Adrenal fatigue / Burnout
If you're exhausted, nervous, experiencing brain fog and digestive problems, have a sudden craving for salt, and are losing body hair, you may be experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue or burnout. What's going on here? Well, your adrenal glands, those tiny bumps atop your kidneys that pump out hormones, may be short-circuiting. (Bet you didn’t even know that could happen, right?) The adrenal glands produce cortisol, which is the hormone that triggers the fight-or-flight response. Too much can make you feel incredibly stressed out (and stress can also make you sick), especially if there's no reason to fight or fly. The fight-or-flight response is a natural mechanism that helps keep you safe, but it’s meant to be reserved for occasions when you really need it. It’s definitely not something you want to feel 24/7! Confused? Join the club. Conventional medicine recognizes several causes of adrenal distress, including Cushing's syndrome (where there's too much cortisol), and Addison's disease (where there is too little). But "adrenal fatigue" isn’t considered totally legit by most traditional medical practitioners. Why? Because it's actually a summary of symptoms often caused by a dysregulation or dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (now say that 3 times fast!), which plays a role in your response to stress. So, what you're experiencing is 100% real, but perhaps given the wrong name, because many people with adrenal fatigue symptoms actually have normal or high cortisol levels. Basically, it’s not “burnout” in the sense that your adrenal glands are burnt out and not producing cortisol; it’s burnout because your body is dealing with symptoms of dysfunction, and that can be exhausting. What to do? First, make sure you're not deficient in vitamins and minerals (running on empty can do that to you!). And take care of yourself! Yoga and other mind-body or relaxation practices can dial down your stress levels. From a natural treatment perspective, some practitioners recommend adaptogenic herbs like reishi, but you don't want to experiment too much with this health issue before seeking expert advice. Bottom line: if you're experiencing "adrenal fatigue" or any of the symptoms associated with it, get help from an experienced practitioner who isn't stuck on labels and can work with you to get your hormonal health back!