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Adrenal Fatigue: The Silent Energy Killer

Energy is the essence of life. It’s the human currency. However, lately, we are being short-changed. More and more people suffer from inadequate energy, poor focus, mood swings, and low drive. It’s not surprising that medical diagnoses of depression are on the rise.[1]

But what if you were told that these same symptoms might not be caused by depression? In fact, low energy, brain fog, and irritability are also major signs of burnout or adrenal fatigue.[2] Instead of being depressed, many people are actually letting stress get the best of them and messing up their hormones and neurotransmitters.

The truth is, that nowadays, we never shut off. We bring work home with our phones and laptops, and we are constantly wired to stay alert. If we keep this up long enough, eventually stress can break us and create Adrenal Fatigue.

The word “stress” was first used in physics to describe the interaction between a force, and the resistance present to counter that force. Clinically, this term was coined by Dr. Hans Selye who described it as a “nonspecific response of the body to any demand”.[3]

If stress is the response to a stimulus, then what is it that is causing us to stress? Back in the day, we would feel stress when we were being chased by a predator or when we were in dangerous situations. Nowadays, we stress about the coffee being cold, the car breaking down, being late, or forgetting to buy something for a friend. We stress about anything and everything; so much so that we even tend to stress about anticipating outcomes that rarely come to fruition.

Adrenal Fatigue: The Silent Energy Killer
Sadly, our brain cannot distinguish between being chased by a lion or being afraid of not meeting a work deadline. Our brains run on perception. And depending on how you approach each situation, you can make your brain trigger a full-blown stress response (even when it’s not a life or death scenario).[4]

Therefore, it is so essential to learn how to manage stress by changing our perception of the external events around us. You can use a terrible deal as motivation to succeed on the next one, eustress (aka: positive stress), or obsess over how this bad deal took a huge toll on your business; and let that stress make you sick, distress ( aka: negative stress).[5] The choice is yours!

If you choose eustress, the “problem” can result in positive feelings of gratification, inspiration, drive, and flow. If you choose to perceive the same problem as a source of distress, you trigger a cascade of chemical responses that compromise your physiology and performance.

Distress activates the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA preserves the balance between stress responses, energy metabolism, and neuropsychiatric function (in other words, your mood). [6]

While it’s normal to have this system activated to address fluctuations within these processes, its chronic over-activation is what’s causing (among many things) Adrenal Fatigue (more recently called HPA dysregulation).[7]

As the name suggests, Adrenal Fatigue, is the overstimulation of your adrenals. These are two glands located right above the kidneys. The adrenals manage stress by producing different hormones and neurotransmitters, such as cortisol (aka: the stress hormone). The more stress you perceive, the more cortisol your adrenals will produce.[8] These glands will also secrete adrenaline (aka: epinephrine), which is an important player in our “fight or flight” response (in other words, it sets off all the alarms in your brain so you can address this “dangerous” situation).

When you over-activate the HPA axis, all resources are channeled to solve this perceived life or death situation. As a result, all other systems are compromised. And we are not just talking about low energy and poor focus. All systems in your body are connected. We are talking about issues with your immunity, digestion, and even metabolic diseases. That’s right, cortisol diminishes the volume of the thymus (major immune organ)[9], suppresses digestion[10], and triggers insulin resistance[11] (which is the number one cause of metabolic disease).[12]

If this wasn’t enough, cortisol is also neurotoxic.[13] What this means is that this hormone has toxic effects on your brain. High levels of cortisol have been found to reduce the volume of the brain’s hippocampus[14], to alter synapses and dendrites, as well as inhibit neuronal metabolism.[15] In simple terms, it makes your brain smaller, and it blocks the ability for it to heal itself.

How can you revert Adrenal Fatigue? The number one thing you can do is to change your perception and response to the situations in your life. Make a conscious effort to choose eustress instead of distress.

Unfortunately, this suggestion is not enough. While managing the external stimuli is crucial, there are other environmental factors that are affecting how your HPA axis operates. Here at BIOHAX, we say that 70% of your health is in your environment. And, Adrenal Fatigue is no exception.

Toxins in our food, water, kitchenware, personal care and home products are wreaking havoc inside us. They are causing digestive issues and gut dysfunctions (i.e. Leaky Gut) that triggers autoimmunity and inflammation. These in turn, compromise your HPA axis and produce a chemical imbalance that doesn’t allow you to perform at your best.

Other factors to consider are blood sugar imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, dehydration, medication, caffeine, birth control, and poor sleeping habits, for example. They all can affect your HPA axis.

Besides managing your stress, it’s essential that you review your environment.

Here are a couple of simple guidelines to adopt:

  • Eat clean nutrient-dense whole foods;
  • Stay away from processed foods, vegetable oils, and sugary foods;
  • Avoid gluten-rich foods like bread and other wheat-based products;
  • Limit hard to digest foods like processed dairy;
  • Only drink filtered water or glass bottled water from clean water springs;
  • Choose personal care products without harsh chemicals and endocrine disruptors (like parabens and SLS);
  • Favor glass, ceramic and stainless steel. Reduce as much as possible your use of plastics;
  • Stay away from chemical fragrances and aerosols;

Dr.De

Marcos de Andrade MD, MBA Biohax

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