Long-term stress can impact your health in a number of ways. It can deplete your energy, interrupt your sleep, hijack your immune system, and trigger depression or anxiety. It turns out that relentless physical or emotional stress may also cause something called adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a condition that can occur as the result of long lasting physical or emotional stress or an illness. The symptoms of adrenal fatigue can include exhaustion, sleep problems, difficulty waking up, food cravings, a reliance on caffeine, decreased immunity, depression, and irritability.
The source of adrenal fatigue rests with your adrenal glands, which are small glands located on top of your kidneys. When you face a threatening situation, your adrenals spring into action to pump out hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones promote the fight or flight response, which cause physiological changes in your body to help you deal with the imminent danger at hand. Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure rise, muscles tense, and you become hyper-alert. At the same time, some functions that you don’t need in the moment are diminished, such as immunity, certain brain functions, reproductive functions and digestion. When the threat has passed, other hormones kick in to help your body calm down and return to normal.
While the fight or flight response is well-suited to short-term threats, the nature of our lives is that stress is often lingering. An ailing family member, overbearing boss, or financial problems are threats that are rarely short-lived or easily resolved. As a result, your body may be in a perpetual state of fight or flight, with your adrenals working overtime to keep up with your stress.
Adrenal Fatigue or Adrenal Insufficiency?
Adrenal fatigue may be confused with adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency is also called Addison’s disease, in which your adrenal glands begin to fail and can’t produce enough hormones to sustain your health. Symptoms of Addison’s disease include overwhelming fatigue, achiness, digestive problems, low blood pressure, feeling dizzy or light headed, and skin changes such as hyperpigmentation and a loss of body hair. Adrenal insufficiency is caused by some kind of damage to your adrenals or a problem with the pituitary gland in your brain, which regulates the balance and production of your body’s hormones.
In contrast, adrenal fatigue is believed to be a case of the gland underperforming, caused by long-term stress. The symptoms tend to be milder in nature than adrenal insufficiency, and in some cases less clear cut. Where adrenal insufficiency is detected through blood testing and is treatable through medication, this is not the case for adrenal fatigue. Some doctors believe that adrenal fatigue doesn’t exist, because it can’t be diagnosed through a simple blood test. Others say that adrenal fatigue doesn’t produce a large enough drop in adrenal hormones to show up on blood tests, and the tests aren’t sensitive enough to measure smaller variations of adrenal hormones in your blood. However, your levels of cortisol may also be measured through saliva testing. This kind of testing may be more helpful in determining adrenal fatigue, as they can measure your levels throughout the day, and it measures the amount of this hormone that’s available to your body’s tissues.
Adrenal Health and Treating Stress at BodaHealth
It’s clear that high levels of stress are not good for your body in the long run. At BodaHealth, our goal for patients who may be suffering from adrenal fatigue are twofold; to help relieve your stress, and to restore your health. We are well-positioned to do that in the following ways:
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. A number of research studies have documented that acupuncture affects your body in a number of positive ways. It helps to regulate your hormones, including those related to the stress response, through the hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis. Acupuncture also stimulates muscle relaxation and increases the circulation of endorphins, which are chemicals that relieve stress and promote feelings of well-being.
In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and nutritional therapy may be used as an effective way to increase your energy, reduce your symptoms, and restore your health.
Naturopathic Medicine. Our naturopathic physicians are a crucial part of our team when working with patients who have adrenal fatigue. They are able to perform blood and saliva testing to determine the levels of your adrenal hormones. In addition, they will dig deeper by assessing your dietary status, digestion, exposure to environmental toxins, and overall health. Our naturopaths can prescribe herbs, supplements, prescription medications, and hormones to correct any deficiencies or imbalances that you may have. They will also provide nutritional and lifestyle strategies to support the healing process.
Nutrition. Whether delivered by our practitioners of Chinese medicine or naturopathic physicians, the role of nutrition in addressing stress and adrenal fatigue is a key component of your return to full health. Poor diet, food cravings, loss of appetite, and nutritional deficiencies only aggravate your symptoms and contribute to your fatigue. At BodaHealth, we understand how important nutrition is to healing, and offer a number of strategies, including dietary planning, supplements, and vitamin injections, to return you to health and full functioning as quickly as possible.
Massage Therapy. Rest, self-care, and stress relief are also important parts of the therapeutic picture when treating adrenal fatigue. Therapeutic massage offers all of those benefits and more. It is restful, helps promote deep relaxation, and offers the gift of self-care. Massage works to loosen tight muscles, promote better sleep, relieve pain, and establish a sense of well-being.
Adrenal fatigue may be hard to diagnose is some cases, but the negative impact of chronic physical or emotional stress is clear. It depletes your energy and hampers some of your body’s systems from functioning fully. At BodaHealth, we offer a number of treatments and strategies to help relieve your stress, and restore your body’s energy and optimal well-being. If you’re dealing with chronic stress or the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, we’d like to help you. Contact us today to find out how.
Articles used for information: