How to Resolve Fatigue & Reduce Stress
Updated: Nov 29, 2021
Always running around, or running on empty? This article shows you how to support your adrenal system to maintain energy, balance stress levels and avoid ill health
Your adrenals are pyramid-shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys and release hormones that regulate your stress response. So if you are juggling a hectic work/life/family schedule, for example, or faced with any kind of stress, you will be experiencing “fight, flight or freeze” hormones from your adrenals.
These hormones send messages to your body to prepare for physical exertion: energy and resources get diverted away from your digestive system and reproductive organs, for example, and sent instead to your heart, lungs and the muscles in your arms and legs.
Actual physical exertion, such as running and heavy training, can elicit a similar response. In the process, your body will be using up a great deal of nutrients, proteins, essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6), and a whole array of minerals and vitamins, as well as fuel. If you don’t have the resources and energy to provide these, or replenish your stocks afterwards, then you may be playing a dangerous game. There may come a day when energy just falls completely flat – and thats when you experience the fourth F, FATIGUE when the body completely shuts down.
Adrenal hormones also regulate the inflammatory response. As most chronic disease seems to be underpinned by inflammation, it is all the more important to explore the role of the adrenals and how perhaps adrenal support might be an important step in preventing chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. So it is fundamentally important to take care of your adrenals and give them the ongoing support they need.
Living on your adrenals.
A frequent indicator of adrenal depletion or exhaustion is indicated by how someone is living their day-to-day life. Caffeine and sugar binges around 11am and 3pm in the afternoon, inability to stay alert, fighting tiredness with stimulants to artificially push energy reserves through the day, irritability, high and low moods. Stimulants might include coffee, tea, sugar, cigarettes or even a hectic schedule where there is no opportunity to stop. There may be one meal a day, usually late at night, often takeaways and little else to nourish. Such individuals may be workaholics or burn candles at both ends. I describe this as “living on your adrenals” – that is, living on the “empty” energy of stimulants rather than on the nourishment provided by regular meals that provide a spectrum of nutrients and fuel. The vitality one experiences from living on empty is completely different to nourished sustained release of enrgy. I relate this to driving a vehicle. How far would you get without filling the tank or charging the battery? And what type of fuel would best serve performance? Living on one’s adrenals is not generally a sustainable way of life.
Often these individuals experience severe energy deficiency, low mood and fatigue when they do take a break, go on holiday or reduce the stimulants that are getting them through the day. People are sometimes shocked at how poor their energy levels are when the stimulants or busy-ness are removed. This can be tough to acknowledge, but a real eye-opener in terms of how important it is to rest, recalibrate and refuel their adrenals.
Sometimes, exercise addiction patterns may be associated often to the extent that runners, for example, will continue to train on badly damaged muscles or ligaments because they can’t possibly contemplate a day without a run.
Signs that your adrenals need support.
So how do you know when your adrenals need some TLC? One or more of the following may give a good indication:
fatigue and lethargy
lack of focus and concentration
decline or dips in memory
weight gain or loss
lowered or heightened libido
inability to slow down or take a break
need for regular coffee/tea/sugar/ cigarettes to get you through the day
anxiety, fear, depression
allergies and inflammation
aching muscles and joints
low blood pressure
In addition, if you have been diagnosed with any kind of hormone-related condition, such as diabetes, a thyroid condition, fertility issues or a mental health problem, then you would do well to address your adrenals to begin with and then build from there.
How the adrenals can be depleted
LIFESTYLE Do you continually rush or push yourself from one thing to the next? Do you ever pause and reflect? Are you getting enough sleep/time to rest and repair?
STRESS The recent lockdown has brought a different set of stress factors to those we would originally have had to contend with. Working from home, juggling responsibilities of childcare, education and work deadlines can add to the stress load, financial and family pressure, isolation to name just a few. Our bodies have incredible coping strategies, but when stress factors are ongoing over a long time then it can put a strain on the mechanisms involved.
Further reading: Impact of stress physiology on wellbeing
TRAUMA Physical accidents and mental/emotional shock and trauma can send shockwaves through the whole body creating FREEZE. Unless fully resolved, the repercussions can stay with us for many years afterwards, keeping the adrenals in a state of long term stress. This often leads to long term chronic illness, beginning with fatigue.
