take deep breaths, focus on your breathing. There’s very little that can be accomplished by racing thoughts at 3 a.m.
- Exercise helps the body to better handle stress as well as clear out the various chemicals released because of the stress response.
- Avoid stimulants. They further tax an already taxed system.
- Sleep. Ideally getting to bed before 10 p.m.
- Eat nutrient rich foods, lean protein, wide variety of vegetables, good fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and omega 3s from fish.
- Food sources of vitamin C and B complexes and whole food supplements of vitamin C and B complexes.
- Herbal Considerations: There are a number of beneficial herbs. It would probably be best to take a combination of these either in a liquid formula or as a complex. Some good choices are Rehmannia, Eleuthero, and Ashwaganda.
Stress can cause havoc in any area of the body if it goes unchecked. Long term stress that’s been stealing resources will require nutrients, herbs and lifestyle changes to get you back on track.