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Adrenal Fatigue Stages: What you need to know about this 21st Century Stress Disease

Adrenal Fatigue Stages: What you need to know about this 21st Century Stress Disease

Chronic stress. We’ve all heard of it, but many people are unaware of the damage it can do to the body on a day to day level. In a world where we’ve been taught to multi-task to get things done, live near electronics (or on them most of the day), lack on sleep, and consider ourselves last when it comes to health and wellness, it can be detrimental to your body if you don’t control your stress.

Your body has a built in stress response, which helped keep your Paleolithic ancestors alive, and these little glands on top of your kidney’s are known as the adrenal glands. These little guys help regulate you metabolism, help your body respond to stress, regulate blood pressure, and produces none essential hormones such as adrenaline.

That’s a lot of responsibility, and as a result these little powerhouses are essential to helping you stay healthy, especially if you have weight loss or wellness goals.

When the adrenal glands are over taxed they can create a set of symptoms which alone don’t add up to much, but when repeatedly brought together show the effects of chronic stress. Symptoms can include:

  • Exhaustion (even after a good night’s rest)
  • Not wanting to get out of bed in the morning
  • PMS/Endocrine system problems
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Inability to handle the cold
  • Memory/cognitive problems
  • Craving for salt/sugar
  • Low self-esteem due to low energy output
  • Weight gain around your mid-section
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Chronic fatigue coupled with needing copious amounts of sleep

Do any of these sound familiar? It’s not a random bout of symptoms we’re talking about, either. Instead, it’s symptoms which someone has been fighting with for months or even years. Symptoms which in today’s hectic world are starting to appear in children including tween and teens.

I know, you’re wondering why, if this issue is so prevalent, aren’t medical doctors talking about it and counseling patients to help them head off such a problem? Well, for the most part, in western medicine adrenal fatigue doesn’t exist. If you tell your doctor you have adrenal fatigue they’ll say it’s a made up disease, or test you for an extreme case such as Addison’s disease.

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And, yet, every other organ system in the body can have its own set of issues if imbalanced, but not the adrenals? Adrenals which, when overly stressed, may wreak havoc on your thyroid, endocrine system, digestive system, and sympathetic nervous system. For a better understanding of what your stress response is and adrenal fatigue check out this Mayo Clinic Article on stress response.

Read on and you’ll find the 3 stages of adrenal fatigue/exhaustion and some ways in which you can help heal yourself.

Stage 1: Alarm Phase

This is when your body first responses to stress, also known as fight or flight. It’s when stress is perceived, the adrenals rise to the challenge and aggressively respond to the stressor in your life. The adrenals don’t know the difference between a tough work meeting, the death of a loved one, or a random appearance of a grizzly bear charging toward you, mouth open intent on eating you for dinner. All three scenarios are perceived under one heading “STRESS” and the adrenals are called into action.

The anti-stress response is mediate by the one hormone we’ve heard so much about. Cortisol. In this first stage the demand for anti-stress actions is easily handled by the body, and fatigue is usually very minimal. Adrenal dysfunction is probably rarely noticeable.

In this stage you’re cortisol levels are high, and you’re under a lot of stress. Many times it can be a happy stress, like a new relationship, new baby, or new job. Something which is demanding you to move out of your comfort zone, probably keeping you up at night or on high alert during the day, but will eventually level out. Many times this level will leave you feeling charged and more alive than ever. You get a rush from the stress as you meet the challenges required of you.

The problem occurs when you don’t have enough resiliency to meet the stressor, even enjoy it a little, rise above it, and then let the stress dissipate. Instead, you stay under stress, even after it’s passed.

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When you’re in stage one and you’ve finally moved past your stressor it’s important to allow yourself sufficient time (think twice what you’re initial response would be) to rest, recharge, and let your adrenals heal before throwing anything else at your body. Instead, many people throw coffee at themselves in order to keep moving forward despite the sudden fatigue. Cravings for high carbohydrate or sugar foods may begin to develop. The thing about “needing” that cup of coffee to get you moving in the morning, is that this could be a sign of stage one adrenal fatigue.

