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Adrenal Fatigue: The Invisible Condition

November 8, 2020
We forget that the go-getter Type A Personality is prone to burnout like the rest of us. Adrenal Fatigue affects them more than they want to let on. One of the simplest steps to healing is the hardest for them to tackle.
By: Dr. Andrew Neville


Dr. Andrew Neville


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What is Adrenal Fatigue?

I hear stories every day in my practice of patients coming in about how long they’ve been struggling with various symptoms, trying to find answers for these seemingly kind of unexplainable symptoms. So whether you’re brand new to adrenal fatigue, or like I was, you’d been going at this for years and years with limited success, the information I’m going to share with you is different. And armed with that information it absolutely can help speed your recovery.

So my hope is, after listening to this course, you find out why others have mostly got it wrong, or at least just partially right. And that the reason that you’re not well yet is not your fault. It’s just that everybody’s been looking at this adrenal fatigue thing the wrong way. So if I had to cut to the punch line, adrenal fatigue is not just adrenal fatigue. The adrenal problems in adrenal fatigue are just part of the picture. And in order to finally fix this thing for good, you have to deal with these other parts of the problem too. And that’s what I’m going to share in this mini course.

Well, the best, or at least the most accurate name for this condition that you are likely dealing with is to call it a stress response system dysfunction. And the adrenals are part of that stress response system, of course. It’s the adrenals that release all that stress hormone and ultimately it’s that stress hormone that does all the damage. But the adrenals are just a small part of this bigger system and that has to be addressed. And when you address that system as a whole, that’s when people can finally get back on track and ultimately get your lives back.

It’s like they’re all looking at these various pieces. You’ll have specialists in adrenal fatigue. Right? Who are really good at adrenal fatigue, but that’s only one part of this bigger picture. Right? And there’s a nervous system part and there’s a brain part. So it’s like the old parable of the three blindfolded people. They’re standing around an elephant, they’re all describing what they feel. One’s at the tail, one’s at the trunk, one’s at the ear. And the descriptions of course are very different and they’re all very accurate, but nobody’s taking their blindfold off and saying, look, this is an elephant. That’s what we have to deal with. So what we have to deal with is the entirety of the stress response system itself.

I’ve said that the best name is to call it a stress response system dysfunction. And this is a combination of a genetic predisposition and enough chronic stress, which we’ll talk more about, that eventually overwhelms that system and gets this system stuck on… Basically stuck in stress physiology, stuck in fight or flight. This system was not designed to be turned on and stuck on. It’s designed to be turned on, and then turned back off. This system was designed for old school stresses. Right? A famine or a plague or a predator or something. Turn that physiology on, deal with it. And then if you live, you turn that stress physiology back off. You heal, repair, you live to fight another day.

When this thing is stuck on. Stress physiology is stuck on, we’re in fight or flight that leads to a predictable set of symptoms. You will see chronic fatigue, pain, weight up or down, insomnia, brain fog, anxiety, depression, blood sugar problems, blood pressure problems. And not everybody gets all those symptoms. But even when you look in conventional literature, the main underlying cause of all those symptoms, chronic stress over time. That damage that that stress hormone does over time.

So what happens? You have these symptoms. Right? You go to your doctor and they want to help you out. They want to give you something. So they give you something for the symptom. Right? Whether it’s a drug or an herb or a vitamin or whatever that may be. So they give you something for your sleep, something for your anxiety, something for your depression, something for your blood pressure. And you might, if you’re lucky enough to pick the right thing, you might cover up the symptom and not see it, but you haven’t fixed this underlying physiology. And that’s the problem because that pattern persists over time and the wear and tear continues over time. So using kind of meds or herbs, just to cover up the symptoms, it’s like putting a little piece of tape over the check engine light in your car. Obviously you haven’t fixed the problem and that problem’s going to get worse over time.

Now what makes it even more confusing to everybody is you can also have symptoms on this other side of this physiology, because when you’re fighting tigers, you’re only activating a few organs that’ll save your life. And you’re pretty much suppressing everything else. So there’s four main organs that get suppressed when we’re fighting tigers. Your immune, digestive, reproductive, and thyroid systems. Do that once in a while, it’ll save your life. Conserve energy. And may sense. This is conventional physiology. Right? We know that stress hormone goes to the immune system, suppress it. Don’t waste energy dealing with that chronic inflammatory thing. Don’t waste energy fighting some chronic infection. Forget about that. Deal with the tiger. We’ll turn that on later.

Same thing with your gut. Don’t waste energy digesting .don’t waste energy, absorbing nutrients. Not a great time to actually have a bowel movement. You’re fighting a tiger. Right? Same thing happens with reproductive organs. Don’t care about your menstrual cycle, your libido, erections. Don’t really want you to procreate right now. Right? There’s a tiger.

We also know that that extra stress hormone goes to the thyroid system and suppresses it as well. Do that once in a while to save your life. Conserve here, deal with the tiger, turn it back on. Do it all the time. And now you’ve got a situation where that extra stress hormone is causing excess wear and tear. Suppressing these systems is now suppressing your body’s healing and repair mechanisms. So now we’ve got a physiologic balance that with excess wear and tear, suppressed healing and repair, that’s just not a great equation for good health and wellbeing.

