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What Is Adrenal Exhaustion?
Adrenal exhaustion is something we are seeing more and more of. People with adrenal exhaustion feel “tired but wired”. They are exhausted, and have usually been under long-term stress, but any trauma, shock, or history of steroid use can also lead to adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal exhaustion is very common in our fast pace world and “type A” personalities. It can also be a result of other diseases, for example immune deficient person can end up exhausting their adrenals (they are always fighting off something).
Stages of Stress
Almost any type of stress, whether it be physical or neurogenic, will cause an immediate and marked increase in ACTH secretion, followed within minutes by a greatly increased adrenocortical secretion of cortisol. Some of the different types of stress that increase cortisol secretion are:
- Trauma of almost any type (shock, fright, or fear which injures the kidney)
- Infection (including tonsillitis and laryngitis)
- Inflammation (due to the anti-inflammatory effects of cortisol)
- Injection of norepinephrine or other sympathomimetic drugs
- Surgical procedures
- Injection of necrotizing substances beneath the skin
- Restrainment so that the body cannot move (relevant especially in animals)
- Almost any debilitating disease
- Lack of oxygen, excess of carbon dioxide.
Many changes then take place as a result of stress as the body adapts, and these changes take place in three stages.
The first and second stages (the ‘alarm reaction’, and the stage of ‘adaptation’) stem mostly from the fact that the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal medulla greatly increase their activity. This means there tends to be decreased immunity, increased blood pressure, and decreased digestion.
However, when the stress is severe or prolonged, the exhaustion stage is reached. Corticoid secretion increases above the normal rate and the body can not cope successfully with the stressor. It is here that the body becomes significantly troubled, as health problems take over like hypertension, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, gastrointestinal ulcers, fertility problems, chronic fatigue syndrome and/or fibromyalgia, to name a few.
So you see, living with stress is not as innocent as it seems. It can be damaging you far more than you realize.
Test For Adrenal Exhaustion
At Paddington Clinic, we use abdominal palpation in our acupuncture treatments as a key tool to figure out what is going on with your health. Any tender, hard, tight or painful spots on your tummy (known as ‘active reflex zones’) gives us very clear ideas about what is going wrong internally, which organs are out of balance, and what conditions are likely to be present. We then select distal and local acupuncture points that create physiological change in the active reflex zones of the abdomen, and a patient can usually feel an immediate change in tenderness and pain in these reflex zones after treatment. It’s quite amazing!
In the case of adrenal exhaustion, below is a diagram of the places on your abdomen which would be tender or painful, as well as other spots of achiness or pain throughout your body.
Imagine your belly button is the centre of a clock. If you press down around the rim of your belly button at 3-5 o’clock and 8-9 o’clock and feel pressure pain or hardness or tightness, this means that your adrenal reflex is active.
The adrenal sign is active especially on people who have suffered or are suffering from shock, trauma and extreme stress. The shock and/or trauma may have happened in the distant past and stayed with the person to the present day, or happened recently. The nature of the shock and/or trauma could be any life threatening experience whether psychological or physical. Some common examples are: Car accidents, fear of dying, severe pain, sexual abuse, psychological abuse etc.. The adrenal gland may also be active after operations (especially if the person had gone through multiple surgical procedures throughout his or her life), any chronic disease or pain. We often find an active adrenal gland reflex on people who have been taking steroid hormones, Lithium, anti depressants, morphine, strong analgesics, and thyroid hormones. For example, it takes only two months of steroid hormone consumption in order to develop a pressure pain at 3-4 o’clock and 8-9 o’clock around the umbilicus.
How Can I Recover From Adrenal Exhaustion?
In order to give your body a chance to recover from its constant state of stress, acupuncture can be incredibly powerful in shutting off the stress response, boosting the parasympathetic nervous system (the one which causes our bodies to relax) and restoring adrenal reserves. Over time, the adrenal reflex zones above will cease to be tender and that is how we know your body is back in a state of balance and treatment is no longer needed.
It is also most important that you make it a priority to reduce stress in your life: you can check out our best stress-busting tips here. Limiting caffeine is also highly important when dealing with stress and adrenal exhaustion. Herbs which support the adrenal glands are also highly effective, and these can be discussed and prescribed by your Practitioner.
Book in with one of our acupuncturists if you suspect your adrenals are suffering. They can give you a complete adrenal assessment and begin the recovery process.