We all face it, and for those of us in chronic pain, we have no choice but to deal with our stress daily. But what happens when you get too stressed? When the pain is too much, been there too long and you can’t shirk your responsibilities in order to spend the next 25 years of your life hanging out, alone, in your bed?
Stress can either be good or bad. After all, even exercise at the cellular level is considered a stress.
Some people thrive in this kind of environment; and it is this type of stress that gives them the drive to accomplish the most impressive tasks. Too much stress however can crush even the strongest diamonds.
I have a patient of mine who’s 16 year old daughter suffers chronic daily headaches. What’s most interesting about her condition is that her headaches come on approximately 9:30am every Monday through Friday. On the weekend, she feels great and doesn’t squeak a peep about pain. How’s that for stress?
Our body has built-in stress fighting mechanisms, even specific stress-fighting organs, but what happens when you are under too much stress, and your body can’t keep pace with your demands?
Your Body Is Programmed To Fight Stress
Your adrenal glands are about the size of a pea, and rest on top of your kidneys. These little powerhouses are tasked with one huge primary job, to handle your stress, short-term, long-term, it doesn’t matter. Their job is to pump out hormones you need to fight off stress.
The majority of patients I see who suffer from chronic pain syndromes including migraines, headaches, fibromyalgia, also suffer from adrenal burnout. They have literally emptied their adrenal glands of all of the hormones and chemicals they produce. There is nothing left in their proverbial “gas tank.” They are working, living and breathing adrenal fumes.
Between the years of poor sleep, chronic pain, unrelenting stress, chemical assaults from poor quality food, artificial ingredients and drawers spilling over with medications, their adrenal glands have hit their end.
Some of my patients during consultation simply can’t even remember the most basic things, such as: the name of their spouse, where they put their car keys, or what they were even just talking about.
It’s not their fault. Many chronic pain sufferers often suffer a foggy brain.
The lack of mental clarity is a symptom of adrenal fatigue syndrome – just as is joint pain, nagging muscle aches, depression, and even digestive issues. And you thought stress just made you tired and irritable!
Cortisol also helps maintain our blood pressure and cardiac functions and acts like an anti-inflammatory. If cortisol levels get to be too depressed, you can feel exhausted, drained, suffer insomnia, low moods and tight achy muscles.
If your cortisol are levels drop at the wrong time you can have trouble waking up in the morning and even falling asleep at night. Increased cortisol decreases your melatonin (sleep hormone) production and can adversely effect your circadian rhythm, better known as your sleep awake cycle).
A good dose of cortisol will help you wake up refreshed. So if you’re waking up exhausted, even after a good night’s sleep, there’s a good chance you are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Other indications that you’re adrenals have hit the wall include, waking up not feeling hungry (even though you’ve fasted for the past 8 hours while you were sleep) or worse, instead feeling nauseous, craving salt or simply not able to drag yourself out of bed.
What To Do Next
In order to help yourself heal from adrenal fatigue syndrome, there are a handful of things you can do.
- Don’t Skip A Meal: Letting your insulin rise and drop like a wave in the ocean is a sure-fire way to head into adrenal burnout. Always eat meals that contain protein. Even if you feel like you can’t keep breakfast down, have a handful of almonds and a few bites of an apple. It will help you stabilize your sugar levels, and give your body some energy to put back into your adrenal gas tank.
- Stay Hydrated: You should be drinking approximately half your body weight in ounces daily. Don’t drink your calories. Sodas, Gatorade, Crystal-light, all big no-no’s when hydrating properly. If you need some flavor, try making a water-sangria. Add a few slices of your favorite fruits to infuse the water for a refreshing taste.
- Try to Eliminate Some of Your Stresses: I know… delegate as much as you can.
- Get Plenty of Non-Medicated Sleep: Your adrenals repair themselves during sleep. Medications often just knock you out, but don’t put you in a deep restorative sleep state. 8 hours of non-interrupted, deep restorative sleep is the key to adrenal repair. I start most patients with 100mg of 5HTP.
- Take an Over-The-Counter Adrenal Extract: I use Adrenal Cortex by Optimum Plus for my patients. When taken correctly, depending upon your level of adrenal fatigue, the adrenals can usually repair themselves sometime between 6 to 12 months. If you would like to purchase Adrenal Cortex by Optimum Plus, please feel free to call my office, 203-840-0000.
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