On a recent trip to your doctor, you report feeling fatigued and also noticed you’ve gained some weight. Your doctor does some bloodwork and says, “You’re doing fine. Just eat a bit less, get more sleep and exercise more”. But you read an article recently about adrenal fatigue weight gain and truly believe this is what you are suffering from.
Adrenal stress can mess up your hormones and a telltale sign is weight gain, especially in your midsection.
You’re frustrated because you have been working hard to lose weight and get healthy, but the scale is not budging. If you are being honest, some mornings getting the scale out seems like a lot of work. You have a nagging feeling something is going on with your body. You are doing all the right things. But you have to admit, you’ve been feeling a lot of stress lately due to work and personal life demands.
Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?
Because in conventional medicine, you’re either healthy or you’re sick, it’s difficult to get your doctor to treat your ‘vague’ symptoms that are not showing up in bloodwork. Medicine lags behind when it comes to new conditions (that perhaps they can’t yet prove) and treatments.
Yes, adrenal fatigue is real. The term is used by alternative health practitioners to explain a host of symptoms that are generally not treated by traditional medicine. One of these symptoms is weight gain. I work with many female clients who begin to see drastic changes when they recognize they are stressed all the time and make the changes necessary to improve their health.
The adrenal glands sit above the kidneys and produce a host of hormones essential to life. Although adrenal fatigue is not an actual medical diagnosis, adrenal insufficiency is. Adrenal insufficiency means inadequate production of one of more of these hormones due to stress, disease or surgery.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is essentially tiredness brought on by continual exposure to stressful situations, mentally, physically and emotionally. It is absolutely not all in your head! We need the stress response to help us if we are truly in a dangerous or fearful situation. But being continually exposed to stressors is unhealthy. We may not realize we are suffering from adrenal fatigue until we develop some of the symptoms listed below.
- Weight gain, especially in the belly
- Body aches
- Sleep disturbances
- Digestive problems
- Loss of body hair
How Does Stress Cause Weight Gain?
Like I mentioned earlier, adrenal stress alters your hormones, setting your body up to gain weight. A significant sign of weight gain caused by adrenal stress is more increased weight in your midsection. It’s especially difficult to lose this stubborn weight if you’re in adrenal fatigue because adrenal stress continually ‘feeds’ this fat. Being in a state of ‘fight or flight’ when not in true danger is an unhealthy way to live. You can find some solutions to this response in my blog post ‘vagus nerve exercises to alleviate stress and anxiety’.
Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosis and Treatment
One way to diagnose this hormonal imbalance is having your physician test your cortisol levels (usually four times a day) with a saliva test as well as recording symptoms. Balanced hormones will show cortisol being highest in the morning and leveling off as the day goes on. And it will naturally come right back the next day. Elevated levels of cortisol as the day goes on is an indication of adrenal fatigue.
Eventually, the brain tells the adrenals to produce less cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones), which will leave you feeling more tired.
Recovery from adrenal fatigue can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years. But it’s worth the effort in getting out of this condition. Remember, it took many months or even years for you to get to this state. Ignoring it can contribute to developing diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
We all have a unique set of responses to treatment and recovery depending on the severity of adrenal fatigue. Start with this list to get you back in balance and follow up with your physician to see how you are doing:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in colorful, plant-based foods and healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts)
- Remove inflammatory foods from your diet (sugar and excess carbohydrates)
- Supplement with B vitamins
- Say no to high impact exercise
- Prioritize sleep
- Cut back on or give up completely: alcohol, smoking and drugs including caffeine
Feel free to contact me to further discuss how I can help you feel your best at this time in your life! Changing hormones are inevitable, suffering is not.
I’m a registered nurse for over 24 years with a Masters Degree in Nursing (Education). I am also a Certified Women’s Health Coach specializing in helping women navigate changing hormones in their 30s and beyond after my own difficult experience through menopause. I believe women should truly thrive in midlife and not just survive!