Everyone experiences some form of stress regularly, but it can often become a much more serious problem for your body. A stress that is chronic or prolonged can lead to insufficient adrenal gland function. The stressed adrenals can manifest in symptoms such as feeling unwell and fatigued, also known as "adrenal fatigue."
Almost every client I work with has some form of adrenal fatigue or stress show up on their intake forms, however, this means something very different to me than the adrenal fatigue everyone is talking about. Do you REALLY have adrenal fatigue OR is it something much simpler?
Some adrenal fatigue symptoms are:
-Tend to be a “night person”
-Difficulty falling asleep
-Slow starter in the morning
-Tend to be keyed up, trouble calming down
-Calm on the outside, troubled on the inside
-Tendency to need sunglasses
-Chronic fatigue or get drowsy often
-Crave salty foods
However, these VERY adrenal fatigue symptoms are very similar to those of NOT EATING ENOUGH:
Any time that you are NOT meeting your body's needs for energy with adequate fuel, you put stress on your adrenals, since they act as your body's shock absorbers (allowing your body to adapt to stress). This means that any caloric abuse or nutrition neglect is something that your adrenals have to make up for-- by producing stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to get you through the day. Usually, the more severe the adrenal dysfunction, the longer the adrenal stress has been going on.
Additionally, when you inadequately fuel your body, it stimulates the use of glycogen (stored sugar in the liver) for energy. Once your glycogen stores are depleted, tissue breakdown begins (the breakdown of proteins and fat to make glucose [sugar] for energy). According to Dr. Ray Peat, PhD, this process of muscle catabolism releases amino acids such as cysteine, methionine, and tryptophan, which are all anti-metabolic to your thyroid. This happens because it's the body's way of being WISE, by communicating with your thyroid, and telling it to turn down the conversion of active thyroid hormone in order to save your body from running itself into the ground.
You see—when you eat regular nutrient dense meals that give your body what it needs, and when you eat foods that work for your body’s current digestive state, your adrenals don’t have to work very hard. They stay happy, so that in those intense moments of acute stress, they do the job they were put there to do: create energy during times of life threatening stress. However, your adrenals were not meant to withstand the CHRONIC stress that goes on day after day when you aren't meeting your body's demands.
“Thyroid is needed for the adrenals to function well, and adequate cholesterol, as raw material. It’s popular to talk about ‘weak adrenals,’ but the adrenal cortex regenerates very well. Animal experimenters can make animals that lack the adrenal medulla by scooping out everything inside the adrenal capsule, and the remaining cells quickly regenerate the steroid producing tissues, the cortex. So I think the ‘low adrenal’ people are simply low thyroid, or deficient in cholesterol or nutrients.”
-Dr. Ray Peat, PhD
Consider this: if you are currently on a diet (even if it's paleo), cutting calories (starving), eating foods that decrease appetite (like ones you don’t digest well), and/or not managing your blood sugar properly, that's a key reason why you're feeling like your adrenals are fatigued. While adrenal fatigue may be real thing, I think it's better to call it what it really is: the result of dieting, a diet low in carbohydrates, not eating enough, and/or poor blood sugar handling. So if you want to ditch the adrenal fatigue by learning to meet your body's needs without having to do crazy adrenal protocols with expensive supplements (and no results), find out how you can get started learning everything you need here!
If you've explored all that, but you still have fatigue, you'll want to know all about these four lab tests.
Tell me your experience-- have you suffered from adrenal fatigue and if so, were you restricting carbohydrates or not eating enough food?
Peat, Ray. Tryptophan, serotonin, and aging. 2006. Retrieved on August 21, 2014 from http://raypeat.com/articles/aging/tryptophan-serotonin-aging.shtml
Weatherby, Dicken. “Liver and Gallbladder.” Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. Nutritional Therapy Association, 2004. Print.
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