Hi I’m Rae, I have Stage 2 Adrenal Dysfunction. It explains alot.
You’re probably familiar with some the symptoms yourself (not that I’m experiencing all of these, but some do come up, far too often for my liking):
- Anxiety, anger, irritability, depression
- Arthritic pain
- Asthma, respiratory infections, skin conditions
- Auto-immune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus)
- Confusion, poor concentration
- Chronic fatigue
- Cravings for salty or sweet food
- Decreased immune response – recurrent coughs, colds, flu
- Erratic blood sugar levels or Type 2 diabetes
- Reliance on coffee, tea, energy drinks, alcohol, sleeping pills, anti-depressants
- Thyroid issues
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
I’ve said it before. If you’re stressed, your body reacts to all stress (real or imagined) the same way – the fight or flight mode – cortisol is released causing blood pressure/heart rate increase, you’re more alert and your digestion slows down, among other things. Your body is working extra hard to keep itself ‘healthy’ or in homeostatic balance.
Eventually, too much stress for too long and your adrenals, the organ in charge of your stress hormones including cortisol, become exhausted. In nature we are designed to ‘handle’ acute stress for 2-4 minutes, that’s the amount of time, in nature, where we will get some result from the danger facing us – hopefully we fight or flee successfully or we’re eaten by the tiger that’s chasing us. After that, we go about our business in our happy homeostatic balance until the next threat comes along. If you refer to the diagram below, this stage is demonstrated by the green zone (normal) moving into yellow (stage 1) when faced with your tiger but coming back down into the green zone again. This is the way it’s meant to be.
That’s not the kind of stress we face these days. These days, we tend to have on-going chronic stress – mental, physical, emotional, financial, chemical – stress that’s in our system all day, every day. Stay in stage 1 for too long (the yellow zone), ‘running on adrenaline’ and your cortisol levels increase until they can’t increase anymore. Your adrenals get tired, just like your muscles when you exercise. Cortisol production decreases (that’s the orange zone – stage 2). You’ll note that total cortisol in stage 2 is the same as when you’re in the green zone. If you have a blood test for your cortisol levels, a result in stage 2 will read the same as a result when you’re in the normal levels. Tricky.
Stay in the orange for too long, without adequate repair and recovery, you’ll eventually slide into the red (stage 3) – absolute exhaustion, crashing and burning. That’s very bad news.
So your body needs these stress hormones to keep going but your adrenals can’t keep up once you’re in stage 2. Or heaven forbid, stage 3. So it finds other ways to make these hormones.
One of the ways your body can do this is a process called the Pregnenolone Steal – pregnenolone is made by your body from cholesterol and is used to make your stress hormones as well as your DHEA, which is the pre-curser to sex and repair, immune and growth hormones. If you’re too stressed for too long, more and more pregnenolone is ‘stolen’ to make stress hormones at the expense of your repair and sex hormones. No more growth and repair and so symptoms turn up. These symptoms are not ‘normal’, it’s not ‘healthy’– if you identify with any of the symptoms above, know that something can be done about them, it’s not something that you need to live with.
I have access adrenal dysfunction testing that can show you where you are on the adrenal fatigue scale. Unlike a blood test, which takes a snapshot at the time when you take the test (remember, a stage 2 result could potentially look like a ‘normal’ result if you do this), this test will look at your cortisol in your saliva throughout the day (cortisol should rise in the morning and gradually decline through the day so you’re nice and sleepy at night). We test your cortisol levels first thing in the morning, at noon, afternoon and night to see exactly where you are through the day. It will also look at your cortisol to DHEA level which tells us exactly where you are sitting on the graphic. If you’re producing too much cortisol compared to DHEA, well, your pregnenoline is being stolen.
With this information, we can intelligently adjust your programme to ensure you get the best from your exercise to help you feeling better, reduce symptoms and gain results. It doesn’t mean we’re going to cut out intensive exercise, but we’ll manipulate your programme to get you back to the green zone, the place where your body wants to be, to be operating at its best.
I was lucky that I took this test myself after 8 weeks of avoiding my Rae-sensitive foods (see previous newsletters for details of this) and avoiding steady state cardio. Over this time my energy levels went up, stress levels went down and sleep improved. I suspect that this is why my results came out at stage 2 and not stage 3 as it may have if I was not following this protocol – I’m on the road to recovery! Yah!
If you’re interested in finding out more, or having your adrenals tested, get in touch with me!