Sunday, February 7, 2010

More About Adrenal Fatigue

The thing that stands out the most is the viscous cycle. The scientific details escape me at the moment but it goes something like this. The body experiences some type of trauma, the trauma puts stress on the body requiring extra nutrients and rest to properly recover. Generally though, when something like this has happened, there aren't extras. So the adrenal glands work overtime, adding another stressor on the body. This overtime work AND the repair work related to the trauma cause the adrenals to produce more cortisol. It's cortisol that causes the body to store fat around the waist. The extra fat is another stressor. And so the cycle goes. Factor into the equation that all these things also reduce our ability/desire to cook healthy meals. So now the glands aren't getting what they need to keep up this type of work, but that just makes them work harder, round and round we go!

You might be asking what kind of trauma it takes to set this off. I'm sure it varies from person to person, but it could be years of working 12 hour days 6 days a week, grabbing fast food on the way home, watching the news and falling asleep just to start all over again the next day. It could be an emotional event like a divorce or death in the family. It could be an actual physical injury. For some it could be all of the above rolled into one cataclysmic event. Maybe on a frantic weekend outing with the family the overstressed person falls asleep driving home, causing a car wreck where one or more family members are killed, while the driver and the rest are seriously injured. THAT would be a MAJOR life event to be sure, and AF would settle in and could cause recovery to be very slow.

For me, I can think of lots of seemingly minor events that have added up to a severe case of AF. My first husband worked nights for a grocery store. The stress of shift work isn't restricted to the person working the odd hours! Being awakened in the wee morning hours, not having my husband around in the evening because he needed a nap before work, sleeping alone, etc were minor stressors whose influence just built over the years. A few years into that marriage we moved (stress) to help run a family business (stress). That business was a restaurant (lots of stress!) and had I not heard people tell me how good I looked a few months after we closed that restaurant, I wouldn't have thought it had taken such a toll. During those years of running the restaurant, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (hello?!) and my dad had a roll over car wreck (duh!) and my husband began to talk of divorce (do I need to keep pointing the stressors out?) We tried for many years to work on the marriage (I think I was really the only one trying) and we always had financial trouble (something I've never been able to figure out-a family of two making $60K+ in the late 90's, with no car payments, should have been fine, right?) Then there was the divorce. Oh, I forgot to say that we tried unsuccessfully, to conceive for 10 years. Infertility is a factor in AF. The stress causes the hormones to be out of balance. After the divorce I moved 3 times in about 2 years, and struggled with a failed relationship and finding meaningful work.

Are ya still with me? Then I met Tony, we got married and I moved again. Then we started foster care and had a child in our home w/o warning or time for preparation. A strong willed, defiant child. Did that just spell S T R E S S? Yes, we love him very much, but I gotta tell ya there are days....

From late 2001 thru 2005 I participated in three, "3 Day Walks". It's a 60 mile walk that takes 3 days to complete, camping in a huge mobile city for two nights during the event. The walk itself is actually kind of easy. It's the 10 months of training that are exhasting. Getting up at 4AM on a Saturday to start walking in Phoenix before it gets hot-and putting in roughly 10 miles. Prior to reading this book I would have thought all that exercise was helpful. Wrong. Exercise IS helpful, but not extreme workouts like this. Four years of knocking myself out on top of all the other things I've mentioned! No single event seems like enough to cause problems, but each actually is, and combined, well you get the picture. So now that I've spelled it out, I don't feel so bad that my half hearted attempts at correcting it have not solved the problem in 8 or so months. It took 21 years to get a diagnosis, I shouldn't feel too badly that I haven't instantly healed. You might be wondering why this was never diagnosed or why I don't take some kind of prescription to help. A single reason answers both questions. There's not an expensive pill to "cure" this, so doctors (under pressure from various places) don't accept this syndrome as a true medical condition. Regardless of the documentation, if it's not severe enough for Addison's disease it's typically not considered worthy of diagnosis. Which is too bad, because the cure of better eating habits and reasonable exercise will cure so many other things, right?

This is already long, so I'll save my particular symptoms and the various ways I'm trying to heal for another post. Thanks for reading this far!