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Do You Have 'Adrenal Fatigue' Or Just A Crappy Lifestyle? Take The Test!


Today’s post is going to be a real help to a lot of people. It’s not going to be overly complicated, confusing or too sciency. What I want to talk about today is a typical problem most people face when it comes to optimizing their health and their fitness goals.

Working with and seeing a number of different people day-in and day-out, It's not hard to tell if the person is living a well balanced lifestyle or if they are having problems under the hood. Bad skin complexion. Look tired. Have trouble with focus and lose concentration easily. We all know that guy or gal that walks around in a daze, shattered, as if their face is being shoved into the ground - we know something is going on but no one says anything because it's a common trait of today. It's almost as if it's trendy and the norm to be tired all of the time!

So you ask yourself. "Why do you feel like this?" "Is it just me?" "Hang on I know what I'll do, I'll google my symptoms - that will solve everything!" So you open your browser, hit up a symptom checker and low and behold you have some form of serious illness and have 6 months to live.

Ok I know the above example is extreme, but in reality a lot people resort to symptom checkers and it can make you feel scared and confused. Of course if you do suspect a problem you think requires medical examination, you don’t have to ask my permission to seek medical help, it’s better to be safe than sorry after all.

The adrenals

As the title of this post suggests, there’s a condition known as 'adrenal fatigue'. A diagnosis that has been bandied around by health professionals and other various practitioners to define a laundry list of symptoms that have already been mentioned.

Feeling run down? Tired all of the time? No energy? The diagnose must be adrenal fatigue.

To break things down what exactly are your adrenals? Well they sit just above the kidneys (ad=above) (kidneys=renals) and are responsible for secreting stress and fight or flight hormones such as:

  • Aldosterone which plays a role in water retention

  • Cortisol, which secretes throughout the body as a result of stress signals when the brain senses you are stressed

  • Adrenaline and noradrenaline which are the fight and flight hormones in which more blood is sent to your muscles in order to get away from the danger you are in.

The adrenal glands work via the pituitary gland located in your brain.This produces something called ACTH when it perceives a stressful situation; a looming deadline, an outstanding bill, or a detrimental ongoing relationship with someone. All these different types of stresses activate this same part of the brain known as the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis (or HPA Axis for short.)

In short your brain detects stress, which sends the signal to the adrenals, which then secretes the stress hormones throughout the body in order to keep you alive from the external threat. Because your body doesn't know the difference between the threat of an approaching tiger or paying a bill on time, the stress response works in the same way.

What is adrenal fatigue?

The term adrenal fatigue is considered a chronic physiological response to stressful situations. When the body is constantly under these stresses and your adrenals produce too much stress hormones, this leads to their ‘failure’ to continue to produce stress hormones.

This seems accurate though right? A jockey doesn't crack the whip on a horse for hours and hours on end. The horse would eventually pack in and burn out. But the problem is that adrenal fatigue is not actually recognized as a diagnosis. For example, the website hormone.org says the following on adrenal fatigue:

"Doctors urge you not to waste precious time accepting an unproven diagnosis such as 'adrenal fatigue' if you feel tired, weak, or depressed. If you have these symptoms, you may have adrenal insufficiency, depression, obstructive sleep apnea, or other health problems.[1]"

There is also a famous study that reviewed 58 studies that looked into things such as burnout, exhaustion, cortisol and vitality. The conclusion was no evidence of an actual medical condition [2].

Side note - In no way does this post refer to other adrenal issues such as Addison’s disease which is an insufficiency of these hormones due to the glands themselves. It also doesn’t refer to anyone that has actually been diagnosed with low cortisol levels. If you have a test that shows cortisol levels are low then yes, see a doctor or endocrinologist right now. For everyone else, keep reading.

So if we have come to the conclusion that adrenal fatigue is probably not a real condition, how does this help you? The most simple and easiest solution is to look at some basic lifestyle interventions that you can make, test to see if this is an area you could improve and that will assist you today.

Sleep

I go on and on and on about sleep. It’s becoming a bit of running joke on this blog but it’s totally justified because sleep is so damn important! If you lack consistently good quality sleep this will ultimately spill over in to your day-to-day life and affect your energy, your motivation and your mood. Even your diet adherence.

If you fail to get consistently good quality sleep, this becomes an accumulative process. This means that if you regularly shun your 40 winks you start to create a sleep debt which can be hard to recover from. A hectic weekday could mean your creating a sleep deficit. Hitting the night life on Saturday night as well? Even less sleep as alcohol dramatically affects the quality of sleep.

