The adrenal glands are two little endocrine glands about the size of plums which sit above the kidneys. Their job, among other things, is to produce the hormones needed to react to stress and control adrenaline output.
Late one night in London in my early 20’s when I was working as an attorney on an international transaction I cannot remember, eating Skittles and drinking black coffee from the vending machine, I began to sweat profusely under my arms. I was just sitting at my desk trying to focus on marking up a boring document when it started. It wasn’t the light perspiration produced by a warm room or even the all-over sweat you might expect from 30 minutes on the tread mill. It was a gush, a river, that ran down my sides – only from my armpits – soaking my blouse, my suit, and the waistband of my skirt. Horrified, all I could do was hide in my office and stuff paper towels in my shirt to try to mitigate the damage.
Now, much older, and, I hope, a little wiser, I recall that night as the night my adrenals “broke”. The sweating was the result of my endocrine system working in overdrive to compensate for an inadequate adrenaline supply to keep me going when I should have been in bed. Adrenal fatigue happens when the adrenal glands run out of the hormone precursor material necessary to make certain hormones. As a result, it becomes difficult for the body to produce the required levels of these hormones, including stress hormones, sex hormones, and neurotransmitters.
I know now that there was a long build-up of stresses – emotional, physical and nutritional – that had led me to that crisis point at so young an age – and that all- nighter in the office was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I also know that I have never completely healed my adrenals. They have taken a beating with each pregnancy, each house I have renovated, each illness and sorrow, each sick or injured child, each day of running from appointment to appointment (always 15 minutes late) and each hour of lost sleep.
Adrenaline is addictive and many of us unwittingly rely on it as a stimulant drug to get us through our busy days, continually depleting our adrenals.
Here are 13 warning signs that your adrenals are fatigued:
- low energy/sex drive
- trouble concentrating
- hoarse voice
- poor digestion
- not feeling rested after waking
- “crashing” early in the day and/or throughout the day
- craving sugar and caffeine
- post-natal fatigue and/or depression
- sweating under the armpits when you are not hot!
Here are 3 things you can do to avoid and heal adrenal fatigue:
- Do gentle exercise and avoid thrill seeking or very intense, stressful sports
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and
other stimulants (such as sugar) and inflammatory trigger foods
- Optimize your nutrition