Understanding Adrenal Fatigue
If you're reading this, you've already learned that Adrenal Fatigue is very much an experience of hormonal imbalance.
You also know that Adrenal Fatigue is a root level issue meaning that when you nourish your adrenals, it has a beneficial effect on the rest of your body systems too.
When our body feels better, our mind feels better and life itself begins to feel a whole lot better.
Now we're taking things one layer deeper into the mechanics, supported by research and science-based facts.
A Hormone We Call Cortisol
Cortisol is a steriod hormone, produced from cholesterol in the adrenal glands, which our housed within our endocrine system.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone.
Now before you call out cortisol, it's actually not a bad thing. Cortisol is absolutely necessary for our body's natural functions and wellbeing. Cortisol is the hormone that wakes us up in the morning. Not only that, cortisol is the best anti-inflammatory your body can make.
It's also released when we encounter something stressful, which is a brilliant evolutionary gift. We rely on cortisol to send an SOS (remember, hormones are chemical messengers) to our brain to activate a stress response in our nervous system when we need it.
Cortisol mobilizes our system into action (fight/flight) which can literally save our life if danger is present.
When this happens, two other hormones are released: norepinephrine and adrenaline. This trinity of hormones make us sharper. They give us the ability to think and act quickly. They put us on high alert. For some of us, they make us feel anxious. (ps -- a positive reframe of this is simply energy levels in abundance. more on this later.)
When cortisol rises, our heart rate increases and our muscles tense. We become sensitive to hearing and may experience jumpiness.
Additionally, insulin is inhibited.
Insulin Enters the Stage
When you eat, your body breaks food down into glucose and sends it into the blood. Insulin is a hormone that helps move glucose (sugar) from the blood into your cells. When sugar enters, the cell either uses it or stores it.
Now when cortisol rises, glucose is pulled back into the blood rather than the individual cells in order to have energy for the fight/flight response.
This is what happens when we skip a meal.
If blood sugar dips too low, your body will release cortisol to help bring your blood sugar levels back up.
This can be really problematic for someone with Adrenal Fatigue.
This is because blood sugar balance is a key component to healing from adrenal fatigue.
Eating regularly, not eating too much and avoiding things that are too sugary is a great place to start to restore balance.
Your cortisol demands will stay high.
Over time, as we strain our adrenal glands to meet cortisol demands, our system will use both our water reserves and nutrients it needs to keep up.
This high drive can’t last forever and these glands will start to get tired.
Often our thyroid glands will come to the adrenals aid. This is why it’s quite common for hypothyroidism to show up in conjuction to adrenal fatigue.
When one aspect of our endocrine system is imbalanced, it affects the others indiscriminately.
Put simply, left unattended to, underfunctioning adrenals can lead to an underfunctioning thyroid and vice-versa.
This is when we start to get really tired and inflammation in our body becomes the norm.
This is also when you move from Stage 1 to Stage 2 as outlined below.
Stage 1: Stimulation
Elevated levels of adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol are present.
In many ways, this is a normal stress response and when our adrenal system is functioning optimally, this state is temporary. However, in those experiencing adrenal fatigue it tends to be more chronic.
Often in Stage 1, cortisol levels are high upon waking and stay high, which can lead to insomnia.
Stage 1 often looks + feels like:
• A sense of feeling alert + energized, often coming during or after a wave of anxiety.
• Lack of hunger, trouble sleeping, mind racing, body tense.
• This is the stage that people are least likely to seek support as their symptoms are inconsistent and do not yet impact their day-to-day life.
Stage 2: Depletion
In stage 2, cortisol isn't being produced at the same level. In stage 1, it's a potent fuel. In stage 2, it's produced inconsistently and in bursts.
Inflammation issues may begin arising at this level.
Often in stage 2, cortisol levels are high in the morning upon waking and stay that way until a big dip in the afternoon, which then rise again at night.
Stage 2 often looks + feels like:
• Feeling of depletion
• Periods of higher anxiety followed by period of fatigue, over and over.
• Experiencing bursts of energy for a few hours and then a crash.
• Energy and moods are inconsistent. Craving caffeine + sugar is typical. This may look like needing coffee in the morning to energize and wine at night to wind down.
• Sex hormone imbalances start to show up.
Stage 3: Burnout
At this stage, the adrenal glands are running on empty. Adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA are all low.
Inflammation in the body is persistently present. Inflammation is an indication of dis-ease.
Upon waking, getting out of bed may feel incredibly challenging because cortisol levels have flat-lined and they often stay that way with a possible small uptick at night.
Stage 3 often looks + feels like:
• Everything feels hard.
• Extreme fatigue most of the day.
• Coffee and sugar may produce some energy, but not much.
• PMS, infertility, menopausal challenges, low thyroid, poor digestion
• This is the stage that people most often seek support as their symptoms are persistent and impacting their day-to-day life.
Surviving over thriving.
Survival states are meant to end when we are out of harm's way, but if we are experiencing stress symptoms consistently, our body may believe that we are always in harm's way.
This leads to an overprotective state.
Overprotection leads to a lack of connection.
Connection is what nourishes true health + wellness.
What will you choose?
The choices we make each day may seem insignificant, but repeated over time they make a big difference.
When it comes to Adrenal Fatigue, it's a relief to know that all levels are completely reversible.
When we focus on nourishing our adrenal glands and prioritizing hormonal health, it lays the foundation for a healthy nervous system.
A healthy nervous system leads to connection. Connection leads to a life of fullness.
Vibrancy. Peace. Joy. Inspiration. Creativity. Passion. Pleasure. Synchronicity. Flow States.
A remembrance of our truest nature.
Healing as an ever-flowing embodied state that is available to every being when we create the internal and external conditions that allow for it.
This is what we call creating a Healing Foundation and is a combination of mental perspectives and lifestyle choices that support your desires and intentions.