Adrenal fatigue, also known as adrenal stress, describes a set of symptoms related to the way your body manages stress. Stress is a part of your daily life. Some stress is good, some stress is bad. Some people say that stress is a killer. Well, it’s not quite correct. It’s not stress that kills us, but rather our inability to adapt to it.
We live in a fast-paced world. We constantly push our minds and bodies to the limit working long hours, fighting endless traffic on the roads, dealing with family-related issues, coping with financial problems, eating fast food on the run. The list goes on.
With the combined effects of a decrease in the quality of our food sources, environmental pollution and the emotional stress induced by our fast-paced lives, our bodies are finding it harder and harder to successfully adapt and maintain metabolic equilibrium.
Cortisol is your body’s chief stress fighting hormone. This is how it’s produced.
The hypothalamus in your brain, the pituitary gland below your brain, and the adrenal glands on top of your kidneys form what is referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (or HPA axis). Your HPA axis is the most important part of your endocrine system, and directly or indirectly controls most of the hormonal activities in your body.
When you’re under stress, your hypothalamus secretes corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), a hormone that gets your body into a state of readiness when a physical or emotional threat presents itself. CRH travels to your pituitary gland where it stimulates the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which enters your bloodstream. When ACTH reaches your adrenal glands, it triggers the release of cortisol, your body’s chief stress fighting hormone.
The boost in cortisol resulting from a stressful situation leads to a cascade of reactions in your body that can help you respond quickly to a threat. We refer to this as the “fight or flight” response.
In general, cortisol is high during periods of stress and low when relaxing. Under normal circumstances a feedback loop allows your body to turn off these defenses when the threat passes, allowing your body to once again focus on healing and growth.
In some cases, if the threat is prolonged or chronic, the floodgates never close properly. The result is that cortisol levels rise too often or remain high. When you are constantly under stress the overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol interferes with the balance of hormones in your body. Clearly, this is a problem because to achieve optimal health, your body should ideally be in a state of homeostasis.
These periods of high levels of cortisol can result in blood sugar irregularities creating fatigue, immune system deficiencies, panic attacks, asthma, and increased risk of other diseases. In addition, when your body is out of balance – not in a state of homeostasis – it also accelerates the aging process.
In more extreme cases, adrenal stress is known as adrenal exhaustion (also referred to as “nervous breakdown”).
Adrenal stress will most definitely disrupt your HPA axis, the key to the strength of your “life force.” The disruption of the HPA axis is often central to most health problems, syndromes, diseases and aging. When the HPA axis is not functioning correctly, a variety of neurological symptoms develop, such as anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, intolerance to stress, sleep disturbance, and mood disorder. In addition, the HPA axis is also involved in burnout and irritable bowel syndrome.
The diseases and illnesses referred to above are not due directly to adrenal stress, but rather our inability to adapt to the stress. These diseases and illness have therefore been called “diseases of adaptation.” One of the ways of coping with adrenal stress is to use a natural product called an adaptogen.
The word adaptogen is used to refer to a natural herb product that increases the body’s resistance to stresses such as trauma, anxiety and bodily fatigue. Adaptogens normalize the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
And this is the way to beat adrenal stress: through your HPA axis. You can use a powerful adaptogen to balance your HPA axis. Your hormonal balance will improve and this will assist your body’s organs systems to once again operate at optimum efficiency.