There are a few terms that I use consistently on my website and I really want to clarify their meanings for you. This is to help you come to a greater understanding of whether adrenal fatigue is indeed what may be going on for you. Important to note is that healing adrenal fatigue is always possible!
The terms I would like to discuss are
1) Adrenal Fatigue
2) Adrenal Exhaustion
1) Adrenal Fatigue.
First of all, let me say that much of the mainstream medical world (there are some great exceptions) does not acknowledge the term adrenal fatigue, mainly because it is not a disease with specific signs. Rather, adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, which when experienced together indicate that the adrenal glands are not functioning properly.
In other words, when a person experiences chronic stress; whether it is emotional, mental or physical, there is a potential for the adrenal glands to not be able to react normally to the body’s fight or flight response. When stress is more of a “one-off event” the body goes into the fight or flight response so it can act appropriately, but it then quickly recovers, especially if you immediately take it into a relaxed state through breathing calmly or sitting quietly. When the body is in this fight or flight response too often (ie chronic stress), then the ability for the adrenal glands to produce hormones in the way that they should, becomes compromised and the body does not recover in the way that it is supposed to.
Often, blood tests will not show conclusive evidence that something is wrong, because very often your results may not fall out of the recommended ranges, but the symptoms are there for you to know that things do not feel right. The recommended ranges however, show either a person in “health” or a person in “disease”. What we are dealing with here, is the many stages in between that range.
There are many different levels of severity of adrenal fatigue, depending on how chronically stressed your body is.
Symptoms in the mild form may include (but not limited to):
– trouble falling asleep at night (too wired)
– inability to relax
– addiction to caffeine and sugar
– weight gain
– muscle loss
Symptoms in the more severe form of adrenal fatigue may include (but not limited to):
– muscle fatigue and extreme weakness
– body aches
– muscle loss
– initial weight loss, followed by weight gain as the thyroid can be affected
– low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
– hair loss
– digestive disturbances, with diarrhoea and constipation
– susceptibility to respiratory infections and viruses
– light headedness
– reduced sex drive
– addiction to caffeine and sugar (the very things that make adrenal fatigue worse)
– difficulty falling asleep at night, difficulty waking up in the morning (cortisol levels work the wrong way around being high at night, and low in the morning)
And moderate symptoms may be anything in between the mild and severe symptoms.
We are all different and symptoms can vary from person from person.
It is this collection of symptoms together, that can indicate that adrenal fatigue may indeed be an issue.
2) Adrenal Exhaustion.
Adrenal Exhaustion is a very similar term to adrenal fatigue, but usually refers to the more severe effects of adrenal fatigue. The body at this point has become extremely exhausted and there can be many knock on effects on many aspects of your health as the ability of the adrenal glands to function normally is severely compromised.
Symptoms may be so severe that you are limited to bed rest for much of the day.
The body needs extreme gentleness at this point, and it is imperative that you work with a doctor or a natural health practitioner if you are dealing with severe adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion.
Burnout is a collective term, I have chosen to use, which in my mind covers adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, and anyone who is feeling worn out on a physical, emotional or mental level.
It is a more user friendly term, however, it also doesn’t quite capture the severity of what adrenal fatigue can be. It is my hope that the feeling of being burnt out, will alert people to the fact that things are not right, and to make changes in their life immediately.
I liken burnout to the earlier stages of adrenal fatigue, however this is definitely a person to person situation.
More important than the terminology is how you are feeling, to what extent it is affecting your life, and what you are choosing to do about it.
Healing from adrenal fatigue is very possible, but as well as supporting the body physically, it is essential that you look at the underlying emotional patterns so as not to repeat the process over and over again. The mind/body connection with adrenal fatigue is not standing in your power and this is often what really needs to be looked at.