I am writing this article as a victim of stress induced Adrenal Fatigue. Since late 2009 am I suffering acutely from this condition and now want to shed some light on my experiences. I am sure there are a multitude of people of are, often severly, suffering from symptoms that they can not quite attribute a certain “disease”. It is to those people that I write with the hope of giving hope.
I will not go into every detail of Adrenal Fatigue (or Adrenal Insufficiency) and the possible symptoms because that would be too long an article. Rather, based on my experience and research, I want to give you a summary of the topic in 7 sections.
1) Stress and Adrenal Activity Explained
2) Types of People most Commonly Affected
3) Early Stage Symptoms
4) Acute / Late Stage Symptoms
5) Finding Answers
6) Conventional Medicine's Failure
7) Wisdom, Insights and Help
1) Stress and Adrenal Activity Explained:
Stress is a term that refers to a state in which a pressure exists to change the current state of “something”. In our case the “something” is the physical / mental / emotional state of the person. Stress in itself is not a bad thing, especially if it is often enough interrupted by stress-less phases. Stress is the initiator of muscle growth, for example, a fact that is made use of by everyone in the world through physical activity.
The adrenal glands sit on each kidney and produce 2 critical hormones (among some other things): Adrenalin and Cortisol, which in a healthy environment, will work together to let the human body and mind function under pressure (and the calm that should usually follow ). Under stress adrenalin production is increased, which is then followed by cortisol production (through a feedback loop). The adrenalin will make sure that you have the heightened awareness when you need it. The cortisol will then kick in to provide a calming and anti-inflammatory effect. If this would not be the case, you would stay in an aggravated state for much longer than necessary.
In Adrenal Fatigue, the cortisol part of the equation is the most important aspect. In a scenario where stress is constant, the adrenals will produce adrenalin and cortisol in a response to the constant stress. The body can keep up with adrenalin production to handle the stress but is can not do the same for the cortisol production. The result is a lack of cortisol in the body and, therefore, a lessened ability to relax and stay calm. You now start to see symptoms of increased nervousness (mental mostly) and inflammation of the body (organs such as the intestines for example).
a) Stress causes adrenalin production to increase needed awareness
b) increased adrenalin production causes cortisol production
c) cortisol causes relaxation, calmness and an anti-inflammatory state of the body / mind
It is at c) that we run into a problem when we lack the necessary cortisol amounts
2) Who is Affected Most
If we absorb the same living conditions and stressors on all character types, we would find that there is a certain type that is most prone to be affected by Adrenal problems. I am referring to a character that is very emotional, eager to please and that takes all problems he encounters in life on himself and tries to responsibly solve them. This character type will not make his discomfort known (not even to himself sometimes) to anyone till it is too late. He / She does not know or acknowledge their limits, often because they feel it foolish to stop at the first point of resistance. If you push beyond the limit for too long, it becomes normal for you to do so, and the future collapse is unavoidable.
Here are some character traits I see as very intolerable to Adrenal Fatigue:
– Eager to Please
– Avoiding Confrontations
– Leaning towards Introversion (tends to avoid Social Situations, for example)
– Seeking Recognition
3) Early Stage Symptoms:
To be able to understand the early symptoms, you must have experienced the late / acute stage of Adrenal Fatigue. The reason is that the early symptoms are easily overlooked because you can not connect them to an Adrenal issue, yet. Only the later symptoms are clearly recognizable. It is as if you have a problem of which you are not aware it even exists, yet.
Now, since we are dealing with a hormonal problem, every aspect of the human body and psyche can be affected (some more consistently than others depending on the person). Also, it is important to understand that the adrenals control the water balance (through salt levels) in the body and this fact alone accounts for many symptoms. The list below shows important early symptoms as I have experienced them. The list is not complete by any means but sometimes naming too many can be confusing to the reader.
