Suffering from chronic exhaustion and added weight gain to your waistline may indicate that you are suffering from adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue describes the ramifications on the body and your life after experiencing a constant state of stressors.
Do you ever feel like something is off in your body? Like you are always tired during the day, and it may take you several cups of coffee just to function? You may have always been a high-functioning person, participating in hobbies, a social life, in addition to your daily activities like your job and family obligations. You’ve never considered that you might have been burning the candle at both ends. Add some emotional stress on top of that, and you start seeing the physical ramifications from this lifestyle. Then you really notice the weight gain in your waistline. Then you constantly feel tired. And you begin to fear you are losing control of your health.
So, you try and take back control of your health. For most people not living with chronic stress, they are able to successfully address these concerns. With a few lifestyle changes like working out, eating better, and getting more sleep, most people begin to experience relief from what feels like constant exhaustion. But what happens if you don’t? And no matter how much you work out and eat healthy, your belly isn’t shrinking. You may be suffering from adrenal fatigue. Weight gain and fatigue and fatigue after eating due to adrenal complications are a tell-tale sign of this syndrome. But what exactly is adrenal fatigue? To understand the toll adrenal fatigue can take on your body we need to understand the role our adrenal glands play.
What Are Your Adrenals?
Each person has two adrenal glands, each one on top of your kidneys. They’re part of your endocrine system. The endocrine system produces hormones that help regulate bodily functions and mood. Your adrenal glands are responsible for producing steroid hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These individual hormones can help the body control blood pressure, metabolism, and the regulation of your stress levels. These hormones released are part of the body’s natural “fight or flight” systems that help protect you.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
When the body experiences things like stress or illness, your adrenal glands become stimulated, and release the appropriate hormones. But what happens when you’re in a constant state of stress? Things seem to be difficult at work, at home, and in your personal life. And it feels like these difficulties keep compounding on a daily basis. Your adrenal glands then become overstimulated, no longer releasing hormones at proper levels, placing the body in a perpetual state of “fight or flight.” And the consequences of this become readily apparent in your body.
Adrenal fatigue is a phrase to describe the body’s weakened state from the flooding of “fight or flight” hormones due to chronic stress. Constantly feeling stressed and worried causes the adrenal glands to work in overdrive, causing them to become worn out and exhausted. Your body no longer produces these hormones in the proper levels.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Stress is the largest catalyst to causing this drastic hormone imbalance in the body. Your brain cannot distinguish between stressors (for example, difficulty at work versus being scared by a dog), so it releases the same type of hormone. Common stressors that may lead to adrenal fatigue are:
- Emotional Stress: Relationship pressures, work pressures, and financial pressures can make your adrenals ramp up and flood your body with hormones.
- Nutritional Stress: Eating poorly, loading up on caffeinated drinks, and high sugar foods stimulate repeated cortisol release. Food sensitivities can also contribute to adrenal fatigue
- Physical Stress: Health conditions like Lyme’s Disease or herpes can place a biological stress on the body, encouraging the release of stress hormones to attempt to combat the condition. Excessive exercising can also cause (or worsen) adrenal fatigue
Weight Gain From Adrenal Fatigue
With the body in a constant mode of “high alert,” the hormones released cause one very noticeable symptom: weight gain. This weight gain is primarily in the waistline and midsection of your torso. Excessive cortisol encourages weight gain with little to no relief from exercise. And that is because exercise becomes a double-edged sword. The more stress you have, the more cortisol pumps through your body, the more weight you gain. So, you assume working out twice as hard in the gym might help lean you out. But the thing is, high intensity work outs produce larger cortisol releases into the body. The high cortisol actually breaks down your muscles to help fuel your body.
What You Should Look Out For
Let’s say you’re still exercising regularly, eating better, and getting more sleep. But you’re still feeling sluggish, you have daily midafternoon slumps, and still heavier than you like in your belly. You should consider whether you are suffering from adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is not a disease but a syndrome that results when your body endures so much stress (emotional or physical) to the point that it cannot operate at its peak vitality. If you experience the following, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue:
- Difficulty waking up in the mornings
- Increased energy level in the evening
- Feeling sluggish in the early afternoon
- Regularly craving for salty food
- Regularly craving for sweet food
- Feeling exhausted after eating
- Overuse of caffeine (ie several cups of coffee)
- Poor responses to stress and mood regulation
- Weight gain in the waistline
- Difficulty losing weight regardless of how much you exercise
Your daily routine may also look like this:
6AM-8AM: Difficulty waking up in the morning; usually requiring several cups of coffee to get you going
9AM-11AM: Body feels sluggish and low energy
Lunch Time: You begin to feel more awake and become productive
3PM-6PM: Your energy starts tanking; you feel exhausted and need a quick nap
7PM-9PM: Energy feels lower, like you’re about to nod off
10:30PM-1AM: Energy starts to rise and you feel like you have energy to complete several tasks
After this late evening energy spike, your body cycles back down and up again.
The best thing to do is maintain all of the healthy lifestyle changes you’ve made. Continue eating nutrient dense food, practice soothing meditation, and maintaining a regular sleeping schedule with more than 6 hours of sleep a night.
Avoid foods that cause fatigue like processed food, artificial sweeteners, fast food, caffeine, alcohol, white sugar, white flour, and soda. Incorporate better foods in your diet. If you are attempting to address the issue on your own, diet is usually the easiest lifestyle change to make. An adrenal fatigue treatment diet may include incorporating more:
- Leafy greens
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats like avocado and olive oil
- Lean meats
And always remain hydrated! But you should also work closely with a specialist, like an endocrinologist who can better monitor the health of your adrenals and hormones. With a medical professional, you can begin addressing the difficult symptoms of adrenal fatigue and weight gain.