Who experiences adrenal fatigue?
Anyone from birth to old age and from any race or culture can experience adrenal fatigue. People vary greatly in their ability to respond to and withstand stress. An illness, a life crisis or a continuing difficult situation can drain the adrenal resources of even the healthiest person. However, there are certain factors that increase susceptibility to adrenal fatigue. These include poor diet; substance abuse; too little sleep and rest; too many social, emotional or physical pressures; serious or repeated injury; chronic illness; repeated infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia; allergies; exposure to a toxic environment; and a mother with adrenal fatigue during gestation and birth. Unfortunately, many of these factors are common in modern life.
How does adrenal fatigue affect health?
Adrenal hormones are involved in almost every process in your body. They help regulate energy production and storage, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tone, immune function and other processes that are altered to help you deal with stress. As the adrenal glands become increasingly fatigued and their hormone production decreases, each organ and system in the body is more profoundly affected. Changes may occur in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism; blood sugar balance; energy production; immunity; fluid and electrolyte balance; cardiovascular function; sleep patterns; mental acuity; mood; menstrual and menopausal symptoms; inflammatory and allergic reactions; and even sex drive. Many other alterations can take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to, and to compensate for, the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue.
Is adrenal fatigue related to other health conditions?
The processes that take place in any chronic disease, from arthritis to cancer, place demands on the adrenals. Therefore, as a general rule, if morning fatigue is a symptom of the chronic disease, the adrenals are likely fatigued to some degree. Also, anytime a medical treatment includes the use of corticosteroids (hydrocortisone, prednisone, etc.), diminished adrenal function is most likely present. All corticosteroids are designed to imitate the actions of cortisol, the main hormone secreted by the adrenals and the most important anti-inflammatory in the body. So the symptoms for which corticosteroids are usually prescribed arise primarily when the adrenals are not providing adequate amounts of cortisol.
Does diet have anything to do with adrenal fatigue?
Yes, diet plays a critical role in adrenal fatigue. The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” aptly describes the relationship between poor diet and adrenal fatigue. A nutritionally inadequate diet that is high in sugar, caffeine and junk food places daily stress on the body that the adrenal glands have to respond to and, at the same time, deprives the adrenals of the nutrients they need to function. This alone can lead to adrenal fatigue or make the body more vulnerable to adrenal fatigue when any additional stress is added. Similarly, good nutrition helps protect and sustain adrenal function during stress.
Image credits: Flickr users Professor Bop and TheFoodJunk