– Sugar Cravings
– Depression and Racing Thoughts (feeling of going insane)
– Muscle Weakness (felt in Legs and Arms first)
– Dry Mouth (for days after physical exertion)
– Stomach Cramps
– Inability to Relax (for days after physical exercise)
– Nervous System Problems such as Muscle Twitching, Shaky Hands
– Increased Urinating (usually clearer in color than normal; especially after physical exertion)
– Trouble Falling Asleep (sudden “jolts” re-awaken you just as you are about to fall sleep)
– Waking up often during the night (usually coupled with Urinating)
– Sudden Noises cause Heart Racing
Low Blood Pressure
The 'connecting thread' is that the symptoms get aggravated by physical exercise (and mental exertion to a lesser extend). The reason for this is the reduced ability of the Adrenals to come up with the necessary hormone amounts needed to keep the body working in balance.
4) Acute / Late Stage Symptoms
At this stage the adrenals clearly can not keep cortisol production at a level required for the body to function. We see a myriad of symptoms showing the body and mind breaking under pressure. Below are the major symptoms I experienced:
– Rapid Weight Loss – approx. 15 lbs over 1 week
– Extreme Weakness
– Hair Loss
– Stomach Irritation / Bloating and Intestinal Cramping and Bloating
– Very Low Blood Pressure and High Pulse
– Panic Attacks and Heart Racing ESPecially at Night Between 3-5am
– Constant Urination and Muscle Spasms after any Physical Exertion (eg 15min of Jogging)
– Difficulty Falling Asleep and Inability to Stay Asleep for More than 3 Consecutive Hours
– Inability to Stay Asleep for More than 3 Consecutive Hours
– Digestion Related Organs Working at Minimum
– Inflamed Stomach, Intestines, Liver and Bladder (Fear of Eating Anything)
– Uncontrollable Emotional Outbursts (crying, etc.)
– Short Term Memory Loss
– Inability to Concentrate
There are many more but it suffices to say that feeling is of imminent death. At this point the individual is desperate for help and answers.
5) Finding Answers and Help
As humans we all tend to seek help ever when the pain increases beyond our tolerable limit. Many look too late or at the wrong place. I made both these mistakes. I did not recognize 10 years or early symptoms and when I finally got to the acute stage, I ran to many conventional doctors. The only correct thing I did was to intensively research my symptoms and try to correlate them to any known disease / syndrome. This research has given me a lot more knowledge of the human body and mind over about 3 years. The best place for info is the Internet. You have access to books (or you can buy them), articles, other people's experiences and all other general human physiology websites.
If you are lucky enough to have another person close to you that has gone through this, they might be your best hope and have solutions. I say “may” because many people with adrenal problems will resort to the wrong solutions that are no solutions at all.
6) Conventional Medicine's Failure
The only person that can help you in any crisis is a sincere friend that sticks by you till the end. Your helper can never be someone that is paid by you. Your helper can not be someone you see 3-4 times a year. Your helper can not be someone that does not know you personally.
I forgot how many tests I ran, how many doctors I saw and how many specialists I went to. But in the 18 months that I pursued that course there were very many.
Conventional medicine as it exists today is a failure. I now see that there no way it will never be able to help anyone in a “real”, repeating way. Yes, a doctor can mend a broken bone or perform bypass-surgery. That, however, has nothing to do with finding the cause of a problem and getting rid of it once and for all or at the very least giving you the steps to get rid of it. “Here is a painkiller”, or “Here is an anti-depressant” are just quick easy ways out. But the masses go for it every time – maybe because they do not know any better, maybe because they do not want to know any better.
Conventional medicine relies on testing the body in one way or another which usually usually boils down to blood testing. The problem with performing blood tests is that human body is made to compensate for shortcomings by finding alternative sources in the body (eg. Lack of calcium will be drawn from the teeth in many cases). That means that your blood can appear within tolerance while at the very same time your body struggles to somehow keep it there. To a doctor you appear to be healthy while you yourself know that you can not sleep for more than 3 hours per night and struggle to eat. Conventional testing will only show abnormalities when it is already very late.
7) Advice and Wisdom
I do not know everything but I will tell you what I do know and what I have painfully experienced over the last 14 years.
