Adrenal fatigue is not the cause of low energy
I wish I could take a nap every afternoon. I can’t seem to get my day started because I just don’t have the energy to do it. I’m not sleeping well. Getting out of bed can feel impossible on some days. I need something to pump me up or make me feel energized to get through my day.
Does this sound all to familiar to you?
Many of us want and need more energy, but we rely on the biological systems that affect our use and experience of vitality way more than we should. To boot, we don’t understand what vitality is, where it comes from or how to proactively increase it in our lives. We may think we do because we go to sleep every day or periodically take a nap, but most of us in our busy lives resort to external stimulants of various kinds and scapegoats like adrenal fatigue to explain away our living, out of balance, and the wide array of consequences that follow.
In this blog, I’ll help you get smarter about personal energy and explore if adrenal fatigue is really the cause of low energy and fatigue.
As a Performance Lifestyle Advisor, someone who helps generally driven-people to develop the necessary lifestyle skills needed to cope with the unique demands of being a high performer or high achiever; low energy or constant fatigue is the number one (#1) issue people bring up, even if they’re world class fitness professionals, and athletes. We hear it from clients, friends, and the general public at large.
We’re having an energy crisis in this country, and it’s not just about fossil fuels. Our frenetic modern lifestyles require seemingly constant momentum in the face of relentless demand on our personal energy. We simply don’t have the time—or desire—to be still, regardless of how fatigued we feel. Perhaps it’s because facing our fatigue just feels too uncomfortable. Nevertheless, we live in an environment where we push our bodies to the maximum then proclaim our fatigue as a badge of honor or pride.
Millions of women and men around the world grapple with weight gain, chronic stress, poor sleep, forgetfulness, low sex drive, mood swings, hormone imbalances, and constant fatigue. More often than not, they’re told that it’s normal, the price for success, that it’s either all in their head or it’s because they’re having kids, raising kids, managing the household, working too hard, or getting older.
More than likely they’ll also be told they’re simply suffering from adrenal fatigue. None of the above reasons are the true causes of fatigue; they are occasions that exacerbate fatigue and adrenal fatigue is often the scapegoat.
According to The Hormone Health Network, the nation’s endocrine patient education resource committed to helping patients have more informed discussions with their healthcare providers about hormone health, disease, and treatment; whose educational resources are based on the clinical and scientific expertise of The Endocrine Society, the world’s largest organization of endocrinologists, representing more than 18,000 physicians and scientists…
- “Adrenal fatigue” is not a real medical condition. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms.
- Adrenal insufficiency is a real disease diagnosed through blood tests.
- There is no test that can detect adrenal fatigue.
So adrenal fatigue is not the cause of fatigue. And, it’s quite likely that fatigue (chronic or not) is not even a disease, although it can sure feel like one.
It’s a state or condition that is multi-causal and there is no way to even diagnose it despite many well-known doctors still reducing this condition down to the “seemingly tangible” problem of adrenal fatigue. And while it may be influenced by viral infections, immune system problems and hormonal imbalances; according to the Mayo Clinic, “no conclusive link has yet been found,” “it’s unclear if this impairment is enough to actually cause the disorder,” and “the significance of these abnormalities is still unknown.”
Fatigue may be affected by adrenal insufficiency, and be further affected by depression, obstructive sleep apnea, or other sleep disorder or health problems, but it’s the position of this post from a performance lifestyle advisor (coach, trainer) that it’s more than likely, and originally, the result of the systemic depletion of personal energy.
The likelihood that your fatigue is due to a common reason like overexertion of your life force is much, much higher than the chances that your fatigue is due to the potentially true presence of a virus, or a worn out organ (adrenals). Just look into the lifestyle of a person who is suffering from constant fatigue and feeling tired all the time, as I do and have experienced personally; even if you observe a relatively “healthy” lifestyle, it won’t be hard to also see a person living chronically out of balance, spending significantly more personal energy than they are recuperating.
If you doubt this, a full 20% or more of underlying sleep disorders have to do with circadian rhythm sleep wake disorders which are directly attributable to how you well you own your schedule.
