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What is adrenal fatigue?

adrenal fatigue stress acupunctureWhat are Adrenals?

Adrenals are small grape-sized glands that sit atop your kidneys. They are responsible for producing adrenaline, cortisol, and DHEA, and they help your body manage stressors. They have a huge role!

Defining Adrenal Fatigue

Fatigue. Defined as “extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness” and “a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.”(1) Adrenal fatigue is caused by over-stimulation of the adrenal glands. Too much stress, too much activity, too much push. Not enough down time, not enough rest, not enough recovery. Adrenal burnout and fatigue is commonly associated with a feeling of tiredness, but this is not its only symptom. 

Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

    • high blood pressure
    • irritable bowel syndrome
    • depression
    • anxiety
    • infections, frequent illness
    • migraines
    • headaches
    • hormonal imbalance, including PMS
    • infertility
    • diabetes
    • thyroid issues

Stress: Good or Evil?

Stress is important. A stress response by our bodies allows us to quickly move into fight or flight–face the problem to defeat it or get the heck outta there. We need a stress response for survival. The problem arises when we continue past acute phase into chronic ongoing stress–paying bills, heavy workload, not enough sleep, relationship challenges, and so forth. 

So stress is neither good or evil. It’s mostly about how we perceive and handle stress. What does this read here? 

Stress management, adrenal fatigue

Depends on how you look at it, right? 

How is Stress Affecting You?

Sometimes when I ask patients if they are feeling stressed, they will answer “no.” But then they describe how they are trying to juggle everything and getting little sleep, and how they don’t feel energized when they wake up in the morning, how they often catch colds, how they are experiencing digestive distress, or some other symptom or symptoms.

There are many levels of stress intensity and effect.

Alarm Phase of Stress 

The body is starting to give you hints that you need to pay attention. You’re in the fight or flight phase and may be struggling with focus and memory, having some struggle with restful sleep, notice it’s hard to slow down your mind, and be experiencing digestive, immune, or hormonal challenges and more.

Resistance Phase of Stress

As stress continues its pressure, the adrenal glands start shunting hormone production away from DHEA and its subsequent sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone. Symptoms are worse in this phase and also include lowered libido, infertility, and abdominal weight gain.

Burn-Out Phase

With ongoing adrenal fatigue, the body can no longer produce enough cortisol. Extreme fatigue, depression, irritability, and all the other symptoms even worse are the result.

Whether you are at the beginning alarm phase, the middle resistance phase, or the later burn-out phase, there are things you can do.

Traditional Chinese Medicine to Help Manage Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) provides a complex system of assessment. Bloated, craving sugar, foggy headed, tired? Spleen Qi deficiency might be part of your TCM diagnosis. Migraines, irritability, PMS, tension? Liver Qi stagnation is a common diagnosis. Fatigue, infertility, low back pain, salt cravings, issues with blood pressure? Kidney Qi deficiency is usually a part of the burn-out phase of adrenal fatigue. 

If stress is negatively affecting your health, the first step is a TCM assessment. Then, choices of treatment include acupuncture (yes, this is an endorphin-releasing chance to relax), Chinese herbs, supplements, nutritional support, and more.

Stressed Out song by Twenty One Pilots

And because I was curious and you might be too, the dark on his hands and throat represent his insecurities about his writing and his voice. Don’t we all stress about even those things that we do daily and do well.

I don’t want to go backward (though I think I’d like my Big Wheels back), but it’s a good idea to find ways to think like a kid, simplify life, and care a little less about what people think.

 

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