So people will say to me, but everybody has stress. Right? And that is absolutely true. Absolutely true. We’re not meant to live a life without stress. See, we all have this one stress response system and it involves the brain, the hormone side, which ends in the adrenals and part of your nervous system. We’ll talk more about this. So the brain, the hormones and nerves. That stress response system therefore has to deal with any and all stress. But it wasn’t designed for stress of today. Right? Now, because that system has to deal with any and all stress, I kind of think of our stress response as a bucket. We all have a certain size bucket, some small, some big. You can overwhelm anybody’s bucket if you throw enough at them. But again, it was designed for that old school stress. Give me a good old fashioned famine. The plague or a predator. That bucket would fill up at once. We would jump into stress physiology, deal with it. And if we live, the bucket would drain, we’d shift out a fight or flight. We’d turn off that wear and tear, turn on the healing and repair. We live to fight another day.

We don’t have stress like that these days, except for the plague thing I suppose. Nowadays, we’re filling up this bucket from day one with anything and everything left and right. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social stresses, diet, nutrition, toxins, injuries, especially head injuries, trauma, abuse, chronic pain or infections, relationships and work and school and finances and politics and social media. It all goes into that bucket. And in the beginning, as the bucket fills up a little bit, our physiology might shift. You might see a little of those symptoms. The body complains a little bit, but it’s not that bad in the beginning. Right? We can kind of push through it or we can sleep through the weekend and recover. Or we can self-medicate. Use a little coffee or sugar or alcohol, whatever kind of medication we want to use. And we can push through.

But, as that bucket fills up, this stress response system gets more trigger happy. It starts over interpreting it’s environment as dangerous. We start filling up the bucket faster, and then the body starts screaming louder and louder and louder until we have to then start heading off to the doctor and try to get some of things fixed.

So what type of person is vulnerable to adrenal fatigue. In general, we are people who develop adrenal fatigue. People that fill up the bucket faster than the average person. Now it’s not all our fault. I mean, we have trauma and injury and things happen to us. But in general, the personality type of a person who develops adrenal fatigue tends to care. And maybe cares a little too much. And because we care, we do things and we do things well because we care about what we do. And sometimes we do them too well and people come to us because we do things well. So we do more and more. And then we can even become kind of perfectionists and overachieving and even kind of type A type stuff. We are people that in general are a little more sensitive. Right? Sensitive to our world, whether that’s internal, the trials and tribulations of the world. All those things. We kind of feel those types of things.

Again, it’s not all our fault, but we do tend to fill up our bucket faster than the average person. You add that to just the myriad of stressors that are out there, filling up the bucket anyway. And that’s where we start to kind of get behind the eight ball a little bit.

So with regard to the adrenals, what conventional medicine tells us and what those doctors are taught, is that you can’t have an adrenal function that is dysfunction, that’s short of failure. If your adrenals are functioning at all, then they’re functioning perfectly well. So adrenal failure, that’s called Addison’s disease. It’s a very, very rare condition. Right? When you look at the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, it’s similar to Addison’s disease, just not as bad. So what do they do? If they can’t find kind of an underlying cause and all the conventional testing of course comes back perfectly normal. There’s no problems. Now you go on this kind of specialist merry go around. I’ll send it to all ologists. Right? The rheumatologists, immunologists, endocrinologists, gastroenterologists, neurologists. And once you pass those kind of tests, then eventually you get that referral to the psychiatrist. Right? Because it must be all in your head. It is absolutely not all in your head.

So how do we effectively heal adrenal fatigue? Well, if you remember, adrenal fatigue is more than just adrenal fatigue. Right? It’s a dysfunction within the entire stress response system which includes the adrenals, but it’s all of those stress hormones. It’s the nerve side of the stress response. And certainly the brain and the limbic system is the CEO. When you target and fix all of those systems together, that’s when people will shift and heal. So how do we do that? Well, you want to get a proper assessment, a good health history, maybe a quiz. There are tests, some specific tests. You want to do the right tests that are not absolutely necessary, but those can help as well. We want to target a supplement program. So I do use supplements for this. There’s no magic pill that fixes everybody. But when we target the supplement, whether it’s a vitamin, an herb or something, we target it individually towards your hormones. Towards the nerves, towards healing the brain and the limbic system, they can be effective. They’re a piece of that puzzle.

There’s a very specific way you want to eat, which we will guide you with regard to

helping to lighten the load, the stress load on the adrenal system. At times we will pay attention to food sensitivities, kind of scooping that stress out of the bucket as well. That can be beneficial. And then we talk about all the lifestyle factors. Right? Mastering your life. Working on stress reduction techniques and working on trying to shift this, paying attention to what stressors are and inside the bucket.

Our job together is to figure out what does your therapeutic puzzle look like. Right? And everybody’s as different. What does yours look like? Then we start putting enough of those pieces of the puzzle together, all at the same time. And that’s the key. You might have tried a couple of these things. Right? But we have to put all of those pieces together, all at the same time. And that is when you finally shift this physiology. And the symptoms start to go away. So we’re going to stop chasing all those symptoms. The symptoms go away. We turn off the wear and tear while we’re turning on the healing and repair, then all we have to do is sit back and let the body heal itself. That is how you heal from adrenal fatigue and eventually get your life back.


Dr. Andrew Neville


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