As parents, the health of our children often takes priority, and we can find ourselves trying to do it all. We’re caught juggling everything from our careers, relationships, family commitments, school commitments, and everything else that life throws our way. The priority is looking after everyone else except ourselves. So, what happens when it gets out of hand?
You might start feeling excessively fatigued and your body aches. You may feel suddenly overcome with nervousness or experience bouts of anxiety. You may have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep or going to sleep late as you are going to bed but still feeling wired.
Most of the time, we simply shrug it off and say, “this will pass eventually, I’m too busy to deal with it, I’ll just keep pushing on.” Many of us time-poor parents would just reach for a glass of wine to help unwind, hoping to temporarily stem the rushing feeling.
While we’re busy preparing healthy, nutritious meals for our children, we’ll often settle for something sweet, salty or deep fried for that quick and convenient burst of energy. We often consume all of the stuff we tell our kids is “bad” and recommend them to stay away from, if they want to grow up “big and strong.” Do as we say, not as we do, right?
If this is starting to sound like your everyday rather than your once-in-a-while, it’s possible you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue. It’s extremely common amongst parents and is likely due to a hormonal imbalance. The good news is that there is plenty that you can do at home to help address the stress and get you back on track.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is prolonged exposure to stress which can drain your adrenals, and this leads to low cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone which increases sugars in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the available substances to repair tissues. Low cortisol level symptoms may include fatigue, dizziness, unexplained weight changes, muscle weakness, mood changes and darkening of the skin. You may have more symptoms if low cortisol goes untreated or you have damaged your adrenal glands due to severe stress.
The Four Stages of Adrenal Fatigue
- Alarm reaction. In the first stage, the body is alarmed by stressors and initiates aggressive anti-stress responses to reduce stress levels. At this stage, you may not feel or show signs of symptoms however you may feel a sense of being tired, but daily activities may continue unaffected.
2. Resistance response. Under severe stress, eventually, the adrenals may become unable to keep up with the body’s demand for cortisol, and the adrenals start to become exhausted. Anxiety may set in and may cause the person to become irritable. In this stage, it may take longer to fall asleep as insomnia becomes more common. In this stage, you may experience occasional mild fatigue, but a nap or some self-care can help your recovery process greatly.
3. Adrenal Exhaustion. In this stage, there are three phases. Phase 1: Mild symptoms of characteristics of the first and second stages of adrenal fatigue and may become persistent or chronic. Phase 2: Multiple endocrine axis imbalances may occur. Your body will try to maintain balance by activating the autonomic nervous system. However, the body is too tired. This may cause sugar imbalances, low blood pressure, postural hypotension, heart palpitation, dizziness, and anxiety. Phase 3: The body may become compromised in trying to maintain control of homeostasis. Normal balance is lost, and the body may enter a state of reactive imbalances.
4. Failure. In stage four, the adrenals are completely exhausted. Symptoms may become extreme in this stage and, if not attended to it, may become fatal. Symptoms of Addison’s disease may start to occur in this stage, such as unexplained weight loss, muscle weakness, headaches, nausea, irregular menstrual cycles, and depression. The body may lose its normal homeostasis and may break down.
Five Things You Can Start Doing Now to Address Your Adrenal Fatigue
- Remove or cut down on processed foods and drinks that are high in refined sugar, sodium, fat and low in nutritional value.
- Take more care to eat real, whole foods such as nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. This may help with inflammation.
- Prioritise good sleep. Our bodies need 7 – 8 hours of good quality sleep every night in order to strengthen our adrenals. If you have little ones, sleep when your kids are asleep or ask your partner or grandparents to help take care of the baby or kids so you can get some extra rest or a sleep in occasionally.
- Schedule time to do something for yourself like a cup of tea or a short walk. By doing this, your stress levels will reduce and help you relax.
- See a health practitioner who can help identify any nutrient deficiencies and can recommend supplements to help regain your hormonal balance.
- The focus needs to be on restoring balance by addressing any nutrient deficiencies, removing inflammatory foods, and providing nutritional and supplemental support to help rebalance your hormones.
A holistic approach like this will address the root causes of your health issues and set you back on the path to rebalancing your hormones. As always, it’s best to consult your healthcare practitioner before undertaking any kind of nutrition or supplementation program.
Emma Jensen is an Integrative Pharmacist and owner of Australian Nutrition Centre. She’s passionate about treating the root cause rather than the symptoms. You can connect with her @australiannutritioncentre
Signs of Adrenal Fatigue
- Low blood pressure
- Memory issues
- Dizziness and headaches
- Joint and muscle pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Salt and sugar cravings
- Abdominal pain
More Tips for Supporting Your Adrenals
- Meditate and relax. Take the time for self-care practices such as yoga, meditation, or sound therapy.
- Fresh air. Fresh air can do wonders for your adrenals. Go for a stroll and surround yourself with nature.
- 30 days coffee detox. That’s right, quit coffee for 30 days. Coffee can wear out your adrenals, so take a break from coffee and drink plenty of water or herbal tea. After your coffee detox, limit your coffee intake to one cup of coffee a day.
- Magnesium. Magnesium may support your adrenal glands, balancing hormone levels and lessen the effects of adrenal fatigue.
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