‘Tis the season to be busy! As the holidays approach, we face additional obligations such as entertaining, traveling, and shopping on top of our daily work and family responsibilities. While it's an exciting time, it's also a stressful time, so it's more important than ever to be healthy. Stress can have a major impact on your body and can lead to fatigue, depression, and decreased immune function.
What is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?
Adrenal fatigue refers to a collection of symptoms that result when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. The adrenal glands are located just above the kidneys and are primarily responsible for governing the body's response to stress. As its name implies, the main symptom of adrenal fatigue is persistent fatigue that is not relieved by sleep.
Other common symptoms of low adrenal function include:
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Cravings for salty or sweet snacks
- Struggling to keep up with life's daily demands
- Difficulty bouncing back from illness or stress
- Decreased memory
- Difficulty focusing
- Moodiness/decreased tolerance for others
- Decreased sex drive
Most adults suffer from some level of adrenal fatigue at some point during their lifetime. It's typically the result of prolonged or unresolved stress, such as illness, life crisis, or difficult work or family situations. During this time, the adrenal glands are over-stimulated and the output of regulatory hormones may be diminished, causing the onset of symptoms.
How is Adrenal Fatigue Treated?
Many factors can help prevent and, if necessary, treat the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Dr. Stacy Gee, a pharmacist specializing in bio-identical hormone replacement therapy and functional endocrinology, sees many patients suffering from some degree of adrenal imbalance. "It's so important to remember that the adrenals are part of the endocrine system," Gee said, "and an imbalance can have a negative impact on other body systems, such as thyroid and other hormones. This can have a major impact on patients' daily lives."
Some patients, such as those with classic Type-A personalities or those in high-stress professions, are at higher risk of developing symptoms. For those patients, Gee recommends several preventative measures. Dietary changes such as eliminating or minimizing caffeine, sugar, and highly processed foods help to boost the immune system. Exercising may be challenging, particularly for those already experiencing symptoms, but it will help to increase energy and immunity. Finally, Gee recommends all of her patients add a good multi-vitamin and an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement to their daily routine.
For those already experiencing symptoms, several treatment options may be considered. Gee typically recommends hormone testing for severe symptoms, as thyroid and hormone imbalances frequently accompany adrenal fatigue. Several over-the-counter supplements are available which may help to balance cortisol levels and improve adrenal function. In some cases, low-dose prescription hydrocortisone may be needed to restore optimal levels.
During the holidays, when stress levels are often high, prevention may be the key. Take time each day to decompress and relax, and consider making the lifestyle changes outlined above. Supplements such as those suggested by Dr. Gee can be beneficial to everyone and may help prevent symptoms of adrenal fatigue and boost overall immunity. Remember these tips and you may have a happier and healthier holiday season!
Shannon Fields is a freelance writer and a Certified Pharmacy Technician at Innovative Pharmacy Solutions. She holds a BA in Psychology with a minor in English from the University of Central Oklahoma. Shannon lives in Edmond with her husband and two daughters.