Sure, there are many common “complications” of low energy, but the reality is that these are occasions that complicate the experience of fatigue, but are not the primary cause.
In the rest of this article series, we’ll take a look at the common causes of fatigue, but all these “causes” of low energy are secondary considerations if you are overspending your personal energy. For more detailed information, on learning how to deal with the primary cause of fatigue, I suggest you consider learning more about personal energy renewal.
Today you will find an entire market of energy drinks, caffeinated beverages, extreme coffees, and sugary foods developed in an attempt to capitalize on the phenomenon of low energy. Yet these “solutions” often exacerbate the issue.
Energy has become a commodity that we buy and ingest. While overuse of caffeine is definitely of concern, consuming products with testosterone-laden (figuratively, not literally) names like Rock Star, Monster, Bottle Rocket, and Red Bull—which promise boundless energy and endless good times—is not a good idea. With as much as 300 milligrams of caffeine per serving, plus other stimulants, they definitely spike energy—for a while. But in the end, that sky-high energy will just as easily speed in the opposite direction. The end result of this roller coaster is fatigue, increased stress, and anxiety…or worse, DEATH.
A Sky-Rocketing Personal Energy Crisis
A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that the number of energy drink–related emergency room visits doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 between 2007 and 2011. While this is still a relatively small number, the increase was and still is cause for concern, as energy drink consumption has increased further since then.
At the milder end of the spectrum, energy drinks can cause high blood pressure, anxiety, and feelings of panic. More extreme cases feature irregular heartbeats, seizures, and heart attacks. These symptoms aren’t really surprising, since one energy drink is often equal to five cups of coffee.
Even though trends in the healthy energy drink market are improving energy drink products on the market due to lawsuits and required regulation for these controversial products; for people with underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension or diabetes, not to mention the likely state of exhaustion and fatigue, the results can be deadly.
Adrenal Fatigue Thinking
So where does this idea of adrenal fatigue come from?
In traditional Chinese medicine, one of the keys to greater energy is found in what is called “kidney essence.” In Western medicine, and “alternative” medicine this roughly equates to our kidney/adrenal system, which governs a large share of hormonal functions that can affect energy metabolism, blood sugar regulation, fat storage, cardiovascular function, and the conversion of fat and protein into fuel.
Even though the Chinese are grounded in the “yin and yang” of energy and have acknowledged a vital source of energy that transcends the mere presence of hormonal secretions in the body for a very long time; the discussion about adrenal fatigue is mostly about nutrition and the biochemical processes of the body. The rationale is that when our kidney/adrenal system is exhausted from chronic stress, poor nutrition, and other factors, we may suffer from adrenal fatigue syndrome and a host of related problems that include excess weight and sluggish metabolism.
It’s said that some of the hormones secreted by the adrenals are also responsible for balancing the autonomic nervous system, otherwise known as our rest/relaxation and fight/flight responses. The thinking is that for optimal energy and vitality, the adrenals must have flexibility. And while it’s true they need to wake up and respond quickly in times of danger and relax when we’re safe; adrenal fatigue thinking also points to the idea that when we use potent stimulants, such as commercial energy drinks… we’re pushing that part of our nervous system to the limit, causing it to crash very quickly.
It’s like saying “we’re stretching the rubber band so much that it loses its flexibility.” And this is thought to have numerous detrimental health effects. In terms of energy levels, it means we need more and more stimulation to achieve even a mild increase in energy from our adrenals.
Notice the rationale above is based entirely on the adrenals losing flexibility; basically being over-exercised and becoming fatigued as if it were a standalone organ in the body and the energy we experience were solely based upon the hormones we secrete from the adrenals, based on stimulation. This is where the adrenal fatigue argument completely falls apart— the implication of this thinking is that the adrenals are the source of our energy.
Basic Understanding of Energy
What’s left out of the above understanding is that adrenal fatigue is not the cause of low energy. Your adrenal glands require vitality like any and every other organ in the body. Vitality is an energy you can’t see or touch. You can only renew, balance, manage, optimize, and focus your energy through awareness and insightful lifestyle practices you build skill around. One of the more obvious and talked about skills is making sure you get adequate sleep; sleep is the bedrock of restoring vitality on a daily basis.
