Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is a stress-related condition. There are many types of stress in our lives, and since our adrenal glands are in charge of how our bodies respond to stress, they all affect our adrenal function in one way or another.
Merriam-Webster gives this definition of stress:
a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.
Usually when we talk about stress, we are referring to mental or emotional stress, the things that we know and recognize as provoking an immediate reaction: workplace issues, children, finances, etc. But there are other types of stress, physical and environmental factors, that we don't realize are stressing our adrenal system behind the scenes.
It is the combination of both stressors that demand response from our adrenals, and stressors that inhibit production of adrenal hormones that lead to adrenal fatigue. Some, like inadequate sleep, do both!
It's important to note that not all stress is negative, even things we are happy about and enjoy can be stressful to our adrenals. Things like planning a wedding, getting married, pregnancy, having children, landing a "dream job"--all these things are also stresses, despite our looking forward to them or being excited about them.
As our stress increases, or remains consistently high, our adrenals struggle to sustain a heightened level of output. We find ourselves craving sugars and caffeine to help maintain our state of "high alert". But of course, those are exactly the WRONG things to have, because they create an even greater demand for response from our adrenals, and we go into a tailspin as we continue to grasp at short-term relief that is actually doing more harm than good…
At the same time that we have increasing stress demanding response from our adrenals, if we are also exposed to "hidden adrenal stresses", like chemical exposures that weaken our adrenals so they cannot respond optimally, we are losing the battle on both fronts.
The physical effects of stress are many and dramatic if allowed to continue for an extended period of time. A prolonged period of high cortisol levels circulating in our body can alter our normal metabolic processes. It accelerates aging of our cells and leads to the development of insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes, as well as inhibiting immune function, weight loss, and sleep.
This, in turn, creates additional stress for your adrenals when they have to respond to the stress caused by illness, excess weight, and lack of quality sleep.
Obviously, it's not realistic to eliminate every single source of stress in our lives, and it's not even desirable. Some stress is actually beneficial!
Being aware of the sources of your stress, good and bad, and learning which stresses to eliminate and which stresses you just need to learn to manage better will be the key to developing a healthy lifestyle that reduces the drain on your adrenal glands.
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