Many people are starting out 2021 feeling stressed, burnt out, and lets be honest…tired! From fighting a pandemic, to murder hornets and a crazy election, we all could use a spa day to unwind and reset. With the roller coaster of emotions that 2020 year has brought come many unwanted symptoms. One of the most common ones we treat in the office being fatigue.
Why Are You Feeling Tired All of the Time?
One of the things we all have in common right now is a higher stress load. Our bodies make a lot of changes in order to help us to “cope” with stress. When a stressor is perceived (hello COVID-19), our adrenal glands respond by pumping out excess cortisol, our stress hormone. In return our body shifts to a more on edge state, commonly referred to as “fight or flight” mode. This switches our bodies priorities so that it can better respond to a stimulus and stay on guard for incoming danger.
While stress is often perceived as a bad thing, cortisol is a necessary hormone for everyday functions. It is the hormone responsible for helping us to feel awake and energized in the morning and is also important for blood sugar regulation and a healthy metabolism.
The problem occurs when our “fight or flight” mode is not able to turn off.
This is something that is all too common. Many of us have some form of chronic stress—just think about the long work hours, chores that need to be done, the kids school projects, and the extended family drama. Now add in working from home, home-schooling, and not being able to see your loved ones—and you’ve got a major stress load.
With chronic stress, our adrenal glands have to work so hard at pumping out cortisol, that it gets to a point where it can no longer produce what it needs to function properly. In return we start to see many different physiological things occur.
- Hormonal Imbalances—our bodies start to favor cortisol production over sex hormone production. Why? Because having babies is not our bodies priority when stress is a factor.
This turns into hormonal imbalances in both men and women. Women will often notice shortened cycles, heavy bleeding and worsened PMS symptoms. Men may experience low testosterone symptoms like fatigue, low libido and decreased muscle mass.
- Poor Thyroid Function—Our thyroid is another important organ when it comes to healthy metabolism levels and energy production. Oftentimes when our adrenal glands start to suffer we will see the thyroid gland initially work harder to make up, and then it eventually will start to decline as well. This is one of the reasons why hypothyroidism and subclinical hypothyroidism are so common.
Common hypothyroid symptoms—fatigue, brain fog, cold intolerance, dry skin, brittle nails, hair loss, constipation, weight gain, water retention/feeling puffy
- Nutritional Deficiencies—Our adrenal glands help our bodies to control salt and sugar regulation. With adrenal fatigue and chronic stress, oftentimes we will have an increase in salt and sugar cravings for this reason. This often leads to less healthy diet decisions and nutritional deficiencies.
- Weight gain—Do you notice that you have difficulty losing weight with stress? Well there is a physiological reason for this. In hunter/gatherer times, stressful times often included famine, where our ancestors may have had to live off of very few calories for long periods of time. To cope, our bodies held onto any excess fat it could since it did not know when the next meal would be coming.
Because of this, adrenal fatigue and chronic stress are very common reasons for stubborn weight loss, especially difficulty losing weight around the midsection.
- Immune dysfunction—Did you know that chronic stress can cause your immune system to weaken? This can make you more susceptible to viral infections like the common cold and even chronic viral infections like EBV.
We treat patients all of the time who have reactivated, chronic viral infections like Epstein-Barr Virus, cytomegalovirus and HHV6—due to chronic stress and a weakened immune response.
So I May Be Feeling Tired Due to Chronic Stress and Adrenal Fatigue….Now What?
Luckily there are many treatment options available that can help your body better cope with a high stress environment and get you feeling like yourself again.
Some things that you can start now at home…
- Switch up your exercise routine—Exercise is a form of stress. This is why it is important to switch your exercise routine to more restorative options rather than high cardio options if you have adrenal fatigue. Trade your high intensity cardio to more restorative exercises like yoga, Pilates, walking and resistance training.
- Eat meals regularly—The last thing you want is for your body to constantly wonder when it is getting its next meal. While intermittent fasting is great for some conditions, it is not the best thing to do if you are experiencing adrenal fatigue. Aim to eat a meal or healthy snack every 3-4 hours during the day. And opt for healthy options like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
- Make sleep a priority—Now is the time to make sleep a big priority in your life. This will help to reset your natural cortisol curve. Aim to get 8 hours of sleep a night and set a bedtime before midnight for optimal healing.
- Practice mindfulness—Finding times during the day to be mindful and allow your mind to reset and feel calm is an important practice when it comes to managing stress. Mindfulness may mean different things for everybody. Some of our favorite techniques—guided meditation, journaling, and deep breathing exercises.
Work with a Naturopathic Doctor at Live Well
Everyone is different with how their bodies respond to stress and the type of treatment they may need to help their adrenal glands and hormones to function properly again. Balancing your hormones, getting on the right diet and exercise routine, treating your thyroid, and taking the right supplements are just a few ways that we can help you feel more energized.
Your physician at Live Well will run lab work based off your unique symptoms and medical history. Labs often include AM cortisol levels, comprehensive thyroid testing, sex hormones, and common nutritional deficiencies. If during your history your provider thinks that there may be other things contributing to your fatigue, then they can run additional blood work as well.
Based off your labs, symptoms and medical history your physician will then provide you with an individualized treatment plan that may include a combination of targeted supplement therapies, diet and lifestyle counseling, prescription medications if needed and possible IV nutritional therapy if you are a good candidate. There are multiple adrenal supplements and medications that we utilize depending on your current stress levels, your cortisol production and your symptoms. The best thing about your treatment plan…it will be completely individualized to YOU.
If you think that your symptoms may be due to adrenal fatigue and chronic stress, we would love to help you get back to feeling your best self again. Call our office to schedule a free “Meet and Greet” appointment with one of our naturopathic medical doctors to see if they would be a good fit for you.