Although conventional medical science often treats all human bodies the same, the fact remains that there are several distinct blood types, many differently sized and proportioned skeletal systems, and a plethora of genes with many different versions. Basically, you are unique; and while that fact is often used as encouragement, the uniqueness of each person complicates the understanding of human health and create conditions where the body is saddled with an extreme lack of energy.
Living in today's world of unbridled stress, the human body is constantly exposed to pressures that seem to cause or trigger various illnesses, although a clear understanding still eludes medical science. Over time, these pressures can cause irreparable harm to the body. Furthermore, toxic environments and lack of adequate rest both compound the damage.
The body has several mechanisms to naturally deal with stress, which combined form the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) response system. The NEM response thwarts the onslaught of stress by using many systems in the body, including the skeletal system, immune system, endocrine system, lymphatic system, and circulatory system. Each system works in coordination with the others, not in an isolated fashion (as conventional medicine often assumes).
The central system in control of the body’s stress response is the neuroendocrine system, which conventional medicine does acknowledge. This system consists of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and hormonal glands, which keep the brain on high alert, pumping more blood when needed. However, it's up to the adrenal glands, resting on top of the two kidneys, to secrete over fifty hormones to combat stress. Of the many hormones secreted, one of the most important is cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone.
Chronic stress eventually overloads your body. When the stress levels become intolerable, your body barely functions in its daily routines, hormonal production becomes deregulated, and cortisol output drops.
Commonly observed symptoms as the condition worsens are:
In some, all of these symptoms are present—in others, only a few. However, no matter how many symptoms manifest, they can be very debilitating. In essence, the adrenals suffer fatigue and slow down. Some say this leaves them feeling like the "walking dead."
In today's changing medical-holistic-integrative environment, a more comprehensive approach is thought optimal. In the NeuroEndoMetabolic stress response, multiple organs, systems, pathways, and chemical reactions all work together to combat stress overload. Thought of in this way, the stages of Adrenal Fatigue can be addressed more efficiently.
To better understand Adrenal Fatigue, think of your body as a master circuit board. What happens when you overload your circuits—when too many electrical appliances are hooked up to the board? You blow a fuse, don't you? That's exactly what has happened in those with Adrenal Fatigue.
However, your body's circuit board does not switch back on when you flip the circuit breakers. It cannot be replaced by an electrician. Your normal life comes to a standstill.
Under ordinary stress conditions, the body's NEM response is automatic, operating 24/7. When you experience overwhelming or chronic stress, however, the NEM circuit breakers may malfunction, with a variety of detrimental effects.
While many people experience a general lack of energy, your exact clinical response will be heavily influenced by your genetic makeup and lifestyle choices. In essence, each body responds differently to stress overload. This can be seen in the following scenario.
Since most people eat their mid-day meal around 12 or 1 p.m., many people experience a tiring fatigue soon afterward, in the late afternoon. If you feel tired immediately after lunch, you may be eating too many carbohydrates. Otherwise, you’ll likely feel energized for a few more hours.
However, when 3 p.m. rolls around, you may start to feel a lack of energy or be hungry again. Why is that? Cortisol—one of the main hormones produced by your adrenals—is also known as a glucocorticoid, meaning that it helps to regulate glucose levels and balance your blood sugar. As the adrenal glands weaken, your body is no longer able to keep up metabolism and balance your blood sugar effectively. So when 3 p.m. rolls around, your blood sugar—which increased after lunch— starts to drop, and you feel fatigued.
Another reason for the afternoon slump is that your body’s natural circadian rhythm dips and makes the body sleepy around 3-5 p.m. However, this tiredness should not be so overwhelming that you must take a nap in order to function. Once you get over the initial sleepiness, you should be able to keep going and be productive.
If you have a severe lack of energy between 3 and 5 p.m., you don’t eat an excessive amount of carbohydrates, and you don’t suffer from diabetes or some other known condition, , Adrenal Fatigue may be the underlying cause. In an Adrenal Fatigue slump, the body goes into slow motion and doesn't want to move. You may also experience brain fog and increased irritability. Like an 18-wheeler truck that ran out of gasoline, relief only comes after taking a 20-minute nap, fueling up. After a nap and some additional nourishment, your body’s energy levels will rise again and you’ll be ready to take on the rest of the day.
An excellent way to help prevent this mid-afternoon slump is to proactively eat something at this time to boost your blood sugar and energy levels. However, rest is also important to help your adrenals recover.
Usually, when the body begins getting stronger, this need for an afternoon nap disappears--gradually. This is one excellent sign that your body's metabolism and energy reserves are being restored and that you are on the road to recovery.
If the proper protocol is maintained, lifestyle changes are made, and you manage to avoid repeated adrenal crashes, then you’ve likely remedied the problem. Knowing how to manage slumps and the Adrenal Fatigue, involves recognizing and dealing with reduced energy and fatigue, reoccurring brain fog, reactive hypoglycemia, heart palpitations, and a host of other very real maladies and discomforts.
In addition, lifestyle changes and patience will help you transform from the "walking dead" to someone who can once again live a vibrant life.
Remember to constantly listen to your body and how it feels. If the afternoon slump persists or returns, consult your doctor. If nothing else surfaces, then you may be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue. If so, once you make the proper adjustments and your neurohormonal levels realign, you may have more energy throughout the day.
© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.