When doing double duty as a busy woman or working mom, trying to find balance can often lead to feelings of fatigue. Are you feeling exhaustion, body aches, poor sleep, nervousness or even digestive problems far too frequently?
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You may even be questioning why this is happening. You are not alone. It could be simply depression or even burnout with very similar symptoms. I will explain a few scientific facts about adrenal fatigue, the glands, and how their function affects the overall body. Then you can decide from there as you look at what’s going on in your life.
Believe it or not, the traditional medical community does not accept adrenal fatigue as a real disorder. Why? First, there is not enough support for the theory of causation.
The adrenal glands are small pyramid shaped organs that lie on top of your kidneys. They are part of the endocrine system and they produce hormones. The adrenals produce cortisol, aldosterone and epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. They also produce small amounts of testosterone in both men and women.
Cortisol is the stress hormone. Its function is to control metabolism and help with the flight or flight response and suppress the immune reaction. Aldosterone controls the sodium balance in your body, which also regulates your blood pressure. You cannot live without cortisol and aldosterone. Adrenaline and noradrenaline also work in the stress response by increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels and other things.
The theory behind adrenal fatigue is persistent physical and emotional stress produces high levels of cortisol that hang around in the body. This part is substantiated by research and no one disputes this. But then the proponents of adrenal fatigue go on to say that the high levels of cortisol damage the adrenal glands so that you don’t get as much cortisol production. Another theory is that for someone who is under stress and produces too much cortisol, your adrenals just can’t keep up the pace and produce enough cortisol to keep you feeling well. This is where the research support stops.
When the adrenal glands malfunction, and don’t produce enough hormones, it’s called adrenal insufficiency. With adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease, you are not getting enough cortisol and aldosterone. So the symptoms include muscle weakness, fatigue, weight loss, darkening of the skin, low blood pressure, which can lead to dizziness and salt craving.
Here are 3 more common reasons for symptoms that can look like adrenal fatigue.
This is when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen, and is most commonly caused by iron deficiency in the blood. Women are especially susceptible to this because of heavy menstrual periods. This can be remedied with either supplements or eating more iron-rich foods like Goji berries and spinach.
- Thyroid insufficiency
Symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) are low energy, foggy thinking, weight gain and even depression. You should have your thyroid checked when you have a standard physical exam, and repeated if you have symptoms that are suggestive of an underactive thyroid.
The treatment for underactive thyroid is thyroid replacement like synthroid or armour thyroid. Synthroid is the synthetically made hormone, levothyroxine. Armour thyroid is thyroid hormone extracted from a pig thyroid. One of the main disadvantages of them is that you may not always get consistent dosing. They are measured in grains and sometimes the grains may vary in how much thyroid hormone they contain. This means your thyroid hormone levels can fluctuate from month to month as you get different batches.
- Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is a hormone that is produced in your skin when you are exposed to the sun. Things that block this process are darker skin color, clothing, sunscreen and decreasing your exposure to the sun. Checking your vitamin D is an easy blood test you can ask your doctor about.
Vitamin D supplementation is over the counter. I’ve discussed Vitamin D in episode 23 where I talk about what supplements are really necessary for most people. It’s good to know your Vitamin D level, but even if you don’t know it, supplementing with 1000 IU each day is a good start for maintaining normal levels.
Always be careful and scrutinize alternative solutions to fatigue, especially if it’s adrenal fatigue. If the most that you lose is money by buying over the counter supplements, then that’s not so bad. But you really need to be careful taking pills that could cause more problems for you. Remember, just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it can’t have side effects or is the best solution to what is causing your malady. Always check with your doctor first.
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Show notes http://beyondburnout.com/45
Want me to answer a question? Call the show at 404-465-2399 or email me at drmarks at beyondburnout (dot) com