According to statistics, 80 percent of adults will experience adrenal fatigue during their lifetime. The situation in South Africa has become increasingly disturbing as a large percentage of the population describe their amount of stress as “unmanageable” and their exhaustion “unbearable”. This sentiment includes youngsters who are also experiencing a disturbing degree of tiredness.
Stress and cortisol alteration are mostly responsible for ongoing fatigue, but thyroid dysfunction, Insulin resistance, Insomnia, sex hormones deficiencies (testosterone and estrogen), reduced Methylation, Mitochondrial dysfunction, etc. are also in the game.
There is no reason for us to guess which main mechanism is responsible for producing your particular fatigue as we already have (in integrative medicine) the correct tools to precisely identify the causes.
During stress, at the expense of biological mechanisms not essential for immediate survival, cortisol facilitates reactions in the body that are crucial for surviving imminent danger (E.g. The body believes you are running away from a lion!). These processes include:
- increasing the amount of glucose available to the muscles and brain,
- inhibiting insulin production to prevent glucose from being stored,
- increasing blood flow,
- and suppressing immunity.
Chronic stress leads to long-term suppressed immunity, shut down of the parasympathetic system necessary for gut functioning (leading to indigestion and leaky gut) up-regulation of transsulfuration that diminishes proper methylation for switching on and off genes responsible for cancers, that contribute to damaged glucose homeostasis and can lead to detrimental effects on insulin resistance and cardio-metabolic syndrome.
If you are growing belly fat despite exercise and proper diet, it could be your cortisol causing the chaos!
When we have adrenal dysfunction, our body is focused on producing cortisol and, often, the body will sacrifice other hormones such as progesterone, testosterone, estrogen and DHA, to produce more cortisol. This is known as “thieving the hormones”. Women who have been under enormous stress often have low progesterone with estrogen dominance and heavy or longer menstrual bleeding.
If the stress persists, the patient feels tired and stressed and eventually burned out without realizing the dangerous effects of adrenal fatigue that can increase mortality!
The usual symptoms are:
- Fatigue – Especially in the afternoon (Often higher energy level at 11pm if person did not fall asleep by 9pm) but progressively a person will feel fatigue in the morning and profound exhaustion
- Frequent flu and other infections
- Muscle weakness
- Increased allergies: eczema, hay fever, asthma
- Irritability, anxiety, and inability to handle any stress
- Cravings for sugar or salt
- Weight gain (visceral fat, insulin resistance) some patients become very severe with adrenal fatigue
- Decreased libido
- Poor memory and brain fog
- Susceptibility to cancers and autoimmunity
- Menstrual problems
Depending on some symptoms, duration of fatigue and degree of system dysfunctions severity of stress and adrenal fatigue can be graded into mild, moderate and severe. Again we don’t need to guess what are the situation exacerbating a fatigue.
ADRENAL FATIGUE- IS IT REAL?
It happens to many of you that are feeling fatigued that your fatigue gets dismissed, misdiagnosed or simply missed by conventional medical doctors. There is an understanding that ADRENAL FATIGUE is not real. The process is complex, but I will try to simplify for you.
The capacity of tissues and cells to respond to stress in a successful way depends on the compound mechanism governed by the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal Axis (HPA Axis).
The HPA axis – the hypothalamus and the pituitary control the adrenal production of cortisol through circadian and stress signals in the brain and negative feedback inhibitions. It means that the brain is monitoring the situation in our bodies in response to stress (all the time) and it’s determining how much cortisol should be produced by the adrenals. It then sends the correct signals to the adrenal glands to either increase or decreases the production based on what it is observing in the body.
So adrenal fatigue is an incorrect term as the adrenals don’t become fatigued but rather there is an HPA axis dysregulation.
Additionally, the endocrine societies all over the world say adrenal fatigue is not a real medical condition, and they stipulate that there are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, physical or nutritional stress drains the adrenal glands.
But searching for hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction in PubMed gives almost 20 000 results that conventional doctors can not ignore. According to conventional medicine there are two conditions related to adrenal problems and altered cortisol level:
- Cushing Syndrome with a high cortisol production and,
- Addison disease with no cortisol production (adrenal failure)
It is acknowledged that many chronic diseases are Psychosomatic and worsened by stress, but there is no acknowledgment that HPA axis dysregulation or let us call it adrenal fatigue- exists.
In essence, during ongoing stress, our body starts activating that mechanism which should only be there to protect us from an imminent danger and is now there permanently (forever running away from a lion will eventually exhaust you!).
That shifts and re-directs many processes in our organism related to adrenalin and cortisol (two hormones produced in the adrenals) such as corticotrophin hormone receptor down-regulation, impaired cortisol signaling, locally decreased cortisol bioavailability, maladaptive responses, the negative feedback, etc. The process is very complicated but in a simplified way it reduces our tissue and cells capacity to respond to stress in a successful way.
During that process, our cortisol can go from high to low. But more importantly, our body can develop many debilitating symptoms and diseases as a result of the incapacity mentioned above.
Stress that has been extremely high in 2016 and will certainly not decrease in 2017. Applying generalized anti-stress methods can help to some extent, but they have a limited effect, in moderate to severe adrenal fatigue. In other words, if you were fatigued most of the last year the chances that a few weeks of the holiday will recover you are slim. Finding the real cause, identifying a degree of adrenal fatigue and applying science-based interventions in the particular case is an aim of integrative medicine, and often it takes months (up to 12 months in moderate adrenal fatigue) before the body can restore equilibrium in health and order.
8th sense uses integrative medical approach to address stress and fatigue in a personalized way identifying your particular situation.