Adrenal burnout has become a common disorder in today’s stressed out, over-worked, emotionally exhausted society. As more and more people appear to suffer from perpetual fatigue, experiencing physical, mental, and chemical stress; affecting the body’s chemistry on a cellular level and it is the cells in the adrenal glands that take the brunt of these stresses. All illnesses start with fatigue. The body is like a new car with power steering, power brakes and power windows. When the power goes down, the entire car stops working right. Burnout is a serious medical problem, although symptoms may be vague and unrelated to a specific disease. The adrenal glands, which produce stress hormones, are affected by xenobiotic compounds (chemical compounds that are foreign to a living organism) more than any other organ.
Over the years, prolonged episodes of stress can cause the adrenals to become fatigued and are unable to regulate all the constituents of a healthy body. Sometimes the adrenals, in a weakened state, are referred to as insufficient, and as the progression of adrenal breakdown continues, it leads to adrenal burnout as termed by the late Dr. Paul Eck who researched adrenal function and tissue analysis for decades.
Adrenal Burnout is a very debilitating malady that can cause life-changing disruption. In severe cases the adrenal activity is so acutely diminished that people have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. In each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in the body is more profoundly affected. Changes can occur in the carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even the sex drive.
Prolonged stress keeps the body in a constant and heightened fight or flight’ state; if allowed to continue it would eventually compromise the adrenal function. The adrenals are the glands that sit near the top of each kidney. The inner part (the medulla) secretes hormones, including adrenaline and corticosteroid that control blood pressure, heart rate and sweating. They also act as chemical messengers; initiate immune responses; regulate blood sugar levels and produce much of the digestive juices used in breaking down foods. As they respond to stress the hormones raise blood sugar and blood pressure, and promote energy production. Adrenalin or epinephrine are used in emergencies, when the adrenals become depleted, the body is unable to handle stress and this can lead to serious illness.
Symptoms of adrenal burnout can be weight gain, chronic infection especially respiratory problems such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia; impaired digestion, allergies, high blood pressure; high and low blood sugar levels, cravings for sweets; multiple chemical sensitivities, PMS; irritability and depression and even anxiety may occur.
The condition is also called adrenal hypofunction, exhaustion or insufficiency. Unlike fatigue, energy levels do not return after a good nights rest; it is a common misconception that the body is unable to regenerate energy during slumber; waking up tired after 8-10 hours of sleep is a primary symptom of burnout, like a dead battery, the body cannot recharge itself during sleep. Burnout is a more serious derangement of the body’s energy system.
Adrenal burnout syndrome is rarely diagnosed by physicians and can be wrongly identified as Addison’s disease which doctors consider incurable. However recovery from adrenal burnout is definitely possible.
Burnout can develop slowly or may be caused by a single trauma. It was famously noted that John F. Kennedy experienced burnout during World War II when his patrol boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, killing most of the crew. He never recovered from the shock. For the rest of his life, he needed replacement adrenal hormones. If he had found the right practitioner, perhaps they would not have been needed.
A disproportionate amount of stress can be an important cause of burnout which can be derived from many sources. Chemical toxicity and nutritional depletion are among the physical causes; Mental, emotional or spiritual stress can be a major factor and overwork, financial and family problems; noise in the cities and electromagnetic pollution; mobile phones, microwave towers and household or workplace appliances that emanate strong electrical fields.
Nutritional Deficiencies are also a common cause. When the body is under stress, there is a greater need for nutrients. Carbohydrates, when excessive in the diet, stress the adrenals. Diets low in protein may also create deficiencies. Inadequate or poor quality water affects oxygenation of the tissues.
Most diets are deficient in nutrients that are required by the adrenals. These include B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C and E, manganese, zinc, chromium, selenium and other and other trace elements. The majority of cheap supermarket food in today’s consumer society is grown in depleted soils. Further processing and refining reduces nutrients even more. Bad habits like eating in the car or while on the run can further diminish the value derived from food. Also, allergic reactions to foods such as wheat and dairy products can damage the intestines and reduce the absorption of nutrients.
Toxic metals and chemicals can also contribute to adrenal burnout; as exposure to a multitude of chemicals in the air, water and food is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society. Dental materials; skin contact with chemicals; over-the-counter and prescribed medications are also conducive to the body’s toxic load.
Toxins can be generated within the body due to impaired digestion. When food is not properly digested, it either ferments or rots in the intestines, producing many harmful substances that are absorbed back into the body.
Chronic infections can also purvey to the toxic load. For many, the elimination organs refrain from functioning at optimal levels; resulting in a build up of toxic substances within the body; leading to adrenal burnout and many other health conditions.
Many stimulants such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol can damage the adrenals as they incite the glands into action. Less obvious stimulants can include anger, rage, arguing, hatred, loud music, the news and movies full of suspense; vigorous exercise, sexual preoccupations and the use of stimulants. Artificial stimulants can appear alluring in the midst of fatigue, providing a temporary energy surge or buzz. It is an appeal of the drug culture, both legal and recreational.
Unhealthy responses to stress such as worrying, becoming angry or afraid can induce a burnout. Particularly high strung, nervous individuals and those with very active minds are especially prone to adrenal burnout. Unfortunately, many with adrenal burnout function on anger and resentment. These act as adrenal stimulants, providing a negative energy with which to function.