A few ways to help reverse stage one adrenal fatigue is by making some lifestyle changes.

  • Get to bed by 10pm
  • If you’re okay to use salt, make sure you’re using a high quality sea salt
  • Limit coffee
  • Remove processed foods and sugar
  • Exercise regularly (nothing too taxing, think movement and a little sweat)

Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to heal.

Stage 2: Resistance Phase

In this stage you’ve stayed under stress for a considerably longer amount of time than your body expected, and it’s beginning to show. It’s also where many people begin to realize “there is something wrong” even though they may not know what it is, or where to get help.

At this stage you may begin to develop a dependency on coffee or other caffeinated drinks to help you get through the day, being able to muster of the energy for your obligations, but crashing hard when you get home at night. Another symptom is “being wired, but tired” – the problem of being exhausted, but unable to sleep.

In this stage your endocrine system is still pumping out the hormones needed, but in order to keep up DHEA and other sex hormones – mainly testosterone – are down regulated. If tested you’ll see the levels begin to substantially drop, along with your sex drive. The reason for this is the body is using all the materials it can to produce cortisol, stealing the needed building blocks from the sex hormones, putting additional stress on the endocrine system.

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You can also see problems in digestion at this point and the body starts to slow metabolism and other bodily functions in order to conserve energy. Sugar imbalances and insulin sensitivity can begin in this stage. At this point your cortisol levels are starting to fail. You’ll see weight gain, and suddenly have more sleepless nights than before.

In addition to the points covered for healing stage one adrenals, you can make sure you add in a few more lifestyle changes to help yourself heal.

  • Choose nutrient dense foods
  • Eat regularly
  • Avoid intermittent fasting
  • Turn off electronics an hour before bed
  • Give yourself space to unwind
  • Take naps and listen to your body, extra rest helps with healing
  • Support with adaptogenic herbs as appropriate
  • Practice grounding or earthing
  • Put routine stress-management practices into place
  • Make self-care and the pleasure principal a priority to help you relax and heal

Stage 3: Exhaustion Phase

At this point the body is breaking down due to the amount of chronic stress it’s under. Cortisol levels are failing, sleep is nearly none existent, and fatigue is a constant friend. On top of it, when you’ve reached this point the body is trying to compensate in every way possible, which means multiple organs and/or system failure is completely possible.

The body has run out of ways to develop the stress hormones it needs to counteract the chronic pressure it’s under. Now the sex hormones are low and the stress hormones are low. This phase is also often called the “Burnout phase”. Aside from a fatigue and low libido someone in the burnout stage can suffer from

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Constipation
  • Sluggish thyroid
  • Compromised mental function
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Bed ridden
  • Fibromyalgia

It seems extreme, but when your adrenals have reached exhaustion the body has slowed as many functions as possible, including metabolism and food digestion. Much like the domino effect, the body will keep down-regulating internal functions until it reaches a point where it no longer feels threatened.

For many this could be bedridden, for others the breakdown in the body happens first resulting in issues such as stroke, kidney conditions, or severe hormonal conditions. Each body reacts differently, but it’s always in an attempt to protect itself. For a better understanding of the effects of adrenal burnout read this article by Dr. Lam.

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At this point a trained professional is your best option to help you heal your suffering and damaged adrenals. Some basic things to implement though.

  • Moderate exercise, with twice as much rest. Too much exercise can cause you to crash harder.
  • Dietary control to help manage and balance blood sugar levels
  • Electrolyte balance
  • Vitamin/mineral support
  • Rest. Rest.
  • Prayer, massage, meditation, and other relaxation techniques 

Keep in mind, healing whichever stage of adrenal fatigue you might find yourself in, can take anywhere from six months to 24 months depending on how bad your adrenal fatigue is, your dedication to getting better, and application of lifestyle changes to prevent it from happening again.

For more information on adrenal fatigue and ways to heal it, check out the pages below.

Dr. Axe: Ways to heal Adrenal Fatigue

Dr. Mercola: Misdiagnosed Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

MD Junction: Adrenal Exhaustion

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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