Terry Wahls, M.D., is a functional medicine doctor, clinical professor, and a survivor of progressive multiple sclerosis who used her own protocol to heal. This week, we're sharing her expertise in a new series on adrenal fatigue and natural techniques to restore energy. To learn more, check out her new mindbodygreen class, How to Heal Adrenal Fatigue: The Food & Habits You Need for Optimal Health & Energy.
Adrenal fatigue is a growing epidemic—and yet many people who suffer from the symptoms are unaware they have it. To understand why, I need to teach you a bit about your adrenals first.
Adrenals are endocrine glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They secrete hormones in response to messages from your brain. These hormones regulate how our bodies use and conserve salt and sugar. They also regulate our physiology away from doing the maintenance and repair work that our bodies need. Instead, our cellular resources prepare to fight or flee. These changes allow the heart and lungs to be more effective. As a result, we are faster and stronger. Our vision and hearing are sharper. Our blood clots more quickly to stop bleeding from the potential damage caused by fighting or fleeing.
These changes are helpful—acutely. However, if they are never turned off these changes create an accumulation of damage. If the adrenals constantly perceive danger, they keep pumping out high levels of stress hormones. Our cells are continually getting ready to fight and flee. So our body can't perform the repair and maintenance functions that we need to keep our cells healthy. We begin to age more quickly. Fatigue, declining mood, irritability, and increasing pain are the first symptoms that most people will notice. While many things can contribute to these symptoms, adrenal fatigue is a leading factor for most people I see with these types of issues.
Chronically elevated stress hormone production leads to adrenal fatigue as well as a higher risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, mental health problems, and early memory loss. It's a root cause of poor health—but we actually have much more control than we realize.