Adrenal stress syndrome is a very real syndrome. In the last 10 years, almost 1,000 studies have shown that your health hinges on the integrity of your adrenal rhythms. When they are not dialed in, a long and varied list of possible symptoms can arise including easy weight gain, feeling tired, trouble sleeping, frequent illnesses, poor memory, and digestive troubles (to name a few). [Click here for a full list of symptoms.]
There are few things more frustrating than having a doctor look you in the face, dismiss your symptoms, and insist that you are either depressed or overreacting, and that you need a pill to “fix” your issues. [Why a pill won’t fix your issues.]
I have met so many mothers with fatigue who have had this experience of invalidation.
We know that adrenal and hormonal health and resilience to stress are absolutely essential to body balance and vitality. So why doesn’t your doctor know this?
In my years of practicing natural medicine, I have seen a few key reasons. They can be boiled them down to the three T’s: training, treatment, and time.
Why Your Conventional Doctor Hasn’t Talked to You About Adrenal Stress
Our conventional medical model considers adrenals unimportant unless they are completely failing or extremely overactive (as in Addison’s and Cushing’s disease). The same can be said for other glands in the body, such as the thyroid and ovaries. Conventional doctors are trained to think about health as black-and-white: either you have a condition/disease or you don’t. Functional conditions like adrenal stress occur when a normal body process or system is impaired, but looks fine upon examination. This is the gray zone: someone is at risk for or in the process of developing a more serious disease. Conventional medicine doesn’t have the tools to support functional conditions. Adrenal stress is a perfect example of a functional condition that lives in this gray zone. It’s a collection of signs and symptoms that point to the body being out of balance. But it’s not a disease, so there’s no diagnosis code for it in our disease-centric medical system.
Another reason conventional medicine isn’t good at addressing adrenal stress is that there are no prescription drugs that help the body properly manage stress and rebuild itself. Many women who are struggling with the collection of symptoms represented by adrenal stress are prescribed anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, birth control pills, and sleep medications. While these drugs can suppress symptoms and temporarily help someone cope, they don’t address the problems that caused the symptoms in the first place. And they don’t heal the body. In fact, many of these drugs worsen nutrient deficiencies that are often part of the root cause of hormonal dysfunction.
Helping a patient understand and treat adrenal stress takes time and committed effort. It involves deeply listening to the patient and understanding the nuances of her condition. In the typical medical model, time is not a luxury available to most doctors. I believe doctors would want to provide more thoughtful patient-centered treatments that support long-term health and vitality (including better education for patients), but there just isn’t time in the typical seven minutes of face-to-face interaction allowed by most insurances.
Where to Go from Here
The symptoms of adrenal stress (even when severe) are often considered a normal part of motherhood and the lack of sleep that tends to accompany it. We have to stop thinking this way and dismissing the symptoms that are causing our body distress. Symptoms are the body’s way of communicating with us. As mothers, we’re often so focused on simply getting through the day, that we’re likely not listening. And in our conventional medical model, we’re not taught to listen intently to our body until it’s in full-on distress.
We’re here to tell you that it’s not normal or acceptable to be totally strung out and exhausted all the time. At Vital Mamas, we believe that the fatigue, exhaustion, and other symptoms of adrenal stress do not have to be a normal part of motherhood. We deserve better for ourselves and our bodies.
Author: Dr. Emma Andre