Have you found yourself more intolerant to being out in the sun since dealing with issues of adrenal fatigue?
Do you feel more thirsty than usual or craving salt?
Do you find that plain old water just doesn’t seem to quench your thirst?
Dehydration needs your attention at any time, but becomes essential when you are dealing with adrenal fatigue for some very important reasons.
What are These Symptoms All About?
While there can be a number of reasons for symptoms such as those mentioned above, one of the often overlooked but common issues with adrenal fatigue is a constant mild dehydration in the body.
The root of this dehydration lies in the imbalanced way that the hormone aldosterone is being produced in your body because of the chronic stress that is present in your system. One of the effects of “out of whack” aldosterone levels is an imbalance with your electrolytes especially sodium and potassium which often leads to fluid depletion.
The degree to which this may affect you will depend on the severity of the adrenal fatigue that you are dealing with (ie the extent to which stress has impacted your body). The more severely you are affected with adrenal fatigue the more you are likely to be dehydrated and the more sensitive you may find yourself in a number of situations. For example,as Dr Michael Lam points out in his book Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
“Those with advanced adrenal fatigue syndrome may find a few minutes of exposure to strong sunlight a draining experience. These are signs of low marginal fluid reserve within the body. When the fluid balance within the body is off, temperature control becomes a problem; many report temperature intolerance as well. The more fluid and electrolytes are dysregulated, the higher the chances that dehydration will trigger adrenal crashes.”
I Used to Relish the Sunshine
I grew up in the hot Australian sunshine, and for the most part I tolerated it pretty well. I played a lot of competitive tennis and many other sports out in the heat and the water I drank provided the necessary hydration that I needed (effectively my system was in good balance). If I had perspired a lot, I would drink some gatorade (please read below why this is not good for adrenal fatigue) and that usually brought me back to balance.
A few years ago while dealing with severe adrenal fatigue I noticed some changes with my tolerance to the heat that I had not experienced before. When I was out in the sun for a short time (and even outside in the shade on a hot day), my energy was significantly drained in a way that it had never been before, and I was often left with an inability to go about my simple tasks for that day and often for the following few days.
It essentially created what Dr Michael Lam refers to as an “adrenal crash”, i.e. when the body’s reserve has been pushed beyond its limits and symptoms such as extreme fatigue come about as the body tries to restore energy and simply survive. Often what happens with a “crash” is that current symptoms worsen or new symptoms that weren’t there before, begin to show up.
Consider What Else Might be Dehydrating You
I feel it also important to get you to think about other situations that may dehydrate you. Some situations which I often found potentially draining and dehydrating were:
- staying in a hot bath or hot shower for too long
- going in saunas or spas
- sitting outside (even if in the shade) where it was extremely glary
- being in a hot, stuffy room for too long without adequate airflow
Take some time to consider what adjustments you can make to help keep your temperature balanced and to not do things that will further dehydrate you if in fact your system is already dehydrated.
Ok, let’s get back to how this dehydration effect comes about with adrenal fatigue.
- We experience a stressful event or we respond to an event in a stressful way and we activate the fight-or-flight response in our system.
- This puts the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) into action.
- One of the hormones involved in this action is aldosterone.
- This hormone helps to control our sodium and potassium balance and our internal water balance.
Marcelle Pick explains about the symptomatic effects of aldosterone (and cortisol) in the fight-or-flight response scenario in her book Is It Me Or My Adrenals?
“Like cortisol, aldosterone is supposed to peak at around 8am and reach a low between midnight and 4am. But when we’re stressed, ACTH, the same hormones that stimulates the release of cortisol leads to the release of aldosterone as well.
If high levels of cortisol remain in the system for 24 hours or so, the cells that produce aldosterone lose their sensitivity to ACTH. As a result, chronic stress often leads to the underproduction of aldosterone – the symptoms of which include low blood pressure, bloating and water retention, electrolyte imbalance, increased thirst, general muscle weakness and lethargy, and sometimes a craving for salt.”
It really doesn’t sound so good, does it? Effectively the chronic stress in your system greatly disrupts the way cortisol and aldosterone are produced, and you end up with a system that has imbalanced electrolytes (which includes sodium and potassium).
We say, “I’m thirsty”, and go ahead and consume a significant amount of water in one go, but unfortunately if the electrolyte levels in your body are off, drinking a lot of water in one sitting only creates a further dilution of these levels in your body and does not bring them back into harmony with each other.
Dr James Wilson in his book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome explains that
“Aldosterone is responsible for the maintenance of fluid (water) and the concentration of certain minerals (sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride) in the blood, the interstitial fluid (area between the cells) and inside the cells. These electrolytes are very important for proper cell function and fluid properties and they must remain in a relatively constant ratio to each other and to the body fluids.”
The more severe the effect of stress is on your body (ie adrenal fatigue) and the more your aldosterone production is being affected, the greater the effect on your electrolyte levels (or your mineral balance) especially sodium and potassium and the more dehydrated you are likely to be.
So, what can you do about it?
The key is to get fluids and adequate sodium into your body slowly.
Dr Michael Lam explains that
“When lost fluid is replaced too quickly, without adequate sodium, the amount of sodium in the body may be diluted, resulting in an even lower sodium level. Low sodium can produce non-specific symptoms of confusion, lethargy, nausea, headache, seizure, weakness, and restlesness. This in turn worsens AFS.”
I can especially remember one particular day when I was out walking around 12noon. I hadn’t expected it to be as hot as it was that day and I also hadn’t expected to be out as long as I was. I came home thoroughly exhausted and extremely thirsty and immediately drank a large amount of water. I remember the result, it took me 3 to 4 days to recover.
I was experiencing an “adrenal crash” from being out in the sun in an already dehydrated state, and I experienced extreme fatigue, headaches and extreme muscle weakness and general weakness to the point where I was unable to function properly, limited to just very basic tasks over the following few days in order to take care of myself.
My system was likely dehydrated before I went out (from the effects of imbalanced aldosterone functioning) and combining that with consuming a large amount of water on my return very likely upset my sodium and potassium balance that was already compromised. My electrolytes needed the 3-4 days to balance back out.
What is the Best Way to Hydrate Your System with Adrenal Fatigue?
Keep listening to your own body. While there are a bunch of guidelines here on the salt replacement, this is going to be ever changing for you.
Pay attention to the quantity of salt that your tastebuds are telling you that they want on your food and in your water.
And very importantly, keep addressing why you are stressed in the first place. This aldosterone imbalance comes from a body that is stressed. This is at the root of it all. Yes, you must take care of your physical body in a different way while you recover, but in order to make a permanent recovery, you’ve got to get to what is causing you the stress in your life.
I wish you well on this journey of recovery.