Lifestyle Factors Contributing To Adrenal Fatigue

Various causes can trigger the development of adrenal fatigue. Find out which lifestyle habits and behaviors over time create the type of stress that can overload the adrenals.


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Adrenal fatigue, sometimes referred to as hypoadrenia, is believed to afflict eight of ten Americans over the course of their lives. Despite that estimate, it is not properly diagnosed in the numbers one might expect to see from such a common ailment. There is a reason for that, of course, and it has to do with the public’s lack of awareness concerning the actual causes of this common condition.

This lack of awareness causes most potential sufferers to never seek the diagnosis and treatment they need. Many just assume that their exhaustion is a natural occurrence, and thus let the condition linger far longer than they should. Given the dangers associated with adrenal fatigue, however, it is critical for sufferers to recognize when they may need help.

Understanding Adrenal Fatigue

The main difficulty most of these people encounter lies in the fact that there are so many different stress factors that can lead to this condition. Since adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands stop secreting the right balance of steroid hormones, anything that can throw that balance off represents a clear and present danger to your health.

Here’s the problem, though: your glands are designed in such a way that they monitor the way your body reacts to its environment, including changes in your physical body, mental processes, and emotions. That sensitivity is precisely why these glands can become so overloaded so quickly.

The bottom line is simple. When multiple stress factors converge and build up over time, your adrenal glands end up falling short in their effort to provide you with the hormones you need to keep everything in proper balance.

The resulting imbalance alters your metabolism, cardiovascular system, libido, and more. All of these alterations are an outward indication that your body is attempting to adjust to the diminished capacity of your adrenal glands. Outright fatigue is, by far, the most obvious result of this adrenal imbalance.



Your Symptoms Can Help You Identify the Problem

For most sufferers, however, getting a proper diagnosis can be a nightmare. This type of fatigue shares many of the same symptoms seen in various auto-immune disorders, as well as other more common illnesses. As a general rule, most sufferers have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal blood sugar levels
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Periodic confusion
  • Depression
  • Failing memory
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Loss of endurance
  • Unexplainable weight gain
  • Difficulty with alertness in the morning, sluggishness in the afternoon, and renewed bursts of energy in the evening
  • Loss of libido

As you can see, almost all of these symptoms are present in other conditions as well, making diagnosis of adrenal fatigue unlikely unless you ask the doctor to address the possibility.

One of the best ways to recognize that you might be suffering from adrenal fatigue is to learn about the various factors that can contribute to an adrenal overload. More importantly, the typical life choices that impact the adrenals can often be altered with a little effort.

Focusing in on Lifestyle Factors

To understand the types of lifestyle factors that can contribute to adrenal fatigue, it’s helpful to examine the types of people afflicted by this condition. While it is true that - given the right set of stress factors – anyone could be susceptible to this problem, there are some whose lifestyles seem to increase the likelihood of fatigue:

  • Doctors
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Secretaries
  • Teachers
  • Salespeople
  • College students
  • Single parents
  • Alcoholics and drug addicts
  • New entrepreneurs

And that’s just the short list. The fact is that almost every profession and demographic group has within it at least a subset of individuals for whom the stresses of life – both personal and business – can overload the adrenals and cause severe fatigue.

But did you see anything that all of these people have in common with one another? At first glance, it does seem like a fairly disparate group of individual professions and lifestyles. However, upon closer examination it becomes clear that they all share some similarities.



Common Habits in Adrenal Fatigue Sufferers

The people on our list all have jobs, lives, or habits that tend to preclude ordinary and necessary relaxation periods, or are caught in situations where they feel pressure from every direction.

Take doctors, for example. Beginning with their time in college, those who serve in the medical field are subjected to constant stress. Medical school is one of the most arduous experiences imaginable, as students are thrust into a world with thousands of new terms and concepts that must be learned if they are to succeed. Upon graduation, they enter into a residency period where they often work as many as 100 hours a week. Throughout that time, they are constantly being subjected to examination and pressure from a variety of sources.

Even after they complete their education and residency, the pressure on new doctors continues once they enter private practice. Not only are they confronted with the type of debt few other college graduates endure, but they also continue to be at the mercy of schedules that are far more demanding than most other occupations. This can damage their relationships outside of work, and leave them isolated and without a natural outlet for their stress.

Other occupations, such as teaching or administrative work, can leave employees sandwiched between the expectations of competing parties. Teachers have to please administrators, parents, and students. Secretaries often shoulder massive responsibilities, but have little actual authority to ensure that the things for which they are responsible can be managed the right way.

Top Causes of Stress

Given that adrenal fatigue is directly attributable to stress, it should come as no surprise that the most common lifestyle factors contributing to this condition are also those that most experts recognize as major causes for stress. They can include any of the following:

  • Bad dietary decisions
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Lack of physical exercise, or too much exercise
  • Failure to relax and unwind
  • Being overworked
  • Using stimulants
  • Nicotine use
  • Other drug use, either recreational or prescription-based
  • Being in a negative relationship
  • Financial difficulties

People with poor dietary habits lack the basic nutrition needed to keep them in good overall health. Their bodies invariably end up with nutrient deficiencies of one sort or another, and that can lead to imbalances that place undue stress on the adrenal glands. A lack of sleep has much the same effect.

Where exercise is concerned, either extreme can be dangerous. A sedentary lifestyle with no exercise can lead to a variety of health complications – all of which tax the adrenals. At the same time, however, too much exercise can lead to overtraining. That can place undue stress on all of the body’s systems, which may deplete the glands’ ability to provide the necessary hormone levels. The key to avoiding either extreme is to find that happy middle ground.

Drugs of any sort can throw off the body’s natural balance, which then makes it difficult for the adrenals to properly manage those essential hormones. This includes legal drugs like caffeine, nicotine, and various prescription medications, as well as illegal drugs.

Finally, the emotional stresses created by things like an abusive relationship or dire financial straits can have much the same effect on the adrenals as those physical stressors. After all, the mind and emotions can often times create or channel as much stress as anything the body can experience. As a result, those non-physical lifestyle stressors are important to pay attention to as well.

While most people can manage to deal with a few of these lifestyle factors without completely exhausting themselves and overtaxing their adrenals with stress, everyone has their limits. And that’s the problem confronting most who suffer from this condition: they have so many of these risk factors present in their lives that there is simply no way for their bodies to keep pace with the stress demands placed upon them.

To make matters even worse, the rate at which the adrenal glands become fatigued dramatically accelerates as more and more of these stress factors are introduced into any person’s life. As a result, it is impossible for any given individual to predict exactly where his or her own limits are.



Dealing With Stress

Recognizing the causes of adrenal fatigue is one thing; addressing the problem is quite another. While many non-lifestyle stressors cannot be changed – for example, the death of a loved one or a major illness, many of the more common stress factors related to daily life can be addressed.

Changes in diet, sleep patterns, and exercise are all possible, and all can have a positive impact on your adrenal health. The road to full recovery can take many months, but it is well worth the investment in time and effort. The important thing is to first recognize that the problem exists, and then get the help you need to make the necessary changes to improve your health and quality of life.




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Sources and References: 
  1. What is adrenal fatigue? What causes adrenal fatigue? Medical News Today. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/245810.php   
  2. Is there such a thing as adrenal fatigue? http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906
  3. Adrenal Fatigue: Is It Real? http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real
  4. Dr James Wilson PhD: Adrenal Fatigue. http://www.clinicaleducation.org/seminars/adrenal-fatigue/
  5. KA Brooks and G Carter: Overtraining, Exercise, and Adrenal Insufficiency. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3648788/

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