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Identifying and Reversing Adrenal Fatigue - Part One

If you have symptoms such as regularly feeling tired and fatigued along with recurring allergy issues, suffering from anxiety, difficulties with concentrating, poor sleep patterns, and find it difficult to lose weight, you may be dealing from hidden adrenal fatigue also known as hypoadrenia.

This is part one in a three-part series that I’ll be doing on adrenal fatigue and how to correct it. First, we should develop a basic understanding of the adrenal glands and what they do. There are two adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys. These glands are involved several physiological functions including blood sugar regulation, central nervous system processes, cardiovascular function, hormone production, gastrointestinal function, and liver function to name a few.

The adrenal glands also play an important role in helping the body respond appropriately to stressors. They produce hormones in a complex symphony that is orchestrated with two other glands in the brain called the hypothalamus and the pituitary.

Together this axis of glands is involved with many functions in the body from anti-inflammatory processes, immune system activation, regulating fluid and salt levels, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep and awake cycles (circadian rhythms), and others.

They also work to counter stress (both physical and emotional) through the production of hormones. It’s important to understand that the adrenals don't know the difference between physical and emotional stress and will respond to both the same.

Examples of Stressors Affecting the Adrenal Glands Include:

  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Illness
  • Emotional Stress from financial issues, divorce, work environment, etc
  • Drug Addiction
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Surgery
  • Digestive system imbalances
  • Autoimmune issues
  • Excessive exercise
  • Lack of recovery with exercise
  • Lack of sleep
  • Blood sugar imbalances (low insulin sensitivity, insulin resistance)
  • Hormonal fluctuations (menopause)
  • Trauma
  • Allergen issues
  • Nicotine       
  • Vitamin B & C deficiencies
  • Too much caffeine
  • Prolonged restrictive dieting
  • Poor diet (processed food dominant) lacking in phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. 

When stress and poor nutrition lead to altered hormone levels, imbalance in endocrine function can and does lead to substantial fatigue. When you experience stress of any kind, the adrenals start pumping the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones get the blood flowing to the heart and muscles and at the same time pull the blood away from your digestive system. They also stimulate the nervous system to speed up the heart rate.

As you push your body over prolonged periods of time coping with stress (any stress) many individuals will find themselves running on caffeine, or nicotine. Energy drinks, coffee, or soft drinks will only mask the problem for so long. Sooner or later the adrenals will eventually become exhausted.  In this state, the adrenals begin to reduce hormonal secretion and this impacts the entire endocrine system.

Symptoms of Adrenal Gland Imbalance

  • Low energy - weakness, fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Fluid retention (water weight gain, bloating)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tendency to gain weight and being unable to lose it (especially around the waist)
  • Blood sugar problems
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  • Energy up’s and down’s (often with crashes)
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety (worry), frequent feelings of stress
  • Need for caffeine or stimulants to get going
  • Salt cravings, fat cravings and sugar cravings
  • Hot flashes
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Arthritis
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Allergies
  • Pain in the upper back and neck for no reason
  • Light-headed feeling when rising from a lying down position
  • Unable to remember things

If you have many of these signs and symptoms, it is time to consider that you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue. While none of the signs or symptoms by itself can definitively diagnose adrenal fatigue they’re certainly clues and possible identifiers. The purpose of the first installment in this series is not to provide a means of self-diagnosis, but rather begin to reveal the signs and symptoms of this common issue.

Look, I’m not a doctor and don’t pretend to be one (but I did spend a night at the Holiday Inn Express). Some of you will get that, others will be like huh? Anyways, in all seriousness, I’m not claiming to be a medical expert. However, I’ve spent the past twenty plus years of my life researching issues like adrenal imbalances because they’re very, very prevalent with middle age adults today (predominately females) who experience difficulties with losing weight. And it just so happens many of these individuals find their way to me looking for help with a fitness and nutrition routine as a solution for weight loss.

I’ve learned through experience and research that while exercise and good nutrition are certainly pieces of the puzzle for restoration, they’re far from the only pieces. And here’s the real kicker. This will probably not come as a surprise for many of you, but unfortunately a trip to your family physician may not provide the clarity you’re looking for. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had clients report to me that their primary care medical doctor ran some labs and informed them their adrenals are “fine” and the levels were all “normal,” only later after we decided to take corrective measures for adrenal restoration anyways that symptoms subsided and not only did health improve, but the weight started coming off as well.

I tell you that to give you hope and encourage you if you’re struggling with many of these symptoms of a systemic imbalance in the body. Don’t get discouraged. The first step is to educate yourself on what might be behind the problems. That’s what we’ll be doing here over the next couple of installments. I’ll walk you through my recommendations and the strategies I’ve used to help clients who have struggled with adrenal related issues. More to come in part two next week. Stay tuned.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, motivational speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a no-obligations trail of his Charleston personal training programs and experience the difference for yourself.  


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