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The Causes of Burnout May Be Physical as Well as EmotionalDo you live on sugar, coffee, or cigarettes, or maybe sugar, coffee, and cigarettes? If you do, you may be dangerously close to a hormonal condition known as adrenal burnout.
Cortisol is essential for human life. Just as cortisol helped our early ancestors outrun or outsmart saber-toothed tigers, it also helps us perform amazing physical feats today. Probably you have heard stories of how a mother with a broken arm used one arm to lift an entire car off her endangered baby, or how a parent was a poor swimmer managed to pull a drowning child out of a raging river.
Cortisol also has functions that are much more mundane. The adrenal glands release cortisol in tiny bursts through the night to help our livers release the sugar our brains need to function while we are asleep. Cortisol quells inflammation, and keeps the immune system in check. In this way, it helps the immune kill germs while leaving healthy tissues along. And it is a boost of cortisol about two hours before sunrise that helps you get out of bed in the morning.
Too much cortisol, however, can lead to chronic problems with the adrenal glands. Eventually the adrenal glands "burn out," so they don't make as much cortisol. Not only are you unlikely to be able to lift a car with one hand or to snatch a loved one from a raging river, you may start having problems getting out of bed. You may suffer eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, headaches, or chronic stomach upset, as your body loses its ability to fight inflammation. And your brain may start keeping you awake at night and sleepy during the day as the adrenal glands sputter and spurt out their largest amounts of cortisol at the wrong time.
How can you recognize potential adrenal burnout?
Here are some early warning signs:
- Most of your life activities are schedule for daytime, and you feel tired during the day and energized at night.
- You have itching, allergies, irritation, or inflammation that just won't go away, or that comes back in a different form after you treat it.
- You come down with colds or flu several times per year.
- You suffer from chronic fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is a condition that can take 10 to 25 years to fully manifest itself. Vague symptoms become very specific symptoms as time goes on. Research physicians have found a list of specific symptoms of burnout that define the disease.