The adrenal glands are small, walnut sized glands that secrete a number of different hormones, such as cortisol, oestrogen and testosterone. Cortisol is a very important hormone that is secreted in high levels during periods of stress, both physical and emotional stress states. During prolonged periods of intense stress, the adrenal glands are said to become overworked and thus begin to function sub-optimally. The body is then left unable to deal with the stress state effectively. Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome often diagnosed by naturopaths and other holistic practitioners, while there is still reluctance by medical experts and gastroenterologists to recognise it as a standalone condition.
From the holistic practitioner’s point of view, adrenal fatigue is a syndrome occurring when the adrenal gland is functioning below normal levels. It is believed to occur after or during prolonged periods of intense stress, or after an illness that has taken its toll on the body. The main symptom is overwhelming fatigue that is not relieved by any amount of rest or sleep. People suffering from such fatigue often find themselves relying heavily on coffee, soda and energy drinks each day.
Medical practitioners believe that adrenal fatigue has no clearly defined signs of actual illness, and its symptoms are vague and non-specific. Symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, feeling unwell, depression and craving sweet and energy giving foods are common to a number of diseases/conditions/syndromes, and can be simply a side effect of our modern hectic lifestyle.
No matter what point of view you take, the symptoms described have a debilitating effect on one’s life and treating these symptoms will improve the situation somewhat. It is important to first determine the source of the stress being placed on the body, physical or emotional. It is recommended to visit a doctor, who can rule out any serious condition thorough investigation of symptoms and blood work. Any underlying illness, such as a respiratory infection or virus should be treated accordingly. If the stress is emotional, it is recommended that this also be dealt with. This can include discussing one’s issues with a psychologist or life coach, or adopting forms of stress relief such as yoga, Thai chi or meditation.
A dietitian should also be involved in treatment, as changes in dietary practices can greatly affect energy levels. Resorting to high sugar or caffeine containing foods is not recommended and will only further compound fatigue once the sugar or caffeine high is over. Adopting a well balanced diet, with regular meals and snacks is important to maintain energy levels throughout the day.
A dietitian can educate regarding the energy received from carbohydrate consumption, and how glycaemic index can play a role in maintaining stable blood sugar levels and thus maintaining stable energy levels. Omega 3 intake is advised, for its known association with enhancing the immune system and combating depression. Other common symptoms, such as constipation, abdominal pain and bloating may also be an issue, and can be relieved with changes in dietary practices.
Added to site on : Monday, 5 November 2012