I hope you're feeling in tip-top mental and physical health today. No? Do you...

- feel exhausted in the morning even though you slept enough?
- seem nervous, lightheaded, or overwhelmed much of the time?
- crave salty or sweet foods and have extra weight, especially abdominal fat?
- feel achy or have a hard time bouncing back from an illness?
- experience low moods and sex drive?

If those symptoms sound familiar, you may be showing signs of adrenal fatigue.

The adrenal glands are busy organs. Positioned on top of your kidneys, these small structures influence many body systems, from kidney function to digestion. They also affect individual characteristics as minor as hair growth and as vital as blood pressure. Among the compounds the adrenal glands produce is the stress hormone cortisol.

Cortisol and "fight or flight"
At the right time and place, cortisol serves a useful purpose. Imagine that you are camping, and you see a bear. Cortisol makes your body respond to that potential danger: Your heart rate increases, your digestion stops, your muscles gather energy, fat burning is quieted, and more fat is signaled to be stored to ensure that you are well prepared for the next emergency. All of these "fight or flight" reactions are designed to give you energy, speed, strength--everything you need to survive your encounter with the bear.

Perhaps our cave-dwelling ancestors were faced with this kind of life-threatening situation frequently, facing challenges that couldn't be survived without the cascade of physical adaptations set in motion by cortisol.

The problem is, we're not cavemen. We make more cortisol than modern survival requires.

Modern cortisol triggers
For most of us today, physical threats that require fight-or-flight reactions don't happen every day. Yet in our hectic, fast-paced, information-packed world, our bodies engage in this reaction habitually. Cortisol production can be stimulated by any perceived threat.

- a demanding job
- the juggling of work and family responsibilities
- too little sleep
- frequent illness
- long commutes and the road rage that comes with them
- uncomfortable personal relationships
- little or no "me time"

Over time, these and other stressors can send you heading down the path of adrenal exhaustion.

Could you have adrenal fatigue?
Although adrenal fatigue is not often recognized by the traditional Western medical community, alternative practitioners use a saliva test to assess whether your cortisol levels are optimal level. (In a healthy individual, more cortisol is secreted in the morning than in the evening.) Having this simple test done is a good first step if you suspect stress is affecting your physical health. In addition, the symptoms of adrenal fatigue may be similar to those of other conditions, such as sleep apnea, dehydration, and anemia, so you may want to check those out with your medical professional as well.

The good news
Take heart! You can take many steps to begin to correct adrenal fatigue and prevent burnout.

My favorite suggestion is to learn to say "no" to over-booking your time and energy--and say "yes" to more personal recharge time and priority setting. After all, it's stress that leads to this condition; reducing stress, then, is key to solving it. In addition,

- get 7+ hours of sleep per night
- reduce refined sugar and caffeine
- boost immunity system with vitamin C
- support mood and mental health with B vitamins and magnesium
- add adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola rosea
- manage stress with meditation and deep breathing
- try acupuncture for energy and overall balance, and
- make healthful routines (workday breaks, regular meals, exercise, etc.) and calming rituals a part of your everyday life.

Please take a second look at the symptoms listed at the beginning. Then look again at the tips above. Isn't relief worth the effort it takes to implement a few of these healthful changes? I hope you think so--and take action to reduce stress beginning today. Your adrenal health might depend on it!

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Roberts Mittman, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., M.S., is a nutritional and lifestyle consultant, holistic mindset mentor, and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. Using natural, drug-free techniques, Roberta opens the door to complete mind-body health. Roberta believes in empowering individuals to be their own best healers. Ready to take that step? Call 212-686-0939, or visit online at RobertaMittman.com.