The fix - You should get to bed at the same time every night and start to create a sleep rhythm which your body will adjust to. Sleep in a cool, dark room and try and sleep at exactly the same time each night. Shut off all electronic devices an hour before bed, but if you absolutely have to have screens in your face (which most of us don't) then download a blue light blocker such as F.Lux, as the blue light has shown to block melatonin, a hormone that is secreted by the brain to relax you.

Stress levels

This leads nicely to an area that may actually affect your sleep without you knowing it. People have the tendency to hold on to useless mental clutter that has accumulated over the week. It's that nagging, chronic, pointless stress we all get, some get affected more than others. But it’s how you deal with it that can truly change your life.

The fix - Before bed, mind dump everything you need to do the next day into a diary or planner. That way you’ll be free of mental clutter and can rest easier. Being mindful is another great exercise as well. I'm a big advocate of meditation, yoga, or going for a walk in a park or fields as they are all great at calming your mind.

Stress is a big area to discuss so these are only a few suggestions that can help. Remember, no one IS stressed, they simply choose to DO stressed. Forget about that person who just cut you up on the motorway. Forget that rude person who cut in front of you in the queue. Carrying stress like this can play havoc on your long term health and well being.

Energy levels e.g. caffeine sodas

I've already discussed the dreaded caffeine cycle in more detail here. This can be a knock on effect of a lack of sleep and feeling stressed. I have more information about the dreaded caffeine cycle . But basically you feel tired for whatever reason, so you have caffeine to perk you up. This then affects your sleep so you have even more caffeine and this cycle continues on and on.

The fix - This is a difficult one to get around, but ultimately you should correct your sleep and stress levels whilst reducing caffeine intake. Sorting out sleep and stress alone could auto-correct your need for stimulation through caffeine or caffeinated soft drinks.

Ultimately if you cannot get through the day without a coffee it's probably a combination of a lack of sleep, stress and even boredom.

Diet and cravings

This is a complicated area and will take a lot of figuring out on your behalf to determine. It may be worth investing in a coach to have a look at for you. Hey hit me up if you want! But I’ll try my best to cover all bases.

If your diet lacks the necessary micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fibre and hydration levels then this could be a direct cause of you feeling run down and ultimately stressed. If your diet looks like this:

Breakfast - sugary cereal with a coffee Lunch - sandwich meal deal Dinner - takeaway/fast food/microwave dinner

Then yeah your diet is failing you miserably. A lack of nutritional goodness is another form of stress on the body. Don't forget that.

The fix - Add vegetables (5-7 portions is a good place to start) some good quality protein at every meal, a palm sized serving such as chicken, eggs, oily fish e.g. mackerel, salmon. Also fruit as snacks is a good option and all the water.

Check out the blog for other great nutritional tips and tricks.

Exercise

If you do no exercise, or any weight training, cardio, no classes, no family activities that involve exercise then what are you doing! You need to not only do this for your energy, but overall health. Lack of exercise is linked to cardiovascular disease, which is a serious health risk.

The fix - Start to move your body and get active. It’s a great way to relieve stress and improve your health and fitness at the same time. EVERYONE has the time to train, none of these 'I don't have the time' excuses please.

Use the stairs instead of taking the lift. Walk on your lunch break. Park fifteen minutes away from your job and walk to and from your car. Cycle to work. If anyone ever says they don't have time for something what they are really saying is they don't have time for THAT. Priorities now come on.

Summary

How can I relate to all of this? Because I went through the same thing when I was in my early twenties. I had a phase of my life where I was not sleeping well, my general mood throughout the day was low and it felt like I was trapped in the same routine over and over. It must be adrenal fatigue I thought. That's what the symptom checker and Google told me. All of the symptoms fit the bill!

So what I did was stepped back, assessed my life and figured it out. I was eating a pretty decent diet, drunk enough water and was exercising consistently.

What I hadn’t factored in was an issue I was going through in my personal life and I was carrying a mega amount of stress around with me. It all started to make sense, and once I had moved on from the issue everything returned to normal. Sleep improved, energy rose and I was me again.

So if you don't move a lot during the day, take your work home with you, eat a poor diet, get no exercise and still go out on the weekends and blitz it until 4 in the morning slamming Jagerbombs, then yeah you are going to feel awful.

Be honest with yourself and work out why you feel like crap all of the time. If your sleep sucks, ask yourself why and how can it be improved? Does your diet lack god quality nutrients? If so correct it. You'll thank you for it.

For more free lifestyle tips head on over to Angel Nutrition on Facebook!

Bibliography

1) http://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/adrenal/adrenal-fatigue

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997656/

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