Is your energy running low? Far too often we are over-doing it and end up exhausted (and ill if we are unlucky). If we refuse to listen to our body and keep going no matter what, we are slowly wearing the body out. We may then end up with a condition called Adrenal Exhaustion. This can occur after long-term or chronic stress and is a decrease in the adrenal glands’ ability to carry out its normal function. The autonomic nervous system has been in ‘fight or flight’ mode for far too long. So what are the reasons for this and what can we do about it?
1. Stress Stress is a major cause of adrenal exhaustion and can come from any area of your life. Whether it’s a relationship that has gone wrong, an unreasonable boss, relocation to a new place, the effect is the same. This is the kind of low-grade stress that feels manageable in the short-term, but can have terrible effects on your health in the long-term.
2. Diet We eat more sugar now than ever before. In the UK we eat a staggering 160 teaspoons per person per week. We are not genetically adapted to this type of input, so how do our bodies cope with all these empty calories? Answer: we produce extra cortisol and insulin, which puts stress on the pancreas and adrenals. There is another link between sugar and adrenal fatigue. Eat too much sugar and calories and you will put on weight, we all know that. But did you know that excess weight can also be a contributing factor towards adrenal fatigue? Being overweight is putting a huge pressure on your body and internal organs. If being heavier makes you feel tired, chances are its tiring out your adrenals too.
3. Insufficient sleep Our ancestors got a healthy 9 hours of sleep per night, but these days some of us survive on half of that. According to the Sleep Council the average Brit now sleeps 6 hours 35 minutes each night, but those who are in the early stages of adrenal fatigue are often getting much less. A long restful sleep is exactly what your body needs to repair itself. The body is an extraordinary self-healing organism, but it needs time to work its magic. Stick to at least 7-8 hours of sleep (or longer if needed) and you are much less likely to suffer from adrenal fatigue.
4. Chemicals and pollutants There are toxins in our food, pollutants in the air, chlorine in our drinking water, antibiotics in our meat, and pesticides in our vegetables (unless you eat organic). These are all factors that contribute to our ‘toxic load’. A staggering 2,000 chemicals are introduced to the consumer marketplace each year. Some of these chemicals go into our food and others go into products such as cosmetics, cleaning products, paint, carpets etc. Chemicals affect your immune system, your digestion and more. Many of these chemicals disrupt the adrenal function which the adrenal glands can cope with short term, but if this goes on for a longer period you may suffer from adrenal fatigue.
5. Chronic disease Long-term stressors to our adrenal glands also include chronic diseases. It could be asthma, arthritis, diabetes or any other disease. These conditions put pressure on the adrenals and they can become fatigued. Many treatments for chronic diseases are often stressful to the body too.
6. Trauma Adrenal fatigue can be caused by more than just long-term factors – moments of severe physical trauma can also lead to adrenal fatigue. There is now evidence to suggest that such moments of trauma have a long-term impact on our health, and can affect things like hormonal balance and adrenal performance for many years. Trauma is not just about car crashes or accidents but can also be a result of major surgery, bereavement and abuse.
A few energy enhancing tips:
- Respect your body. Learn to listen to your body and know when it is time to stop and rest. The body will clearly tell you when you are getting tired or over-worked, but you need to respond to the signals it is sending you.
- Say no. Stand up for yourself and know when it is time to say no. Set boundaries. Don’t run around after everyone and wear yourself out.
- Clean up your diet. Cut out energy draining foods such as sugar, bad fats, alcohol, coffee. Also find out if you are wheat or grain sensitive or have any other food sensitivities as this can really drain your energy. Base your diet around fresh organic vegetables and fruits. See a nutritionist for advice.
- If you have had a really busy time, give yourself ‘recovery time’ when you completely relax (that does not include ‘relaxing’ with alcohol or the internet).
- Try to figure out why you are not sleeping well. Do you drink too much coffee during the day? Are you working late in the evening or are you constantly looking at your phone/internet?
- Take a nap. Even 20 minutes can help.
- If you have suffered trauma it may be a good idea to seek professional help such as counselling.