Funny what life throws us. Before we get into this post I have to share with you something – this isn’t edited or proofed, I’ve decided to throw this up at 10:30pm Sunday night so bare with me here please. It’s raw and a little difficult for me to share because I like to focus on wellness – and very rarely am I unwell. I’m also a health educator, and when I get sick, I sometimes feel I’m letting the team down. Anyway, I scheduled in this post several weeks ago. Now, I’m no fortune teller, I’m always lead by intuition and pray for guidance, which could not have smacked me any harder in the face if it tried this time around. On Thursday – my adrenals packed it in. I’ve since experienced wild headaches, nausea, very painful legs and very sore eyeballs (I know right?). You’re about to get a lesson in adrenals – but what I wanted to say is this. Our bodies speak to us. Mine was screaming at me on Thursday and is continuing to do so. I’ve recently made some amazing changes and chosen to slow down the pace a little – but, my body is a few steps behind on this one and decided to pack it in before the changes could really be felt. Sometimes, when we slow down, our bodies go into shock. Anyway – point is, I’ve since identified the triggers and I’m very aware of what needs to be done to become well again. I’m also grateful for the experience. There were things in my life that needed addressing – and it seems, there’s no time like the present! Ok – now let’s hop to it.
Are your adrenals ok? One of the most commonly identified health problems our modern world is facing today is adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue or exhaustion is marked by a total state of depletion – that feeling of being completely worn out. It’s most likely triggered by high levels of stress, it can be certain food exposure that sets off sensitivity responses, high consumption of carbohydrates which in turn will affect your blood sugar levels as well as exposure to electro magnetic fields (EMF) – think mobile and cordless phones, wifi, any electric source that gives out a signal. And then of course – here’s where I come in. It affects your fertility.
Now we’ve all been exposed to stress, EMF and possibly have food allergies. Some of our bodies go a long while before they tucker out. Others (especially post illness) don’t cope so well. The severity and individual constitution will come in to play of course but the most common symptoms are marked by;
- difficulty staying asleep
- finding it hard to get up in the morning (probably because you can’t stay asleep at night)
- mid afternoon tiredness
- general malaise
- feeling of being overwhelmed or things are ‘out of control’
- food cravings – especially sweet and salty
- postural dizziness (upon standing)
- afternoon fuzziness and headaches – and headaches with stress or exertion
When the adrenals are totalled, we don’t just experience fatigue, in some instances we can see hyper function which eventually leads to exhaustion too. These symptoms that mark hyper function are very similar in that which we see with sleep disturbance, the feeling of always being stressed, anxiety, high blood sugar… you get the picture.
It’s not that the adrenals aren’t working properly – in fact quite the contrary. The problem is the fact that they never switch off. The adrenals are supposed to release adrenaline as a normal body response to stress – something that once upon a time wasn’t a every waking minute occurrence. Nowadays, stress is so much more than our bodies can keep up with. So if we are in a constant state of ‘stress’ we are constantly releasing adrenaline which may be ok if our body was effectively dealing with it. Let’s not forget the way our bodies are designed when it comes to stress is something like;
“Holy batman – there’s a bear over there and it is coming to get me!” (cue fight or flight mode = adrenaline release)
Adrenaline is released and it mobilises blood sugar to help the body cope with the bear and act in the emergency. This fight or flight mode also sees the pupils dilate, shuts off digestion and all the other non essential, non survival orientated bodily function (um hello fertility if this is happening every waking minute!), constricting blood vessels to raise blood pressure and increase the heart rate. And then our bodies automatically tell us – get the heck out of there!
Cortisol is also released (depending on the level of stress) with adrenaline. It is the blood sugar management hormone. The body deals with cortisol by high activity – ie “lets run as far away from that bear as fast as physically possible” But for those of us who are stressed, sitting at a desk all day or being in a situation that is constantly causing stress (I torturous relationship or stressed about baby making) and not able to effectively move cortisol out of the body – this is causing huge health problems.
Women need healthy adrenal function to have healthy hormones and be fertile. Women who are under constant pressure or experience immense stress (trying for a baby is stressful enough!) have a very hard time conceiving. This is because of the way hormones work in the body. Cortisol and progesterone compete for the same receptors in the body – and as we explored last week, cortisol will always win the battle leaving the hormones completely out of sorts affective ovulation as well as implantation and pregnancy. Progesterone is the hormone required in the later stages of the menstrual cycle to support conception. Low levels will affect reproductive function. This extends right through until menopause. Those with tired adrenals can experience awful symptoms during those years of change. This is because, at the time of menopause, the adrenals are supposed to take over from the ovaries to continue to regulate hormones. But if the adrenals are shot – the body has a really hard time adjusting. Those with happy adrenals barely notice the transition – simply because this is how our bodies were designed to work.
So back to my bear. Can you see the immense stress of being faced with a bear is a ‘scare the pants of ya’ kind of occurrence. But it is a once off event and your body deals with the responses accordingly. However, these same hormones are released in any stress response and if you are in a constant state of stress, sitting at a desk, never moving away from the stress, you don’t effectively deal with the hormones being released (say by running – which would be a normal response to seeing a bear to move cortisol out but NOT a normal response when you’re in the thick of it with a pile of work, a deadline and no time to eat or barely sleep – which again probably isn’t happening because your adrenals are shot!!).
The biggest problem is that it sets about a cycle which is difficult to break. If you’re constantly in a state of ‘flight’ you’re more likely to have unbalanced sugar levels (which sees you craving all the wrong food), the need for use of stimulants (hello coffee), high exposure to EMFs, food sensitivities, inadequate sleep and more likely to see chronic infections arise. Where does it end! Food sensitivities may also be adrenal fatigue. If you are sensitive to certain foods this will automatically create a stress response that your body has to deal with.
You’re busting to know how to fix it right? Firstly you must identify the triggers and address how the body functions as a whole is key.
From a TCM viewpoint, we need to look at what organs are being affected and work backwards to effectively treat such symptoms. Here are a few of my tips to begin healing your body:
- identify stressor
- cleanse the body, exactly what I outline in Cleanse Yourself and then switch the diet to eating to support hormones like I outline in my book Well & Good.
- get back to 3 well balanced fertile fuelled meals per day (just another example of how fertility doesn’t have to equate to babies but simply healthy happy hormones – also in Well & Good).
- pinpoint what your body is lacking nutritionally – get a blood test and if need, supplement accordingly
- exercise gently and regularly every other day
- meditate – hands down best start!
In such instances, adding acupuncture or spinal care is also my recommendation to really get things kicking along.
Above all – get back in tune with your body. It is always telling you what it needs, in a state of adrenal exhaustion it can be difficult to identify which is why I recommend seeking the advice of a natural health care practitioner to really scout out the issues and devise a gangbuster treatment plan that is specific for your individual needs.