Vitality is our primary source of energy, but no one can completely define it. Chi, prana, nerve energy, life force, Brahman, electrical energy, electromagnetic force…these are all names that point to this vital energy source that is often dismissed because it can’t be measured. But to dismiss it is like cutting yourself off from oxygen; from the very source of what keeps you animate and alive.
Note: Despite widespread use, evidence and popularity behind Integrative Studies, sites like Wikipedia still describe vitality as “completely unsupported by any kind of scientific evidence.”
ISHAR (by Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Foundation) is there to not only explain Integrative Studies, but to present the mountains of evidence so that it can be weighed fairly.
Vital energy is the primary energy source and it’s plausible descriptions can go even deeper; just ask a cosmologist or an astrophysicist. The thing is, you don’t have to know all the inner workings of a clock to tell time and the same is true for renewing and managing energy. It may be useful, but it’s not mandatory. Skip one night of sleep and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
Vital energy is real and it needs to be proactively renewed.
Overspending Your Vital Energy
We live in a challenging world. Everybody is constantly expected to perform, perform, and then perform some more. Employers now demand 150% from their employees. And with the current state of the economy, many people are afraid of losing their jobs and thus working harder than ever before. But there are short and long-term dangers to this behavior. You can only expect so much from your body (including your brain) and your mind.
Yes, your body can handle serious strain for a certain amount of time. But once that “limit line” is crossed, you start to crack, simply because you are overspending your vital life force and you mildly start to “lose your mind.” Your body does not have enough time to recuperate, heal, and get strong again (regenerate), so it weakens and breaks down.
Understanding vital energy and learning how to balance it is a big part of getting smart about personal energy.
According to the Huffington Post Healthy Living Editor Laura Schocker—”If you don’t snooze, you lose.” Skimping on sleep can wreak havoc from head to toe. In fact, one study published last year showed that just one week of sleeping fewer than six hours a night resulted in changes to more than 700 genes. That’s alarming news, considering nearly half of Americans don’t bank even the recommended seven or more hours of shut-eye a night, according to a recent survey.”
Whether you don’t sleep enough or the sleep you get is of low quality—you may be surprised that the reason many people suffer from low energy levels is not “just” because of their sleep. There are many things you can naturally do to improve your sleep quality, and working with a sleep doctor can help in a very big way, especially if your doctor has or is making the move to a “lifestyle medicine” approach. Lifestyle medicine focuses on improved outcomes and enhanced well-being by working to treat the cause.
In the Performance Lifestyle® training course PERC; when it comes to your personal energy, you’ll learn that sleeping better is not only about resolving any underlying sleep disorders, disturbances or diseases states with the help of a trained professional, but that resolving such states is also dependent on the interplay with other aspects of your lifestyle (the much broader spectrum you’ll connect the dots of in Performance Lifestyle trainings) that are preventing you from first and foremost renewing your personal energy.
You need to focus on optimizing your lifestyle as a whole if you want to successfully resolve any one aspect of it, particularly sleep, which is roughly 30% of our lives. Sleep is clearly affected by what’s happening in your life!
Believe it or not, we think the number one probable cause of sleep disorders that largely goes undiscussed in medical settings, is unresolved life issues. Maybe it’s because these issues feel so far away from a discussion on underlying sleep disorders, and are no doubt an inconvenient truth to a physician who defaults to diagnosable disorders and symptoms and may not get into “lifestyle medicine.
Personal, family, business, and career conditions that keep the brain active during the night and prevent you from experiencing peace from the conscious mind that naturally gives way to deep restorative sleep is a major factor in sleep disorders. This overactive brain syndrome can then give rise to poor lifestyle choices to cope with its consequences that give way to what can become a vicious downward spiral of complications.
