Adrenal glands are small glands that sit on top of both kidneys and produce hormones that help regulate metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress, and other essential functions. In this day and age, many of our lives are too busy. Responsibilities may include jobs (sometimes multiple jobs), families, children’s activities, elderly care of a parent, housework, laundry, cooking, and shopping to name a few. Our bodies are not geared to deal with this kind of stress day after day.
Typical symptoms include fatigue or exhaustion, insomnia, headache, upset stomach or digestive disturbances, irritability, and depression. Furthermore, medical conditions that can arise from being in a state of adrenal fatigue include: angina/chest pain and cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression, autoimmune diseases including thyroid issues, ulcerative colitis/crohn’s, sjogrens or arthritic conditions, colds and immune suppression, PMS and hormonal disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and other gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and headaches.
Hans Selye coined our body’s stress response as the “general adaptation syndrome”. It is composed of three phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. The initial body response to stress is a “fight or flight response” in which our adrenal glands pour out adrenaline and other stress hormones. This release causes changes in the body from the beginning, but if the stress is resolved or diminished, symptoms disappear fairly quickly. If the stress continues, the body then goes into the resistance phase in which the body releases great amounts of cortisol. This is the body’s own production of a steroid, which is responsible for numerous side effects when continually at a higher level in the body.
We begin to see weight gain, increased yeast infections (bloating, gas, indigestion if yeast harbors in the gut), irritability, anxiety, insomnia, skin rashes and acne, and hormonal imbalances. With continued stress, the body goes into its final phase of exhaustion which can be manifested as a partial or total weakening or collapse of body function or specific organ. Prolonged stress places a tremendous load not just on the adrenal glands that pour out the stress hormones but also on many other organ systems like the heart.
At the Health Center for Integrative Medicine, we will partner with you in the process of diagnosing and treating adrenal fatigue. Our goal will be to reduce symptoms, seek a mindful change in how our body responds to stress, find the imbalances that have occurred in this process of stress, and use a multi-faceted and integrative treatment approach to restore quality of life.