SUCCESSIVE PREGNANCIES This will not be an issue for everyone, but remember that pregnancy – like puberty and menopause – increases the body’s demand for the resources that make hormones. If these resources are lacking, and/ or not replenished between pregnancies, the adrenals (and eventually the thyroid) may feel the strain.
ELECTROMAGNETIC STRESS We are surrounded by more electrical equipment and wireless technology than ever before. A laboratory test showed that long term exposure to electromagnetic stress increased stress hormones and elevated sugar. Those sensitive to EM will exhibit a strong need for adrenal support.
CHEMICAL TOXINS Mercury, arsenic, PCAs and other prevalent toxins have been shown to inhibit steroid hormone production.
NUTRIENT INTAKE To make hormones you need either proteins or cholesterol plus a broad range of vitamin and mineral co-factors and essential fatty acids. If the diet is poor in any of these – or if they aren’t being digested or absorbed efficiently – then this will leave the adrenals struggling for the resources they need.
STIMULANTS Stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, cigarettes etc. will often deplete these same resources while stimulating your adrenals to push harder.
DIETARY FACTORS Gluten in wheat, rye and barley, as well as casein in dairy, may affect your absorption of nutrients and even create conditions of stress in your digestive tract. An acidic diet lacking in vegetables, not drinking enough water between meals, rushing meals and overeating can all put stress on your whole system.
CONSERVING YOUR ESSENCE
While we in the West talk about living off your adrenals, Chinese medicine talk about depleting your 'Jing energy'. Jing is the ancestral vitality passed down to you through the generations, and it is your responsibility to conserve as much of it as possible. When it runs out, your time is said to be up. Interestingly, your Jing is said to be housed in your kidney- adrenal area, and is related to fertility, vitality and longevity.
The adrenals, essence or energy is considered our 'battery' and the best time to service this is Winter, associated to the water element (5 elements & body clock) which also relates to the bladder, the ears, the flavour of salt and the colours black and dark blue. Imbalance or depletion in the Water Element is related to feelings of fear. Fear in itself can be a very useful emotion when it protects us from harmful situations, but being stuck in continual loops of fearfulness may be an indication that the adrenals are over- firing or depleted and need support.
To avoid depleting your Jing essence, you need to make sure you build up enough energy and vitality from food sources, as well as from breathing well and being grounded or earthed, to support your daily activity. This kind of top-up energy is known as chi or qi. The wisdom you can take from this is to make sure you have enough stores of energy and resources before you go for that run, set off for the gym or launch into another hectic day.
Reconnecting with your root chakra The adrenals are the foundation stone of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a set of glands that release hormones, which are chemical messengers that trigger and regulate all kinds of activity, from blood pressure to blood sugar regulation, and from fertility cycles to bone health. It includes the adrenals, pancreas, thymus, thyroid, parathyroids, pineal and pituitary.
The endocrine glands correspond to the Eastern chakra system. The chakras are energy vortices of the body, that manage our energy anatomy, drawing invisible life force from the earth. There are seven major chakras, each working with a different frequency or colour, and each at a different point between the crown of our heads and the seat of our sacrum.
The adrenals are said to correspond to the root chakra, our anchor point to the earth. As such it represents our stability, our survival and our groundedness. The colour of the root chakra is red, and it is very much linked with the physical material world. As we move through the chakra elevator, the colour changes to orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet/white, representing the full spectrum of light, and with the crown chakra at the top more connected with the spiritual. These correspond to the frequencies of light provided through the seasons.
For the chakra system to be in balance it has to have a firm foundation in its root chakra; if the root chakra is weak then the whole system may be more easily toppled. In the same way, the adrenals can be described as the foundation on which the rest of the endocrine system is built. The strength and vitality of the adrenals is a linchpin for the integrity of the whole structure.
The adrenals may be viewed as the baseline support for your entire body, and the integrity of the whole system rests on these foundations. with the proper approach to nutrition and lifestyle, you can make sure those foundations are as firm as possible.
Working with Gee Gahir, a Pioneer of holistic wellbeing services within the NHS, Co-founder of Wellbeing Wizards, a podcast platform inspired through lockdown, Gee is an accredited EMCC intuitive lifestyle coach providing preventative naturopathic mind-body-space solutions to facilitate vibrant health and balanced lifestyles.
Connect with Gee to arrange a holistic, naturopathic and personalised coaching experience.