If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know that twenty years ago I was a NYC commuter working in corporate America. I spent three to four hours per day on trains and subways and my ten hour days were fueled by obnoxiously large lattes.
I had endless health issues at this time. But “adrenal fatigue,” was not one of my diagnoses. In fact, they were: anxiety, depression, brain fog, insomnia, amenorrhea, chronic sinusitis and severe allergies.
But how did I really feel? Burned out. Literally sick and tired of feeling “sick and tired.” But, I was a good patient. I always did what my doctors told me to until I had a horrific drug interaction which derailed me and left me questioning “how can all of this medication be helping me?” At this point, still in my twenties and a decade away from my holistic doctorate, I began seeing a chiropractor for a shoulder injury.
Connecting Adrenal Fatigue to “Burn-out”
“Your adrenals are flared,” my chiropractor said, “we can rehab your shoulder but it will only get you so far because you need to heal your adrenal glands and see a Chinese Herbalist immediately.” Now this was COMPLETELY off-the-wall, but remember – I’m a good patient.
Following doctors orders I saw an herbalist who always yelled at me when I walked into her back room (which was subsequently at the back of an Asian fish market in urban NJ) “You on fi-yah!” she screamed. And quickly she got together the herbs I would steep and drink three times a day and return in two weeks. This went on for months.
Once my shoulder tear healed (without surgery) my chiropractor told me that that I should ditch my fast-paced corporate lifestyle and explore chiropractic as a career. I had an identity working for so many years in NYC that it never dawned on me that my career didn’t agree with me. Once I committed to doing an about-face and changing my entire life, I began to finally recover from adrenal dysregulation. And I’m still a work-in-progress.
I believe women bear more work-related stress than men, because they also manage a home, with or without children. Because of this level of emotional stress, adrenal fatigue may very well be the most common hormonal imbalance in women today.
Your adrenal glands are two pearl-sized triangular organs that sit perfectly on top of each kidney. (1) They produce the stress hormones: cortisol and DHEA.
I believed I produced way too much of these hormones for years. I was always “tired” but couldn’t rest well because I was truly “wired.” I craved sugar and started to develop a “flat-tire/muffin-top” around my midsection.
After practicing for a few years I noticed the symptoms from ten years prior slowly starting to creep back into my life. The Chinese Herbalist that I had trusted and loved, retired, so I began researching Adrenal Fatigue and stumbled upon Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book: The Hormone Cure. (2) As a Harvard trained OB/GYN and women’s hormone expert, Dr. Gottfried devised a comprehensive list of the symptoms associated with Adrenal Fatigue. (3)
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue: a Comprehensive List
- Anxiety, especially in stressful situations
- Emotional instability or excessive emotions
- Frequent screaming or yelling
- Confusion, difficulty with focus, under stress
- Poor resilience to stress – stress feels too much or unfair
- Excessive sensitivity to human suffering
- Feeling of victimhood
- Accusatory (more common in men) or quarrelsome
- Sharp, verbal retorts
- Energy: fatigue, especially under stress
- Skin: inflamed such as with rashes, eczema or psoriasis
- Autoimmune: predisposed to Hashimoto’s or connective tissue disease
- Food: sugar cravings, intense hunger, salty food cravings
When You Feel Depleted Because You Are
For me, feelings of sadness, diagnosed as depression and barely getting through each day feeling as though my nerves were completely “shot” was actually the late stage of Adrenal Fatigue. After the adrenal glands spent so many years firing stress hormones, they were in fact depleted, and so was I.
On the surface, I looked like I had it all together, but inside I was burned-out. And every so often the signs will start to creep up again so I have to pay very close attention to my alcohol and sugar consumption (because red wine and sweets comfort me).
When I transitioned from chiropractic to functional medicine seven years ago I realized I was not alone. In fact, to this day, Adrenal Dysregulation and Fatigue are among the most common diagnoses of women over the age of thirty in my virtual practice. And through each patient case I’ve been able refine my protocol and assist each women on the path to recovery.
Mistakes Women with Adrenal Fatigue Commonly Make
- Minimizing symptoms – much like “putting on a brave face” daily and telling everyone that you’re “fine”; or, simply blowing off those symptoms and correlating them to aging, or a recent event, etc.
- Using caffeine, alcohol & sugar to comfort and uplift
- “Motoring forward” thinking that eventually everything will return to normal
Final Thoughts on Adrenal Fatigue
If you relate to three or more of the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue then maybe it is time to start a diary. Much like a “food diary” you are recording your experiences and symptoms when you are aware of them. When I was honest with myself about my fast-paced lifestyle, things became suddenly VERY real when they were all down on paper. And the documentation process also served as the validation I needed to know it wasn’t “all in my head” and I had a tangible health challenge to work on.
For more on how to address adrenal gland health click here.