Tired in the morning (and all day really) and wired in the evening. By tired I mean absolutely exhausted. The kind of tired that you feel behind your eyes and makes you want to crawl in a cave and hide from the world so no one will ask anything from you. That’s how I’d describe what I later realized was adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
The symptoms I experienced included…
- Waking up exhausted and staying exhausted for the majority of the day, regardless of the amount of sleep I had the night before.
- Bursts of energy right before bed. Finally at 10PM I felt like I had energy to do stuff when I was supposed to be winding down for the day.
- Even though I eventually felt exhausted, I had insomnia and experienced night sweats and heart racing.
- I had brain fog and memory issues, but in all fairness that could have been from a combo of the thyroid and adrenal issues I was experiencing.
Other symptoms may include: weakness, trouble focusing, confusion, forgetfulness, lack of follow through, digestive issues, depression, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety and trouble doing basic things that used to be easy.
How do I test for adrenal fatigue?
The first thing to do is to find an integrative or functional health care professional who has the proper tests for you. Adrenal fatigue is not something that is recognized by many conventional doctors, which is exactly what I experienced in my journey, even though approximately 80% of people will undergo adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives do to our crazy non-stop lifestyles.
Based on my own experience and listening to experts who specialize in this field, the best test for adrenal fatigue is saliva testing for adrenal hormones. You spit into a tube four times throughout your day to measure your cortisol and hormone levels.
The results indicated my adrenals were in adrenal exhaustion (highest stage of adrenal fatigue). My numbers were so bad it was suggested that adrenal fatigue probably started happening in my body five (or more) years before I took the saliva test.
I was skeptical, but realized it was around that time that I experienced some extremely stressful life changing situations with my career and my divorce. It made sense. It also explained why I felt less motivated and productive for the last couple of years.
What causes adrenal fatigue?
The short answer is stress. When our body feels threatened or wants to protect us, it goes into fight or flight mode and releases a stress hormone through the adrenals. That stress can be a major life event (divorce, death of a loved one). It can also be what I call “subtle stress” (lifestyle factors, emotional health, mindset). The things in life that are creating stress for our body but we don’t necessarily consciously experience it as stress. For example, over eating creates stress on our system but it usually doesn’t stress us out mentally.
When our bodies experience large amounts of stress over an extended period of time, our adrenal glands basically burn out and fail to produce the necessary cortisol/hormones our bodies need to remain healthy.
As adrenals are part of the endocrine system, some people with adrenal issues also have thyroid issues, like I did (hypothyroidism). The biggest lesson I learned though is that healing the thyroid is as important as healing the adrenals. I worked with two health care professionals who told me that if I healed my adrenals, my thyroid would heal too. That was a huge mistake and wasted a lot of time in my healing journey. Once I got on the proper thyroid supplements I felt an immediate shift in my energy.
What I didn’t know then, that I know now, is that the majority of people who have hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune condition, related to the thyroid. That requires a different treatment plan than someone with hypothyroidism.
How do I treat my adrenal fatigue?
There is no magic pill to fix your adrenal glands, and since it takes most of us a while to cause adrenal fatigue, it takes time for them to heal too. You definitely need a supportive Naturopath or Doctor who has expertise in this area, the right supplements, and many lifestyle and diet changes.
Additionally, and in my opinion just as importantly, healing your adrenals requires some major mindset and lifestyle changes. From a holistic perspective, and from healing myself and working with many other clients, I’ve seen a pattern where people who have adrenal fatigue have perfectionist tendencies and overwhelm themselves with a busy lifestyle. The adrenals are physically located in our solar plexus area, which is our center of self-worth. Some people with this condition attribute their worth to their work or their busyness. The busier or more successful they are, the worthier they are. Except that it’s not a pattern that our bodies can support forever. I was definitely one of those people! A key component of healing was breaking the relationship between my sense of worth and my business and accomplishments.
Happy to Heal (Everything Your Doctor’s Not Telling You About Healing Your Thyroid, Adrenals and Leaky Gut) is starting this September! Get on the waitlist today for discounted pricing! 🙂