Adrenal Fatigue

Your adrenals are small glands that sit on top of your kidneys.  The adrenals are part of your stress handling mechanism.  When you experience acute stress, the adrenals kick in to provide you with the burst of energy you need to get out of the stressful situation.  An example of this is a horse sensing a predator about to attack him.  The adrenals kick in, secreting chemicals into the bloodstream, giving him the burst of energy he needs to run and escape from harm.  Another example is the surge of quick energy and sharp mental focus one gets when narrowly avoiding a traffic accident.  In a nutshell, the body slows or stops all functions (such as digestion) not necessary for either fighting or running.  This acute (or Phase 1) adrenal response is perfectly normal and is designed to give us the increased mental clarity, super-strength and endurance necessary for us to escape from harm.  It is our “fight or flight” response.

In our society today we are not often chased by mountain lions.  Our stresses, which often manifest on a more mental or emotional level, often last weeks, months or even years.  So, what happens when our body slows or stops all functions not necessary for “fight or flight” for an extended period of time?  Chronic stressors result in the body going into Phase 2 adrenal response as the body is attempting to deal with this prolonged and unnatural stress.  During this time cortisol levels continue to stay raised, while DHEA levels begin to decline.  At this point a variety of symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, fatigue, sleep onset insomnia, low libido, frequent yawning, sweet cravings, back pain in the kidney area, muscle tension, digestive dysfunction, irritable bowel, low basal temperature and impaired immunity begin to occur.

As these heightened stress levels continue over a long period of time and the adrenals are not given the time and nutrients necessary to recover, the adrenals go into Phase 3.  In Phase 3 there is still a period of resistance before adrenal fatigue reaches official clinical exhaustion.  The symptoms that often appear at this stage include malaise, low mood, sleep maintenance insomnia (due to erratic cortisol surges), memory and cognitive challenges and a higher occurrence of chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome. “Adrenal fatigue” (in one phase or another) is probably the most common problem we see in our patients.  It is also the most fun issue to help resolve because of the huge improvement in how good the patient feels once this issue begins to resolve.

Dr. Holly Carling

Dr. Holly Carling

Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Dr. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Dr. Carling considers herself a “professional student” – she has attended more than 600 post-secondary education courses related to health and healing. Dr. Carling gives lectures here in the U.S. and internationally and has been noted as the “Doctor’s Doctor”. When other healthcare practitioners hit a roadblock when treating their patients nutritionally, Dr. Carling is who they call. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic.

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The information provided in this article or podcast should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this article or podcast. Readers/listeners should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The information and opinions provided here are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author, but readers/listeners who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.

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