Perhaps you have finished a full week at Polishing the Pulpit, and you feel as if you have been hit by a freight train by the time you return home. Or, for some of us, we feel like that after just 2 days at PTP… yeah, you know what I mean if you have ever been. Well, I admit, PTP is its own kind of exhaustion! Do you remember the days when you would wake up bright and early in the morning and feel refreshed, ready to start a new day? Now, it seems like you can barely roll out of bed, and you need 3 cups of coffee to fuel your morning. You do fine until about 3:00 in the afternoon when your gas begins to run out, and you need yet another cup of coffee to make it through the rest of the afternoon. Maybe your thing isn’t coffee (mine sure isn’t despite my many attempts to love it!), but you need some sugar or something with high carbs to give you that last energy boost to finish out the day. Sound familiar? You are not alone.
You may be suffering from adrenal burnout. Allow me to explain with a little bit of anatomy and physiology. The adrenal glands are small glands that sit atop each kidney. To be so small, they pack a powerful punch in the grand scheme of our well-being. They are essential to life. These mighty glands are responsible for secreting cortisol (a hormone with significant anti- inflammatory effects), aldosterone (hormone which regulates blood pressure), DHEA, testosterone and adrenaline (activated during your fight-or-flight response to stress), and estrogen and progesterone (after menopause). They are your glands that work overtime during seasons of stress. Needless to say, in the current American culture with fast food diets, constant technology stimulation, lack of exercise, and a desperate need to just relax, we have overloaded these small, but powerful glands.
Adrenal “burnout”, “insufficiency”, and “fatigue,” are all terms generally meaning the same thing…that the adrenal glands are under-active. They are not functioning to full capacity. Most medical doctors do not recognize adrenal fatigue as a medical term and certainly not as an underlying cause to typical burnout symptoms. However, they do recognize Addison’s Disease, which is an extreme case of adrenal burnout that can include fainting and extreme exhaustion. What are some symptoms of adrenal fatigue? They can include, but are not limited to: feeling tired to exhausted, sleeping 8-10 hours at night and still waking up tired, decreased tolerance to cold, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), poor circulation, allergies (pollen, food, etc.), tendency to constipation, low stamina, lack of motivation (due to lack of energy), joint aches and pains, muscle weakness, low libido, low levels of stomach acid, need for excessive amounts of sleep, low immune system, hair loss, menstrual irregularities, weight gain, foggy thinking, anxiety, fear, insomnia, and depression. Some of you may be thinking that this sounds familiar, and you started taking thyroid medication to help. Yes, many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue do sound like the typical symptoms we associate with hypothyroidism. There is a physiological reason for this. For some of us, we have a low-functioning thyroid because we have low- functioning adrenal glands. The two go hand in hand. I’ll explain this later. In my experience, many individuals have lab tests run by their providers and are told everything looks “normal.”
Yet, they know that everything is not normal. Deep down, they know something is just not right.
What causes adrenal burnout you ask? Good question. Answers may vary for different individuals. It may be from nutritional deficiencies, toxic metals or other chemicals, chronic infections, stimulants (coffee, sugar and alcohol are most common), unhealthy response to stress (constant worrying, anger, etc.), excessive amounts of stress, and/or congenital weak adrenal glands (Wilson). Many of us, especially those of us that are moms, are pulled in many different directions. A typical day in the life of most of us consists of the following: we wake up, pray and do our bible study, walk 2 miles, make breakfast and lunch for our husband and children, home-educate or take our children back and forth to school, grocery shop, plan and prepare meals, make sure everyone has clean clothes (and ironed too for Sunday!), go to doctor visits with children/aging parents, take meals to the sick, teach bible class, take kids to and from practice, make supper, get the children baths and ready for bed, clean the house, do the dishes, feed the dogs, oh yeah, try to make time to sit and talk to our hubby about his day, and maybe, just maybe, take a hot bath and fall into bed. We do this day in and day out and wonder why we are always so tired. We try all of the latest diets, get gym memberships (trying to fit something else into our already hectic schedule), get massages, take popular supplement programs and we just don’t see the long-term results we were hoping for. After all, all we want is to just feel better, right? We just want to feel good again. For many of us, we have felt bad for so long, we honestly have forgotten what it feels like to feel great!
In the next article, I would like to dig a little deeper into the causes of adrenal fatigue and what we can do to turn the tide on the decline of our health. There is hope. We can get better. We can see positive results if we are willing to commit to ourselves to health and healing.
Wilson, L. (February 2019). Adrenal Burnout Syndrome. Retrieved from https://drlwilson.com/Articles/ADRENAL_BURNOUT.htm