Adrenal fatigue: The 21st-century stress syndrome

To help restore your emotional and physical health, start by simplifying, modifying and minimizing all forms of stress

Vahdaneh Vahid

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Stress - whether physical, emotional, psychological or environmental - triggers all kinds of physical changes in our bodies. Adrenal fatigue is a 21st-century stress-related condition that occurs when your adrenal glands are functioning below their optimal level. The adrenal glands are small structures attached to the top of each kidney.

The human body has two adrenal glands, which control your body’s response to stress by releasing hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones include cortisol, DHEA and epinephrine, which are used to regulate your heart rate, immune system, energy storage and much more.

The main role of cortisol is to enable us to handle stress and maintain our immune systems. Once the adrenal glands struggle to meet the high demands of cortisol production, this eventually leads to adrenal fatigue. A few common signs of adrenal fatigue are:

- exhausted / constantly feeling tired
- insomnia / irregular sleep patterns
- struggle to lose weight, especially around the waistline
- mild depression
- feeling overwhelmed
- poor immune function
- hypersensitivity to bright lights and loud noise
To help restore your emotional and physical health, start by simplifying, modifying and minimizing all forms of stress. Although staying fit is important for your general wellbeing, if you suffer from adrenal fatigue it is important to avoid vigorous exercise such as running, sports, spin classes etc. You cannot afford to produce the stress hormones that these activities require - your short-term rush will be followed by an adrenal crash.

If you feel tired, rest as much as possible. Any moderate actives should be done early to mid- afternoon, no later. Exercising late in the day can interrupt our natural sleep patterns, which is already a problem for those with adrenal fatigue.

Walking, tai chi, qigong and yoga are all simple yet powerful meditative movements that help accumulate more energy rather than take it away from the body. They boost your circulation without putting too much stress on your adrenal glands.

Abdominal breathing

- stand up or lie flat on your back (whichever you prefer)
- place one hand on the abdominals and the other hand on your chest
- take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths through the nose, and focus on sending the breath to your belly
- pay close attention to the hand placed on your chest - if you feel that hand rising, try to reset your focus
- continue to breathe slowly and deeply, inhaling and exhaling through your nose
- you may find it hard to breathe in as you are not used to it, but the body will adapt with practice and patience
- perform six to 10 repetitions, two to three times a day

By making some simple changes to your lifestyle and giving your adrenal glands time to recover, you can get your energy back to the right level.