Adrenal fatigue syndrome is something we see increasingly at our Perth naturopathic clinic. If it becomes severe and chronic it is known as adrenal exhaustion or adrenal burnout. Homeopathic remedies supported by nutritional and herbal treatments help heal this condition rapidly and in time full health can be restored.
Stress is a normal and natural part of life, and the body has evolved ways of dealing with it. In a natural environment the stresses are not usually constant and our bodies can recover. The problem is that is that in our twenty-first century world we often cannot escape stress through the fight-or-flight mechanism that served us in prehistoric times. Add to that the more recent constant stimulation of TV, mobile phones and social media, and our bodies are permanently bathed in the primary stress hormone, cortisol. Work stresses, deadlines, money worries and other issues are always present, in our minds at least.
The resulting poor sleep and imbalanced brain chemistry results in cravings for fatty, salty and sweet foods, stimulants and alcohol. This aggravates the issue further and may eventually be the cause of adrenal fatigue syndrome, also known as adrenal exhaustion or adrenal burnout. It is a situation where the stress has become chronic, and the final outcome of adrenal fatigue – as the body’s metabolic processes fail to adapt – may be obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disorders, rapid aging, problems with memory and even Alzheimer’s disease. These are all results of a chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol. But this is the chronic or end result of the earlier stage of adrenal fatigue.
The initial symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome itself include low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and greater intolerance to cold, mood swings, anxiety nervousness, insomnia, poor libido, bodily aches and pains, recurrent infections, digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and, of course, fatigue. As you can see, the symptoms are many and varied, and as with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia (where adrenal fatigue syndrome may play a part) it is still a controversial medical diagnosis. The issue becomes clearer by looking at the hormones involved and the body’s reactions.
The body’s central nervous system is linked to the endocrine (hormonal) system. Stress causes the pituitary in the brain to send a hormone to the adrenal glands above the kidneys to stimulate cortisol. The action of cortisol is to prime the body to stand and fight, or run away. It releases amino acids from the muscles, glucose from the liver and fats from fatty tissue into the bloodstream to be used as energy. However, excess and continued stress leads to chronically elevated levels of cortisol. This stimulates several metabolic processes that serve to increase concentrations of glucose or sugar in the blood. This leads to reduced insulin sensitivity and weight gain and may eventually help trigger diabetes.
Chronic cortisol overexposure also reduces testosterone levels. This negatively effects mood, muscle mass and metabolic rate; so weight gain is virtually inevitable in the face of high cortisol and low testosterone. Cortisol also contributes to high storage of abdominal fat through its effect on a fat storing enzyme known as HSD. Most of the problems associated with elevated cortisol levels have their origins in a disturbed metabolism, resulting in high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high body-fat levels. This cluster of metabolic problems has become known as metabolic syndrome, or syndrome x. People with this syndrome are recognisable by their accumulation of abdominal fat.
At this Perth naturopathic clinic we utilise many strategies to identify and treat adrenal fatigue syndrome, and the stress of life in general. The most important of these are lifestyle and diet. Diet should focus on blood sugar regulation and reducing inflammation in the body, by the inclusion of vegetables and fruits that contain high levels of polyphenol antioxidants. Regular exercise is important, preferably a combination of cardio, flexibility and strength training. Meditation or some other form of relaxation is desirable. Yoga is one of the best stress release disciplines as it combines the benefits of all forms of exercise with relaxation and meditation.
There have been many herbs that have been shown to aid in the body’s stress response and help heal adrenal fatigue, particularly those known as “adaptogens”. These are plants that normalise body functions; they can deal with both states of over-activity or under-activity of a body organ or system. These may be included in the diet or supplemented. With our naturopathic training we can pinpoint which one will be most beneficial to you.
After dietary and lifestyle measures, the most important therapy to deal with stress and adrenal fatigue is homeopathy. At our Perth clinic we use homeopathy to treat the person as a whole with what is termed a “constitutional remedy”. This remedy is different for each person, and is prescribed on the symptoms of imbalance in the individual on all levels: mental, emotional and physical.
The response to the constitutional remedy is that people are more optimistic, have more energy and improved sleep; and in this particular instance of adrenal fatigue they have a much better response to the stresses of life. Where the body functions have been disturbed or a state of chronic disease has commenced, the same remedy, which should have been prescribed on those symptoms as well, will help commence the healing process on that level also.
The problem is not stress itself. It is the way the person reacts to stress that is the problem. While it is true that with enough stress anyone’s system will break down, with a healthy lifestyle and diet, and with all the body’s responses optimised, including the hormonal and emotional responses, the body is best able to deal with stress and recover quickly. It is true enough to say that most problems we see are connected to stress in some way, and Perth naturopath and homeopath Michael Blanch has thirty years experience dealing with issues related to stress, adrenal fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.