Adrenal stress (or adrenal fatigue) is a state of hormonal imbalance resulting from long-term exposure to stress. It’s a syndrome–a collection of symptoms–not a disease.
Stress for mamas comes in many forms, such as work, finances, pregnancy, infertility or miscarriage, parenthood, sleep deprivation, an inflammatory diet, etc.) Many of the symptoms of adrenal stress are the consequences of hormonal imbalance or the resulting excess inflammation in the body. Long-term exposure to physical and emotional stress is simply not sustainable for the body.
In my clinical practice, I’ve noticed that the daily energy patterns of patients with adrenal stress are fairly predictable. They are either wired-and-tired or just plain wiped.
What does wired-and-tired mean? Many mamas say they regularly feel exhausted and want nothing more than to sleep, but then are unable to turn off the brain at night in order to actually fall asleep. There is often a predictable timing too, such as feeling wiped by 5:00 pm every day, and feeling unable to carry on without a nap. Or waking at 2:00 am every night and having a very hard time going back to sleep. Or an inability to pull yourself out of bed in the morning (even with 9 hours of sleep) and feeling very sleepy until noon every day, and then feeling wired at night. Some mamas simply feel wiped out day and night.
The most common symptom of adrenal stress is experiencing some level of exhaustion all the time.
It’s the kind of fatigue that doesn’t go away with a few nights of good sleep. Symptoms are the body’s way of communicating a problem. But we’re often so focused on muscling through the day that we’re likely not listening. Mamas with adrenal stress usually have a colorful combination of symptoms such as:
- Bloating and digestive discomfort
- Blood sugar problems (hyper- or hypoglycemia)
- Dependence on caffeine products to get through the day
- Difficulty bouncing back from stressful events
- Feeling more tired during the day, and most energized in the evening after 6 pm
- Feeling frequently overwhelmed and run down
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- High or low blood pressure
- Increased belly fat
- Insomnia or sleep disruption
- Loss of muscle mass
- Low libido
- Mild depression
- Repeated illness or infections (for example, sinusitis, bronchitis, and yeast infections)
- Sugar and/or salt cravings
- Depressed thyroid function
It’s not uncommon for adrenal stress to weaken the body and increase susceptibility to other diseases.
Some examples of the diseases that adrenal stress often precedes are autoimmune conditions like hypothyroidism and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic musculoskeletal aches and pains and/or repeated injuries, estrogen-dominance conditions like PCOS and fibrocystic breasts, repeated infections like bronchitis or sinusitis, and allergies. Many of these trace back to an imbalanced digestive system and immune system. For many women, one of the main reasons they developed a diagnosable disease was because their body (and gut) was initially weakened by adrenal stress. Just as with adrenal stress, the diseases listed above also require root cause resolution.
Adrenal stress can be quite complex, and generally requires a number of different types of supports put into place at the same time to get real and lasting results.
In order to address these symptoms and truly heal, we mamas will need to find our own balance on all levels — physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This multidimensional vitality is available to motivated mamas ready to admit that we can’t do this all alone. And we don’t need to. We support mamas like you!
Author: Dr. Emma Andre