Q: Why does stress make me feel so exhausted?
About Adrenal Stress Hormones: Adrenaline and Cortisol.
Adrenaline (aka adrenalin or epinephrine) and cortisol are both hormones secreted by the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and are principally involved in regulating how our body deals with energy and stress as well as a secondary function in the production of androgens such as DHEA and testosterone.
Adrenaline is generated in times of stressful situations as the first stage of the fight or flight response. Adrenaline activates the heart to pump faster, activating blood circulation, which certainly comes in handy for split second decisions and feats of strength or speed such as occur when our lives are under immediate physical threat. If the stressful situation is prolonged as is the case with our modern hectic lifestyles, then it is the hormone cortisol that takes over. Cortisol increases the appetite and targets the liver, pancreas and fat cells, which increases glucose availability for muscles. When we are dealing with lots of stress and the adrenals are busily engaged in making extra cortisol then other systems of the body involved with energy, reproduction, digestion and immunity are temporarily shut down. This may lead to many of the symptoms of chronic stress and adrenal exhaustion in the bodily systems given below.
The normal signs that you may have adrenal exhaustion include:
You awaken feeling tired, moody and lethargic.
You can’t get going without that first cup or two of coffee or tea.
Low or high blood sugar problems.
Poor memory and foggy thinking.
Recurrent infections, headaches, anxiety and depression.
Trouble falling asleep, or awaken during the night as the worries of the day replay in your head.
Over-reaction to ordinary stresses and avoidance of normal activities as unable to cope.
Lowered sex drive / lack of sexual interest in partner
Frequently feeling cold
Difficulty losing weight or gaining muscle even with exercise
If this description fits you, you may have adrenal exhaustion and be in need of adaptogenic herbal adrenal support. Normally, cortisol is highest in the mornings when we wake up in preparation for the days activity and should drop off by night in preparation for sleep. With chronic stress then excess cortisol is released throughout the day which over time will result in your adrenal glands becoming exhausted from over-production. Often what occurs in the first stages of adrenal exhaustion is that cortisol levels flip and are too high at night and not high enough in the mornings. This will mean that you are much more likely to suffer from fatigue during the day and get caught in the viscous cycle of relying on caffeine to see you through, which only further aggravates adrenal imbalance. Tongkat Ali supports health by raising our stress tolerance and supporting adrenal function as has been shown in the following clinical studies:
OUR ADRENAL GLANDS FUNCTION AS OUR BODY'S BATTERY, CONTROLLING HOW OUR BODY HANDLES STRESS & MAKES AND USES ENERGY.
PROLONGED STRESS LEADS TO ADRENAL EXHAUSTION AND A WHOLE HOST OF HEALTH PROBLEMS.
Insulin Resistance and Fatigue. This means your normal insulin levels are insufficient and your pancreas needs to produce even more insulin to balance blood sugar, leading to diabetes.
Weight Gain. More insulin triggers fat storage, especially in the middle section. Excess cortisol also leads to increased appetite and overeating, and in the long-term it can lead to hypothyroidism and lowered metabolism.
Protein Catabolism. Difficulty in building muscle-mass due to protein being broken down for energy.
Reduction in DHEA and Testosterone. When cortisol is high then DHEA is low, leading to lowered testosterone, low libido and accelerated ageing.
Digestive Problems. Symptoms of stress on the digestive system such as irritable bowel, constipation, bloating, gas, heartburn and indigestion.
Poor immunity. High cortisol lowers our disease fighting antibodies making us more susceptible to infections.
Anxiety and Poor sleep. Cortisol keeps our bodies in a state of anxiety which over time leads to sleeping difficulties and mood related disorders such as depression.
Poor exercise results and recovery. Over-training also leads to excess cortisol which undermines the very results you are striving for. Many sports supplements also contain high levels of stimulants such as caffeine that further stimulates adrenalin and cortisol leading to burnout and lowered growth hormone.