In Performance Lifestyle Advisory, training and coaching, we help you make the structural life, lifestyle and goal alignment changes that alleviate overstimulation and under recuperation. Once a person is tired, let alone all the time, you can be sure that overeating and usually under nourishment will follow, given the standard American diet so many of us eat. The fact that we are all so super busy almost all the time, this low energy state will then give way to a lack of physical activity; and all of this will predictably result in weight, physical and mental health conditions, guaranteed.
So focusing on sleep is a big part of getting smart about personal energy.
It’s a great place to start!
Change What and How You Eat
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the most common causes of low energy can be an imbalanced diet that does not provide all the nutrients your body needs, includes an excess of what it doesn’t need, and contains food that is eaten in a significantly altered state. Regardless of whether the food was once “organic,” adulterated food (overly cooked food, for example) can end up being nothing more than a toxic overload to the body with minimal nourishment.
As human beings, we get a large amount of our energy from the food we eat. Just understand that food energy is responsible for “fueling” the body, not powering it. There is a difference. It is also responsible for taking care of the cellular machinery, making it possible for you to renew your personal energy. Like a battery, if you don’t take care of the battery itself, it won’t recharge well.
Eat the wrong foods (i.e. put in the wrong fuels), and the “machine” won’t function at the level you need it to. Changing what you eat doesn’t have to be an ordeal. There are lot of nutrient-rich recipes that are delicious and simple, quick and easy to prepare and eat that will nourish, detoxify, stabilize and strengthen your body.
The thing to keep in mind is this— to help you overcome fatigue, while food is not the primary source of our energy, and is essential to helping fuel the body; optimizing the way you eat will go a long way to helping you manage and experience more of the energy you renew.
We offer many recipes in the PERC course for you to try.
Inactivity Due to Lack of Personal Power
Suffice it to say that if you do not have enough personal energy, your capacity (power) will be diminished. What’s the first to go? Your energy to exercise. When energy is low, it’s only natural you will cut out the non-essentials, like any physical activity over and above what it takes to survive.
When exercise goes you can now be sure of one thing; you’ll rarely ever get an accurate read on your energy levels or your true condition because it’s only through physical activity that you get the performance feedback you need to know where you really stand in terms of your energy and capacity and frankly your overall health.
Your performance depends on that.
Many people with low energy also feel badly. Depression is a terrible state to be in. One of the big challenges with depressed people is that they lack the motivation to do anything—including doing something about their own state of well-being.
It’s not that people are lazy when they’re depressed. It’s that their posture to the world, thinking, and personal energy are out of alignment. They are not grounded in who they really are. Instead, they are grounded in who they think they are and their thinking is causing negative emotions. This not only makes for less than joyous feelings, it saps personal energy in a very big way as it’s out of alignment with what gives rise to empowering brain chemistry, feelings, and drive for forward flowing movement.
Here at Performance Lifestyle, Inc., we assert that having enough personal energy is paramount to your success. We help you get yourself back into alignment with who you really are, so you can improve how you think and act with greater ease.
This will help you stop diminishing your personal energy through inefficiencies and start renewing and managing your personal energy through lifestyle management. Based on this “optimal performance state,” the Performance Lifestyle mindset and skill set will then help you align your lifestyle with what you are up to in the world—the personal and professional objectives, goals, and dreams you want to achieve in your life.
This post was a quick overview, not an thorough white paper, of the most common causes of low energy and fatigue and intended to help you see the primary cause of fatigue so you can avoid assigning blame to scapegoats and secondary matters that will never solve the core problem of low energy. I hope you found it useful.
The performance, lifestyle measures discussed in this blog will not produce the same rush as an energy drink or a coffee. No, they certainly won’t. Because that’s not the result you want. The objective is to build and maintain constant, stable energy, not to provoke peaks and crashes. Ultimately, a healthy energy state and metabolism means we don’t need stimulants beyond what naturally stimulates your energy in a fully engaged lifestyle
Supporting your body so you can function efficiently through a commitment to personal energy renewal, a healthy nutrient-rich diet, functional fitness and performance lifestyle habits that promote overall health in the process of focusing on your life’s goals is the solution.
It starts with getting smart about personal energy.