Secondary to adrenal exhaustion are glandular imbalances, hyperthyroidism and more often hypothyroidism. The adrenal glands produce estrogens and progesterone, the main source of hormones post-menopause. Premenstrual syndrome and hot flushes are also indicative to weakened adrenal glands.
The side effects of adrenal burnout can be depression and apathy to friends, family and work. Anxiety and Irritability can also occur, as the inability to handle even minor stresses confounds. Compulsiveness and OCD are also associated; precipitating addictions of excessive exercise, sex, loud music or other forms of excitement. The unconscious goal is always the same, to stimulate the adrenals into activity.
When the adrenals are weak, copper builds up in the body. Elevated copper enhances emotions. Panic attacks, bipolar disorder, mood swings and schizophrenia are related to copper imbalance. As energy levels decline, other toxic metals build up as well. Mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, beryllium and others contribute to hundreds of physical and emotional symptoms. Elevated copper and low zinc levels can impair the immune system and chronic infections can occur. The stage is also set for the development of degenerative conditions such as Cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases are end-stage results of toxic accumulation and energy depletion
The condition can be classed as psychological as stress engenders the burnout which in turn affects the emotions and behaviour. But, burnout is biochemical as recovery involves improving emotions and dealing with psychological issues. However, it also involves rebuilding body chemistry because it is a physical condition as well.
Adrenal burnout is more prevalent with women than men; mainly due to lifestyle changes and sluggish oxidisation rates. However it is just as common in men. Many children are also born with weak adrenals due to their parents nutritional deficiencies. Minimal brain dysfunction, chronic ear or other infections, crib death, failure to thrive, ADHD and anti-social behaviour may all be symptoms of burnout in children.
Burnout can occur in all groups in society, regardless of occupation, income or educational level. It is recognised that many homeless people are victims of burnout. Accounting for why they may give up hope or be incapable of holding a job or supporting a home. Burnout affects every area of life; family, work and relationships; apathy everyone and everything. Friends, family and employers are often unaware of the condition, which can exacerbate the situation.
Burnout can occur due to a single shock; traumas that occur together or a combination of factors. Whether it is derived from an illness, accident, divorce, overwork or other stress depends very much on one is ability to handle stress, rather than the absolute amount of stress. When the burnout manifests, vital minerals can become depleted and toxic substances replace and become part of the structure of enzymes, body organs and glands. Even after a change of diet, lifestyle, attitudes or behaviour, the toxins can remain.
Often, burnout does not even develop until several years after a trauma, illness or injury as depleted and damaged cells proliferate. Even though many change their diets and get over their traumas, most people never recover from burnout, or make only a partial recovery.
The accumulation of toxins that occurs as the body and the inability to eliminate them can contribute to burnout. Elimination is very important, however energy is required to release toxins. If the energy system is weak, just fasting or cleansing will not be enough. One must rebuild the entire energy system by balancing body chemistry and providing nutrients as well. A one-month or even six-month cleanse is nowhere near adequate. It can take a year just to replenish one mineral. For those in burnout, extreme detoxification programs such as fasting, raw foods or even chelating agents can be dangerous. This is because the body lacks the vitality to properly eliminate toxins, the eliminative organs are compromised and toxins may be redistributed in vital organs. A gentle, complete program of rebuilding and nourishing the body must accompany any efforts to eliminate toxins. In fact, as vitality improves, toxin elimination will proceed of its own accord.
Diet is an extremely important factor in the road to recovery. Protein should be eaten with every meal, eggs, natural meats and poultry are among the best sources; toasted almond butter, goat’s cheese and nuts are other alternatives. It is advised to avoid vegetarian diets. At meal times try and east at least three different vegetables; it is advised to rotate proteins and vegetables, so not to consume the same thing every day.
Complex carbohydrates are allowed but wheat and spelt should be avoided as sensitivities to gluten (found in rye, barley and oats) can occur. Excellent starches are root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, carrots, onion and celery root), blue corn, brown rice, quinoa and others.
It is recommended to reduce all sweets and fruit. Avoid sugar and cows milk dairy products (except butter); vegetable oils except for olive oil; isolated soy protein as it is of poor quality and contains many anti-nutrients; junk food; juices as they can be too sugary and can concentrate food toxins, upset blood sugar levels and weaken the adrenals. Use sea salt rather than table salt; eat regular meals of an excellent quality and switch to organic food whenever possible.
Green foods like kelp, barley grass powder and various coloured vegetables are highly recommended. Cooking with coconut oil is excellent as it aids weight loss, Candida Albicans infection and energy. It is also advised to drink high quality water such as distilled or spring and to avoid tap water.
Food supplements are indispensable. Kelp granules and nutritional yeast are excellent as they are rich sources of nutrients and assist in detoxification. Other nutrients that are important for adrenal activity are vitamins A, B, C, E, pantothenic acid (B5); Zinc, calcium and magnesium; digestive aids such as pancreatin and ox bile and an adrenal glandular substance. Other nutrients may be needed dependent on levels of toxic metals and other symptoms or deficiencies. Hair mineral testing is a reliable way to detect deficiencies within the body. Liquorice is also highly recommended for adrenal burnout or fatigue as it acts on the blood pressure in the body; the active ingredient in liquorice is glycyrrhizinic acid – a plant steroid that mimics one of the prescription drugs given to treat low blood pressure irregularity. Liquorice also enhances the action of corticosteroids, the hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Other naturopathic remedies include goldenseal and Pau d’arco tea which can eradicate Candida; probiotic supplements to rebalance the gut flora and herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion to support the liver.