It is important to recognize that there is no quick fix to adrenal issues. You generally can not fix a problem faster that it took to develop. In other words, 2 years of negative has to be followed by 2 years of positive to even out. This is approximate, of course, but it is a truth that is overlooked by virtually everyone that is desperate to get better.
Do not seek help from anyone that is winning from helping you in any way. They will be biased. It might be a subconscious bias but it will be there. Help must always be free to be real help. I, therefore, counsel you to avoid conventional doctors at all cost (if you must then get a painkiller, for example, to keep on functioning). If you do go the conventional medicine route, you can still get better – it just be a longer and more painful process.
Avoid “chemical” medicine at all cost. Cortisol supplements, for example, are prescribed by many doctors in adrenal insufficiency cases because they are powerful and quick acting. The patient will fall good again but you have just covered up the problem for a while, not solved it.
It is very important to understand that the physical manifestation of symptoms has its source in the mental / emotional / spiritual. In other words, you perceive and then you act – not the other way around.
So my advice is two-fold. The two fronts you must fight back on are:
a) The non-physical – Mental / Emotional / Spiritual
b) The Physical
a) The things to aim for are:
– Give it Time – months to years (not days)
– Peaceful Settings (Nature, etc.)
– Rest the Mind and the Soul (minimizeize anxiety of any kind)
– Quietness (minimum loud noises, TV, Radio, crowds, etc.)
The above are critical but for the character types affected by Adrenal Fatigue, these are also the hardest to work towards. Reason being, the very things that are bad for you make you feel better in the short term (workouts, parties, loud music, smoking, etc.) because they boost adrenalin. Now, since you will unfortunately want to feel normal again you might be tempted to welcome all adrenaline boosting activities. I have experienced this loop for countless years – running around on the soccer field for an hour and feeling on top of the world for 2-3 hours after that. But after the adrenalin boost subsides you realize that you now have to pay the price (for many days in fact) because your body never had enough reserves you needed to recuperate.
I will go as far as saying that in Adrenal Fatigue you need discipline to recover – do not listen to your body in most cases. Always put less strain on yourself than you feel you can handle.
b) The things to aim for are:
– Give it Time
– No Strenuous Exercise except walking outside
– No Smoking, Drinking, Coffee or other Stimulants
– No Loud Noises or Crowds
And now to a hands-on approach of what has helped me a lot.
– Drink Good Mineral Water – 2-3 Liters per day
– Drink Herbal Teas – I found the 3 best ones to be:
1) Passion Flower – Calms the Nervous System
2) Calendula / Mariegold – Anti-Inflammatory Healing Action (Internal)
3) Licorice Root – Slows the Breakdown of your Remaining Cortisol
– Stop Eating all White / Refined Sugar (use Coconut or Date Sugar Instead)
– Only use “Real” Salt that has the Full Range of Minerals
– Stop Buying any Packaged Food (Cans, Pre-Packaged Soups, Frozen Dinners, etc.)
– Stop Eating Out (especially Fast Food)
– Stay Away from Refined Flowers – and very Importantly, Avoid all Gluten
– Buy Organic Fruit, Vegetables, Grains, Meat whenever you can afford it
– Eat Raw Foods when Reasonable (Salads, etc)
– Go Outside for Walks (and Picnics, etc.) whenever you can (Fresh Air is Important)
– Do not have a Microwave in the House
If you are suffering from symptoms that you believe to be related to a hormonal imbalance due to prolonged stress, I urge you to start changing your ways now. You will find that it will be hard to change your lifestyle and that there will be many set-backs. But there is no need to do it all at once. Do it slowly but with resolve. You will eventually start to see the world in another light, a more enlightened light, that is the result of separating yourself from the so-called 'normal' life.
I do realize that you can not change certain life situations because some things in relationships and work need to be “lived with”. Not everything that you perceive as being bad for you can be tossed away just like that.
I hope that you will change the things you can and rest assured that if you search you will find.