Skip to main content

Adrenal Fatigue (or why am I so TIRED?)

  • Do you ever feel tired after a full night's sleep?
  • Feel light-headed when you stand up?
  • Fall asleep OK but wake up a few hours later?
  • Always need sunglasses?
  • Need that coffee to get going in the morning?
  • Ever feel frustrated because you were tired all day and then, when it was time to go to bed, you weren't tired anymore?

These can all be symptoms of adrenal fatigue.The adrenals are small glands that sit just above the kidneys and play important roles in hormone balance, blood sugar regulation and stress response.They are almost like 2 glands in one, with the center, or medulla, producing adrenaline (see where the name comes from?) and the outer portion, or cortex, producing cortisol (again, see where the name comes from?), aldosterone, and sex hormones.

So, how do the adrenal glands become fatigued? Both portions of the adrenal glands are involved with stress response. In acute stress, the nervous system sends a signal to the center (medulla) to release adrenaline. This nearly instantaneous response is what causes the sudden surge of energy in an emergency. After this initial release of adrenaline, the cortex releases cortisol. These mechanisms are quite useful during emergencies but, if continued over prolonged periods, can be devastating. Why? Well, the things that are priorities for long-term health and well-being are NOT priorities if you are fighting for your life! Long-term stress depresses the immune system, disrupts memory and reproductive function, and makes us fat.

And, it shouldn't be surprising that, when the adrenal glands are so constantly stimulated, they can lose the ability to respond. Besides helping during a stress response, cortisol is normally secreted at higher levels in the morning and this is what gets you up and out of bed. If the adrenals are incapable of performing any longer, you will feel exhausted in the morning until you are able to stimulate them again with coffee, vigorous exercise or mental stress.

Why do so many people have tired adrenals?If you're like us, part of your interest in natural medicine comes from your knowledge that the body has a certain wisdom and is capable of amazing things.So how can everyone's adrenal glands be worn out?It's probably the combination over the last 50 years of an increasingly toxic environment, a huge increase in processed foods and a stressful, sedentary lifestyle. The stress response is very well designed for a sudden danger that then passes; in our lifestyles, our bodies think that we are constantly fighting for our lives!

One of the ways that adrenal dysfunction becomes a vicious cycle is that, when the adrenal glands are fatigued, our bodies crave adrenal stimulants in order to whip them into action.Some common adrenal stimulants are:

  • Mental/Emotional Stress
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Excessive exercise
  • Going too long without eating

When we use these things to get our adrenals revved up, we do feel better in the short-term but it is like whipping a tired horse.

So what can you do during this holiday season to keep your adrenals healthy?

  • Rest when tired, this can be as little as lying down for 15 minutes.
  • Avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and excessive exercise.
  • Don't over-schedule yourself, you can't enjoy all those social functions if you are exhausted!
  • Maintain regular moderate exercise.
  • Get your spine checked by your chiropractor. An optimally-functioning nervous system helps your adrenals (and all of your body systems) operate at their best.
  • Attend our Community Health Lounge event on December 7th at 7:00 PM to ask any questions or share your experiences with adrenal health.