We have talked before about what I like to call the stress-coping savings account. This is the storage of certain hormones that help you deal with stress on a day-to-day basis. Those with chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome usually deplete this store pretty quickly, leading to something called adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands are the stress-coping glands. They are responsible for excreting the hormones that help you deal with stress, such as cortisol and epinephrine. They are small, pea-sized glands located at the top of each kidney and have one of the most vital functions in the body. When these glands malfunction, especially in those with chronic pain syndromes, it leads to a host of other problems like exacerbated symptoms of fibromyalgia, excessive fatigue, inability to tolerate certain noises or even smells, and make it nearly impossible to deal with mundane activities like balancing the checkbook or cleaning the house.
The hormones released by the adrenal glands regulate blood sugar; digestion; utilization of carbs, fats and proteins for energy; and, most importantly, inflammation.
Additionally, after midlife (around 50’s), these glands are responsible for releasing the sex hormones, which play a part in physical and mental well-being by regulating our mood and increasing libido.
The adrenals are made up of two sections: The medulla, which is the inner portion, and the cortex, which is the outer portion. The medulla is responsible for releasing norepinephrine and epinephrine, otherwise known as noradrenaline and adrenaline. These are the chemicals responsible for the immediate response to stress or a threat, the fight-or-flight response. Epinephrine speeds up the heart rate, raises the blood pressure, opens the airways, and releases sugar to prepare the body for the stress. Mental clarity and energy are increased when these two chemicals are released, so pain is then reduced.
The cortex is a bit more “important” because it deals with helping the body respond to chronic, long-term stress, which most of us can relate to, especially those with chronic illnesses.
With chronic, prolonged stress, I’m referring to the illnesses that put stress on the body such as infection or extended physical, mental, or emotional distress. The cortex is responsible for releasing steroids into the body; most importantly, cortisol. It is cortisol that is the primary player in adrenal fatigue, which is very likely a problem if you have constant fibro or CFS flares. In fact, studies have shown that more than 2/3 of patients with fibro or CFS suffer from adrenal fatigue.
In fact, malfunctioning adrenals, or the cortisol-control system, may be the primary cause of your symptoms.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are similar to those found in chronic illnesses, especially CFS. They include dizziness, joint pain, excess fatigue, decreased cognitive ability or mental clarity, compromised immune system, depression, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain. Additionally, blood sugar control is often a problem in those with adrenal fatigue and will usually feel anxious, run down, and depressed.
But, why is this happening? Why are your adrenals malfunctioning? Well it could be that the hypothalamus in the brain, which is responsible for releasing the hormone CRH that tells the adrenals when more cortisol is needed, is not secreting adequate amounts. The adrenals then cannot respond by giving off more of the steroid. HPA-axis dysfunction is a primary cause of why hormones and neurotransmitters are not released appropriately, and this is a main concern in people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
However, another more common reason your adrenals could be malfunctioning is simply burnout, otherwise known as general adaptation syndrome.
There are three phases that lead to a person developing GAS. The first phase is the fight-or-flight response, which is the immediate reaction to stress. The pituitary gland releases the hormone, ACTH, which tells the adrenal glands to release immediate coping hormones that will make the body react and prepare. These hormones put the body on alert and clear the mind for decision-making and activity.
The second phase leading to GAS is called the resistance reaction. The fight-or-flight response is a short-lived reaction, but this phase can last a long time. Cortisol is the main hormone that works in this phase, which is released continuously by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is not usually continuously released, but used only when the body is under stress. This constant release allows you to endure ongoing stress like infection, pain, fatigue, or even grief.
The resistance phase if prolonged can lead to health problems, including the third phase of GAS, which is adrenal exhaustion. This is the end result of adrenal fatigue. The adrenals and their constant release of the hormones have become overworked and simply give out.
Once adrenal exhaustion hits, the body has a hard time recovering, so it is not long before your body and mind begin to break down. It is defenseless against the constant challenges of daily life stress because they simply cannot help you cope anymore. This is where chronic illness begins.
*Reminder, if you have already registered recently, there is no need to register again.
The conference call will be on the same call-in line and access code.