By Sheila Jiwan
Are you always fatigued, feeling tired but “wired” or constantly stressed and burnt out?
“If only I had the energy I used to!” sounds familiar to you, perhaps you ought to consider knowing more about a condition you may be suffering from called adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, or adrenal burnout.
I am continuing to see an increase in women suffering from constant stress that leads to high cortisol levels, adrenal imbalance and complete exhaustion. It occurs when the adrenal glands are putting out the wrong levels of stress hormones — either too low or too high — in relation to the amount that is needed. This mismatch often results in troubling symptoms. In addition to fatigue, women with adrenal imbalance may experience weakness, moodiness or depression, hair loss, weight gain and dozens of other symptoms — some very serious.
If you’re like many women in today’s world, you probably can’t imagine how it’s possible for you to reduce stress and the negative effects it has on your body.
That’s why every woman with any of these symptoms should undergo a series of tests that evaluate markers of stress, including cortisol and DHEA levels. The clinical results — in over thousands of cases — are remarkably consistent: only 20–25% have cortisol levels consistent with healthy adrenal function, while 75–80% suffer impaired function in various patterns ranging from mild to more serious.
How chronic stress leads to high cortisol, adrenal imbalance and severe symptoms
With stress, your adrenals rally your body into a “fight or flight” survival response by increasing adrenaline and cortisol production. No matter what the cause of the stress, your body sees it as an emergency.
In its normal function, cortisol helps us meet these challenges by converting fats and proteins into energy, keeping us alert, balancing electrolytes, calibrating heart beat and pressure, and counteracting inflammation. In the short run, that’s great — even protective and restorative. However, problems can develop as today’s relentlessly busy lifestyle forces your adrenal glands to be on constant “high alert” resulting in sustained high levels of cortisol.
Sustained high cortisol levels are dangerous because they:
• Slow down healing and normal cell regeneration.
• Co-opt parent molecules needed to make other vital hormones
• Impair digestion, metabolism and mental function
• Interfere with healthy endocrine function
• Weaken your immune system
When your adrenals are required to constantly respond to stress, they eventually have to struggle to produce cortisol, as well as other key hormones such as DHEA and the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This difficulty in producing hormones becomes especially critical as a woman enters peri-menopause and menopause and needs the full support of her adrenals to prevent extreme sex hormone fluctuations.
The damaging effects of high cortisol
Adrenal imbalance in women tends to peak between the ages of 35 and 55. Most women can recognize themselves in one of these descriptions:
• You’re always active and feel “wired.” Your system is constantly fueled by adrenaline and cortisol to create what feels like a continual state of hyper-energy. Yet you often feel drained.
• You can’t get up in the morning — but you can’t sleep at night. Your natural 24 hour cycle of energy and relaxation is off-balance. If you’re able to fall asleep, you may wake up in the middle of the night fully alert.
• You have no energy — period. You feel exhausted all the time. Even getting out of bed often feels like a challenge. You may also experience intense cravings and unexplained weight gain.
Adrenal imbalance may also be a factor in many other serious conditions, including fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, arthritis, and more.
Normalize cortisol levels to restore adrenal balance
Women with mild to moderate adrenal imbalance can have several options that can help them feel significantly better while keeping symptoms from becoming more severe. The key is taking the right steps to normalize cortisol levels and restore healthy adrenal function. You can take immediate action by asking these simple questions:
Are you eating in tune with your natural cortisol curve?
• At mealtime it is important to rebalance your adrenal glands. The goal is to achieve more stable energy levels throughout the day, which you can accomplish by eating three balanced meals with two snacks.
• What you eat makes a difference as well. Try to reduce refined carbohydrates — such as sugar, flour, potatoes, and white rice — which cause stressful ups and downs in your blood sugar that can lead to adrenal imbalance. This may be difficult, however do the best you can. At the beginning, the goal is progress, rather than perfection!
Can nutritional supplements support my adrenal glands?
• High-quality vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids help support a healthy metabolism and hormonal balance, which contribute to adrenal health. I recommend Platinum Naturals Super Easy Multi 45+ with 30 vitamins and minerals as an easy-to-take formulation that builds a strong nutritional foundation.
• Specific amino acids and herbal supplements, such as GABA and Siberian ginseng, are effective at reducing the negative side effects of stress, producing calming effects and encourage sleep. Rhodiola rosea and cordyceps play an integral part in improving oxygen absorption, increasing your energy, physical recovery and endurance. Rhodiola has also been associated with improved moods and is recommended for conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I recommend Platinum Naturals Stressentials which has a unique formula that targets the underlying symptoms of stress to provide you with quick relief.
Which lifestyle changes are best to restore adrenal balance?
• You may not always reduce stress; however you can take steps to reduce its effects on your life. Take time to understand where your stress is coming from, and then think about how you’ll make changes that are right for you and your lifestyle. It’s helpful to make a list of stressors that interfere with your wellbeing, especially those that are ongoing or self-imposed.
• Get more rest. Your body needs down time to heal!
At Pharmasave Canada Way located in the Summitview Medical Centre we can show you how to get back to feeling as energetic and vibrant as you ever have. Call me for a personal consultation at 604.453.0136 and together we’ll come up with a plan unique to your needs.
Sheila Jiwan is a Pharmacist and expert in women’s health and wellness. She has helped women of all ages with personalized healthy aging programs that make a significant difference in the lives of her patients and customers.