Dr. Rory Gibbons is a naturopathic doctor who loves elevating people to the best version of themselves. He uses a combination of reliable research, patient values and clinical success in developing his treatment plans.
ARE YOU BURNING OUT?
Job promotion, new home, and a baby on the way. These things, although positive and exciting in any man’s life, still test your stress-coping abilities. Adrenal burnout is becoming more and more common among entrepreneurial men and women but unfortunately is not recognized until it’s too late. Symptoms of adrenal burnout are subtle and may go unnoticed by you, however they’re often noticed by the people who know you the best. Signs and symptoms include a decline in exercise tolerance, feeling exhausted after vigorous physical activity (in the gym, or in the bedroom), inability to get to sleep, morning sluggishness, difficulty concentrating, weight gain and more frequent colds. Those closest around you may notice you having a shorter fuse, forgetting certain conversations or notice a lack of intimacy in their relationship with you. For more possible symptoms see table 1.
The “General Adaptation Syndrome(GAS)” is a well documented course of events that unfolds when you experience any type of stressor, good or bad. The first stage is called the “alarm stage” where cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline are secreted rapidly in response to any situation that requires you to fight or run away. This response is designed to shunt all of our energy to helping us survive. The second stage is called the “resistance phase” where cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine are secreted for a prolonged time in response to our daily stressors like work, and relationships. Our adrenal glands are not designed to pump out these hormones at this level, but they try really hard therefor cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone which when secreted long term has a net breaking down effect on tissues in the body. You can imagine, this isn’t a very good thing long term. The last stage called “exhaustion phase” is your body’s inability to deal with the high non-stop stress of your daily life. These people will start under-producing cortisol to protect against the negative effects of the prolonged stress response. Their symptoms will become worse and this is where people feel “burned out” and unable to cope. It is not uncommon to hear of someone going on stress-leave or sabbatical or even being diagnosed with depression. This is your body telling you to slow down because it’s breaking down. Also, don’t be surprised if along the way your doctor tells you your blood pressure and blood sugars are creeping up!
Unfortunately, many people are falling through the cracks of the conventional medical system because adrenal dysregulation, or “burn-out” is not recognized as a disease. It isn’t until you have an autoimmune disease (Addison’s or Cushing’s) that you will be considered “abnormal” and will receive treatment. A naturopathic doctor can run other tests (blood, saliva, urine tests) that can measure adrenal hormones and tell you how your body is dealing with the stress in your life.
Entrepreneurial people strive to be the cream of the crop. If this article describes you in some way you may want to nip this in the bud so you can be the best version of yourself for longer. Below are some simple ways to stay ahead of the peloton of life.
- Carve out some relaxation time for yourself. This doesn’t mean sign up for another spin class or go crush out a session on the grouse grind. Research has shown that spending time in the forest reduces blood pressure, cortisol levels, pulse rate, and fight/flight response.
- Drink water! Water is so important in all of our biochemical pathways, especially energy pathways. Aim to for two liters per day.
- Fill your meals with colourful vegetables and fruits. They contain pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), Vitamin C, and magnesium which are all necessary for producing energy.
- Try to avoid substances that are going to fire up your adrenal glands such as caffeine, refined sugar, and alcohol.
- Sleep at least 8 hours per night. If this is difficult for you, try turning digital screens off, and stop looking at stressful things before bed (bills, work, emails, etc).
- See a health-care practitioner that can help identify stress triggers and work with you to boost energy, improve sleep and prevent stress-related disease.
- Feeling “tired, but wired”
- Weight gain
- Sleep disturbances
- Bone loss
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Loss of muscle mass
- Insulin resistance
- Low sex drive
- Loss of scalp hair
- Development of Allergies
- Muscle aches and pains
- Feeling Cold
- Morning sluggishness
- Low sex drive
- Feel unable to cope
- Feeling “burned” out
- Impaired memory
- Under-functioning thyroid-like symptoms (fatigue, cold hands/feet, weight gain)
Additional Resources and Sources
Adrenal Function Panel. (2018, January 05). Retrieved April 02, 2018, from http://rmalab.com/medical-laboratory-tests/hormone/adrenal-function-panel
Gaby, A. (2017). Nutritional medicine. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
Mcewen, B. (2000). Allostasis and Allostatic Load Implications for Neuropsychopharmacology. Neuropsychopharmacology,22(2), 108-124. doi:10.1016/s0893-133x(99)00129-3
Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2009). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): Evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine,15(1), 18-26. doi:10.1007/s12199-009-0086-9