Whether you have heard this term used before or not, it seems to be a condition that is more prevalent in today's society than many people realise. Whatever the cause/s, you are probably more interested to hear what adrenal exhaustion looks and feels like when it becomes manifest, so that's what we'll cover here.
The adrenal glands sit atop each kidney; they produce many hormones - some essential to life, some not, including adrenaline, cortisol and aldosterone. These regulate many systems of the body, including metabolism and your responses to stress, blood pressure, and others. With frequent over-stimulation and long term stress of every kind (that's our own perception of what is stressful), the adrenals become exhausted and unable to contribute adequately or effectively to balancing the systems of the body.
So how do we recognise adrenal exhaustion?
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Still feeling tired, even after a good nights' sleep/not refreshed
- Increased effort required for everyday tasks
- Decreased productivity
- Lack of sex drive
- Crave salty foods
- Increased recovery time from any illness/ trauma
- Sometimes feel light-headed when standing up
- Mild depression / lack of enjoyment in life
- More pronounced PMS/menopausal symptoms
- Symptoms worse after not eating
- Poor memory / inability to concentrate
- Increased sensitivity to pollutants and toxins
- Easily overwhelmed / can easily become tearful
- Lowered physical, mental and emotional resilience
- Low period around 3-4pm/more active after evening meal.
So self-diagnosis might be easy, but recovery is somewhat more difficult. It helps to begin by writing a list of your present symptoms and starting a journal or diary about your journey of recovery; there will be days in your recovery when you feel as if you're no better but if you log each day it will help to see patterns across the month - i.e. tied in with your biorhythms and also if certain times of day are difficult - check the Circadian rhythm.
The adrenal glands require a good supply of protein and high nutrient foods to rebuild - not all in one go I hasten to add! Remember, your digestion is weaker at this time, so eating too much in one go can make you sleepy. And ensure you eat in quiet or happy surroundings - any form of stress will undermine the benefits of good food. Add to this a good nights sleep - 9 hours a night is optimal to help the adrenals recharge, going to bed by 11 at latest.
There are herbal supplements on the market that are sold as adrenal support but are actually quite gentle. However, bovine adrenal glandulars can be used to great effect in the recovery period which can be anything from 6-12 months (at least). Most people would take the latter route under the guidance of a practitioner. (Whilst there is little reported evidence of bovine supplements working, I have used them as necessary over the years and have indeed valued their support.)
Recovery time varies according to how well you can moderate your energy expenditure, reduce your stress levels and bank some energy (as you would if on holiday). Gentle exercise is beneficial during the recovery but should not be excessive or you will lose any gain.
Basically, if you think you have adrenal exhaustion, recognise it as a time to look back over your life and assess the kind of living that has brought you to this situation. When you can accept the series of choices and mindset that have brought you here, then you can resolve to change. It is also worth noting that adrenal exhaustion can have a knock-on effect on the thyroid gland and can lead some to believe the latter is their sole problem without considering the condition of the adrenal glands.
You have reached a point of re-learning ~ how your body functions, what it really needs and how best to support it. You will have to learn how to nurture and give tender care to your body; learn what depletes it ~ be more discerning about the situations and people you place yourself in and around; become conscious of how to balance your life and energy requirements. You stand at a crossroads.
All of the above actions have an element of logic to them, yet one of the most difficult things in this process can be to stop listening to other people and listen only to yourself. It can feel isolating at first, but when you learn to value the guidance of your own body and how you feel on a daily basis, your inner strength can begin to rebuild.