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What are my adrenal glands and why do they get so tired?

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Author: Dr. Rosanna Grobbink, B.Sc., B.Ed., ND
Goderich ON


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What Are My Adrenal Glands & Why Do They Get So Tired?
 

The Power of the Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands are small glands, no larger than the size of a walnut, located on top of your kidneys. Although they have many important biological functions, they play a particularly important role in the body’s response to stress. Each and every day our body is exposed to extrinsic and intrinsic stresses, from rushing to get to work to fighting off an infection to worrying about the difficult decisions we face. Without our adrenal glands and the hormones they release our bodies would be unable to adapt to these stresses. These hormones affect our bodies physically, emotionally and psychologically from the utilization of energy fuel sources to gastrointestinal function to our level of sex drive. It is through the action of these powerful adrenal hormones that we are able to maintain the state of balance that we require for health when faced with stress.

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue represents a state of decreased adrenal function referred medically as hypoadrenia. The range of hypoadrenia can have a broad spectrum of severity ranging from minor fatigue to severe effects such as with Addison’s disease. As the level of adrenal function decreases, the effects on the body begin to compound. Some of the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue include abnormal blood sugar levels, decreased immune response, anxiety, depression, increased difficulties in concentrating and fatigue. 

Why Are My Adrenals Tired?

Despite the vast array of stresses we face in our lives, our body responds to each stress in the same way. Adrenal fatigue can result from numerous small stressors or from one or a few larger stressful events. With each event, the physiological impact is compounded each time.  When we continue to experience stress without giving our adrenal glands time to recover, the combined stressors eventually outweigh the ability of our body and our adrenals to respond, eventually resulting in adrenal fatigue.

Restoring My Health and Adrenal Function!

To be able to restore the function of the adrenal glands, it is very important to limit the amount of stress in our lives at every level: physically, mentally and emotionally.  Here are some tips to help anyone who is feeling adrenally fatigued!

Be aware of stresses in your life - It is very important to know what stress we face on a regular basis and be realistic with ourselves about how we handle it. There are only 24 hours in a day, and we can only commit to what our bodies can handle.  Choose the activities and relationships that are important to you and make sure you always take time to relax!

Eat a balanced diet - A poor diet lacking in macro and micro nutrients can create further stress on our bodies.  Ensure you eat a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats from fish, seeds, nuts and flax or olive oil. Ensure you consume high quality protein sources and whole grains. Fianlly, make sure you include adequate water while decreasing the amounts of refined sugars and stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.

Exercise - Although exercise is probably the last thing you want to do when you are adrenally fatigued, exercise demonstrates a beneficial role in helping to balance many of the hormones that become disrupted in your adrenals are tired. Choose a low to moderate physical activity that you will enjoy and will allow you to increase lung capacity, muscle tone and flexibility.

Sleep - Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of hypoadrenia. It is important to ensure adequate levels of sleep to restore adrenal function. Try to go to bed before 10:30 and establish a consistent sleeping routine.

References

Powell, D.Wm. (2005). Endocrinology and Naturopathic Therapies (7th ed.). Bothell,     Washington: Department of Naturopathic Medicine Bastyr University.

Wilson, J.L. (2001).  Adrenal Fatigue. Petaluma, California: Smart Publication  

 

 

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