Adrenal Fatigue: A Stealthy Culprit Setting Us Up To Be Sad, Sick, Fat And Older Faster

By Genie James

Adrenal Fatigue: A Stealthy Culprit Setting Us Up to Be Sad, Sick, Fat and Older Faster

(Or, What Happens When Superwoman Stubs Her Toe!)

stressStress can make us tense and sick. It can also make us fat. Worst of all, it will accelerate our aging. I should know…I am unfortunately the “poster girl” for repeat bouts of adrenal fatigue. Let me first define adrenal fatigue, then explain how you and I get set up for it. In upcoming weeks, if you are interested, I will also share a few tips for turning adrenal fatigue and the ravages of stress around.

Our adrenal glands produce three stress hormones: adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA. Short-term, urgent stress – such as seeing your five year old reach for a hot skillet or having your husband ask you to watch him sky dive – triggers a rush of adrenaline. Long-term, chronic stress has a different impact at a cellular level.

Chronic stress is defined as a circumstance that exists for three months or more. Some more common chronic stressors for women include ongoing financial pressures, single motherhood, caring for an ill and aging parent, attempting to juggle a heavy workload and home life, or attempting to discipline an irascible teenager. Chronic stress causes the adrenal glands to, first, produce an overabundance of cortisol; however, once this supply is exhausted, cortisol levels plummet.

Clinical studies show that too high or too low cortisol levels pack pounds around the waist. And, according to American experts from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), “Persistent or chronic stress has the potential to put individuals at a substantially increased risk of depression, anxiety and many other emotional difficulties.” Randy (C.W. Randolph, Jr, MD) cautions: “Long-term adrenal exhaustion is dangerous because it can:

• Slow down healing and normal cell regeneration.

• Co-opt parent molecules needed to make other vital hormones.

• Impair digestion, metabolism and mental function.

• Interfere with healthy endocrine function.

• Weaken our immune system.”

stresssleepingI was first diagnosed with adrenal fatigue in 2002. At the time I was to the outside world a successful corporate get-it-done-girl, heading the sales team for multi-million dollar healthcare company. Unfortunately, high-pressure expectations combined with dawn-to-midnight seven day work weeks and none-too-glamorous jet-setting from meeting to meeting ultimately did me in. I was depressed, constantly sick with colds and/or flu, and had the vitality of an old mushroom. In the mirror, I sadly saw how I also resembled that mushroom.

My second adrenal collapse occurred in 2007 on the heels of the death of one of my best friends, Smiles Randolph (Randy’s mother). As any of you know who have cared for an ill or dying parent, love cannot neutralize the brutal effects of the worry and inevitable thirty-six hours days. Even though my caretaking stint was of much shorter duration than that of Smiles’s loving three daughters, I was once again down for the count. It took months before I felt like myself again. The new wrinkles around my eyes, however, were there to stay. Honestly, that’s okay. I think of Smiles’s twinkly eyes and a few creases on my own face are a small price to pay.

This last time I should have known better, seen the warning signs. In late September I was feeling in high-cotton having wine and cheese with female venture capitalists in Silicon Valley while I pitched my new women’s health business idea. Then word came (and I got your emails!) that there were serious customer service issues back home in our medical practice. I debated and delayed for a few days. How can I finish my new book, continue to champion my new business idea while also stepping back into day-to-day operations? I wondered. A chorus of well-meaning friends and colleagues encouraged, “Of course you can do it all.”

I listened. Wrong choice. Let me assure you that I, for one, am testimony that fifty-three year old wannabe Superwomen end up with headaches, hemorrhoids, depression, droopy jowls, listless days and nights…and adrenal fatigue. Is there hope for the hyper-achieving me, and possibly you? Yes, there is.

It would seem as if I am finally becoming wiser. I do wish that were the case. The truth is that for months I ran around like a crazy woman moving mountains and pulling miracle-level achievements out of my bazoom; then something unforeseen brought me to a screeching, hobbling halt.

I’ve just had labwork done to determine just how suppressed my adrenal system might be. After my labwork is in, I will look to my personal physician, Lori Leaseburge, MD, to advise me if additional nutritional supplementation is recommended. In the meantime, I have finished my new book but am putting my new business idea on hold for now. “Doing it all” was about to “do me in.” Instead, I am resting more and taking more and more “good and needed” activities off my plate.

It would seem as if I am finally becoming wiser. I do wish that were the case. The truth is that for months I ran around like a crazy woman moving mountains and pulling miracle-level achievements out of my bazoom; then something unforeseen brought me to a screeching, hobbling halt.

I broke my big toe in a yoga class. Don’t laugh. It hurt, and still hurts, but Divine intervention or not, this toe-thing has slowed me down to a crawl. Irregularly, I am finding myself grateful. It is forcing me to make different, better, more discerning choices…

What will it take for you to slow down and live the one life the best woman in you has to live?

- Genie James is an Author, Speaker, Business Owner and Liftoff Activist for women and girls.
As a trailblazer in natural women’s health, personalized medicine and relationship-centered care, Genie first turned the traditional medical community on its ear with Making Managed Care Work (McGraw-Hill, 1997) and Winning in the Women’s Healthcare Marketplace (Jossey-Bass, 2000). She is the co-author of From Belly Fat to Belly Flat (Health Communications, Inc. 2007; now in five languages), and From Hormone Hell to Hormone Well (Health Communication, Inc. 2009; winner of the 2010 National Consumer Health Information Bronze Award) with her husband C.W. Randolph, Jr., M.D., R.Ph. Genie’s fifth book In the Mood Again (Simon and Schuster 2010) offers hope and solutions for the over forty million American women and men living in low-sex, no-sex relationships. THE FOUNTAIN OF TRUTH! Outsmart Hype, False Hope and Heredity to Recalibrate How You Age (Health Communications, Inc. April 2013) is a recommended toolbox that every woman will need to healthily and happily navigate the decades. For more information: agelessandwellness.com

One thought on “Adrenal Fatigue: A Stealthy Culprit Setting Us Up To Be Sad, Sick, Fat And Older Faster

  1. Adrenal fatigue is a term applied to a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. The term often shows up in popular health books and on alternative medicine websites, but it isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis.