By Dove Sprout (R.TCM.P), the co-owner of Creston Acupuncture and Natural Health Centre
Wired and Tired
In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, we’ve become far too familiar with the term “Adrenal Fatigue or Exhaustion.” Chronic, long-term stress can be devastating to your body’s ability to cope. We often abuse our bodies and take them for granted as we grab another cup of coffee or sugary snack so that we can push through to get that last thing done, and then the next thing, and the next.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a condition where the adrenal glands are unable to produce adequate amounts of the hormones necessary for proper body function. The result of this imbalance means that the individual experiences normal everyday stress as overwhelming, resulting in complete and utter exhaustion that never seems to be relieved no matter how much sleep or rest they get. Individuals suffering from this condition may look and seem healthy, but they are feeling like their energy and life force is slipping away.
The underlying cause of AFS is chronic, ongoing, unresolved stress. The stress can be emotional, mental, or physical, but when maintained for long periods of time, the body’s reserves become depleted and the adrenals are weakened. Common symptoms of AFS include difficulty getting up in the morning, extreme fatigue on a daily basis yet often a surge of energy in the evening or at night, an inability to handle stress, cravings for sweet or salty foods, overuse of stimulants and a weakened immune system.
The fundamental principle of health in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the concept of balance between Yin & Yang Qi (pronounced “chee”) in our bodies. These are opposing forces that also rely on each other. When healthy, the calm, cool, collected Yin state balances the excitable, hot, expansive Yang state. The problem arises when you have an excess or deficiency of either Yin or Yang, invariably a result of poor diet, stress and lifestyle factors.
In TCM, the adrenal glands are part of the water element and relate to kidney energy. The kidneys are the root of Yin & Yang Qi for your whole body and “house your Jing,” which is your life force, your aliveness, your creative power and your essence. Adrenal Fatigue is considered to be a kidney deficiency and manifests differently as to whether the yin or the yang is more affected.
A kidney Yin deficiency means that the water is insufficient to quell the fire, so hyperactive symptoms such as hot hands, feet, skin, night sweats, fatigue with a burst of energy at night or insomnia, weight loss, anxiety, tinnitus, sore throat and low back pain may manifest.
A kidney Yang deficiency means that the fire is not strong enough to warm the water, so it starts to accumulate and symptoms of hypofunction appear: fatigue, white/pale face, cold extremities, edema, weight gain, frequent pale urination, low back weakness and pain, depression, sexual dysfunction and infertility.
The decline of kidney energy happens naturally with the ageing process. However, in our modern lifestyle, we have grown accustomed to “burning the candle at both ends” and we are using up our essence much faster than our ancestors did. In combination with our modern processed diet and sleep-deprived state, we’re not recovering our energy as fast as we’re spending it.
Here are some ways to prevent and recover from AFS:
- Decrease the stressors in your life
- Moderate workloads and scratch the “extras” off the list
- Listen to your body talk and incorporate 20-minute rest breaks into your day
- Aim to be sleeping by 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. each night
- Nourish your body with natural, whole foods and eliminate the processed and sugary snacks from your diet (a great rule of thumb here is to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store). It might be a good time to find out if you have any dietary allergies or sensitivities.
- Supplement your diet with herbs, & vitamins. Chinese Herbal Formulas can be of customized to specific symptomatology. Others such as Ashwagandha, Astragalus Root, Panax Ginseng, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, Licorice Root, Schisandra, Vit B5,6,12, Vit C, Magnesium, CoQ10 can be beneficial (make sure to check with your health care professional first as these are not all applicable in every case).
- Make and drink bone broth from a healthy organic source, the most nutritious food on the planet
- Avoid stimulants, such as caffeinated beverages, drugs and alcohol
- Stay hydrated
- Incorporate gentle movements that build your body’s energy, such as Tai Qi, Qi Gong, or Yoga rather than high-intensity cardio that may be further depleting your tank.
- Be sure to make time for people and activities that bring joy and light into your life. It may be time for a change in perspective as to what success means to you. Perfection is impossible to maintain.
We are moving into a new year and while many of us are happy to see 2020 behind us, we are ultimately responsible (individually and collectively) for the health of 2021. It may be time to deeply listen to the messages your body is giving you. Happy New Year! Be well!
Dove Sprout co-owns and operates the Creston Acupuncture and Natural Health Centre alongside her husband, Paul Gaucher (R.TCM.P).