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HEALTHY LIVING: Are you headed for physical burnout?

When exhaustion becomes a daily or even weekly occurrence, no matter how much sleep you get, it is a sign your body has reached physical burnout. 123RF
When exhaustion becomes a daily or even weekly occurrence, no matter how much sleep you get, it is a sign your body has reached physical burnout. 123RF - Contributed

We all experience those days when our bodies simply have no more to give. You know the ones — you pull into your driveway after a long day’s work and the mere thought of even making your way to the door feels overwhelming. 

Yet, you drag yourself inside and somehow find the energy to feed the kids and help them with their homework, which seems more like brain surgery 101 than Grade 3 math. By the time your deflated body finally hits the sheets, it feels like you have somehow melded with the mattress — pure and utter exhaustion.

While feeling this way once in a while is completely normal, especially considering our fast-paced lives, when it starts to become a daily or even weekly occurrence, no matter how much sleep you get, it is a sure sign your body has reached physical burnout — your adrenal glands have hit the wall and you are running on empty.

Adrenals are the small, walnut-sized glands that sit above your kidneys. They produce hormones like adrenaline that help regulate bodily functions including blood pressure, heart rate, immune function, metabolism and even liver function. They are also responsible for manufacturing two major stress hormones: DHEA and cortisol, which help balance your physical response to stressful situations; the typical “fight or flight” reaction being one. When constantly under stress, however, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, your body must continually produce these hormones, eventually draining the adrenals and affecting their ability to keep up. When this happens, your energy levels can drop significantly, cognitive function can become impaired and your ability to handle stress can be greatly diminished. This repeated demand on the adrenals can also affect your immune response, lowering your ability to fight infections and according to some studies, even increase your risk of cancer. Deficiencies in these two hormones can also lead to heart disease, diabetes, increased allergic reactions, a variety of mood disorders, weight gain and decreased libido.

It is estimated about 20 percent of people suffer from adrenal fatigue. But because this condition is not something traditional doctors typically recognize or treat, many people think they are just overworked, never addressing the problem until it turns into something more severe like heart disease or cancer. There are ways to treat adrenal fatigue, however, using a variety of supplements, lifestyle changes and common-sense strategies.

Reduce stress

If your adrenals are compromised you need to reduce any stress in your life — even if you start by removing some of the smaller ones, you can make a big difference in your overall well-being.

Get more quality sleep

We should all get eight-to-10 hours of restorative sleep every night. While not always possible, it will make a huge difference in your physical energy and your emotional well-being. There are many natural sleep aids such as melatonin that can help.

Diet

Adrenal fatigue can cause significant blood sugar imbalance and will often lead to sugar cravings, so it is vital to always eat breakfast and eat small, healthy snacks between meals in order to minimize blood sugar swings. Incorporate more whole-grain foods and proteins like almonds, walnuts or macadamia nuts and avoid processed foods, especially simple sugars, including refined grains (white breads and pasta), and excessive fruit juice. Cut back on coffee and other caffeinated beverages and alcohol. People suffering from adrenal fatigue often experience low blood pressure, so make sure you are getting enough salt, which helps to maintain blood volume and circulation, although too much salt (more than 2,400 mg/day from all sources), can also be unhealthy.

Reduce exercise

While exercise is critical to staying healthy, in the case of adrenal fatigue, too much exercise can further exhaust the adrenals. Simply walking 15 minutes daily until you see an improvement in symptoms may be a place to start. You can gradual increase your exercise time as you start to feel better.

Supplements

Vitamin B5 is important for regulating stress-hormone production, vitamin C can help increase immune function and herbs such as ashwagandha can help normalize adrenal function. Often a naturopath may suggest adrenal glandular extract (AGE), which contains growth factors that help repair and support the adrenal glands.

If you have any natural health questions or something you would like more information about, email cmcmurray@herald.ca.

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