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Adrenal Fatigue And Cortisol: How Chinese Medicine Fights Burnout

Feeling tired? Have trouble concentrating? Have you been putting weight on easily? Do you have a low sex drive and feel under the weather often? How about your digestion … is it off? And if you’re female, do you often have a difficult cycle?

These symptoms all share a root cause that a decade ago, relatively few people had heard of: adrenal fatigue. 

Adrenal fatigue has become the darling diagnosis of alternative/natural healing in the west. To be sure, in mainstream western medicine, there is no accepted medical diagnosis of adrenal fatigue.

“Adrenal fatigue” may seem like a legitimate organ dysfunction to many holistic health coaches but to a mainstream doctor, the term is a trendy catch-all phrase that describes a myriad of non-specific symptoms. 

But because of the pervasiveness of chronic stress and the symptoms it causes that robs one of vitality, many people believe lock, stock and barrel in the concept of adrenal fatigue—and its diagnosis. 

In Western medicine, there is an official diagnosis that resembles adrenal fatigue called adrenal insufficiency. What’s interesting about both these conditions is that the physical organ that’s affected by these conditions is the same theoretical organ of TCM theory. This concept will be explained further on….

What is Cortisol and How Does It Cause Adrenal Fatigue?

Excessive stress taxes the adrenal glands, which are orange-yellow endocrine glands that look like a cross between a triangular-shaped fortune cookie and a sea slug. In an attempt to keep up with the demands of frequent stress, the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys (the physical organ of Western medicine) work overtime to produce cortisol. 

Adrenal fatigue has become the darling diagnosis of alternative/natural healing in the west.

When cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, digestion slows down and immune function declines in order to deal with the perceived stressor. Cortisol is known as one of the stress hormones. Consequently, many people stigmatize cortisol as being “bad.” But it’s a good thing the kidneys produce it. That’s because cortisol helps us survive or deal with an imminent threat like running away from an attacking dog. 

In addition, without cortisol, your blood pressure wouldn’t be high enough to get you out of bed in the morning. And you wouldn’t be able to fight an infection or an injury without this stress hormone. 

However, there’s a good reason why cortisol is also called the “Goldilocks hormone.” That’s because you need just the right amount of it. Too much of it circulating in the blood increases abdominal fat and blood sugar levels. In addition, cholesterol and blood pressure levels can rise if your adrenal glands are working overtime in order to produce cortisol. And the reason why you have no libido if you have adrenal fatigue? It’s because your levels of sex hormones that are created has plummeted. 

How To Overcome Adrenal Fatigue

Correcting adrenal fatigue won’t happen overnight. But if you learn how to manage stress (Tai Chi, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, etc.), eat a healthy diet, and get enough exercise, you may, at the very least, prevent your adrenal fatigue from worsening. 

And if you want to correct all the imbalances caused by adrenal fatigue, traditional Chinese medicine may help…

TCM & Adrenal Fatigue: Supporting Kidney Function Is Vital

If you recall from earlier, the adrenal glands rest on top of the kidney physical organs. In TCM theory, any prolonged stress, whether it be running a marathon, an illness or constantly fretting about money leads to a deficiency of Kidney Yang Qi. (Kidney in the TCM theoretical sense, not the Western physical organ.) 

If you have a chronic achy lower back in addition to some of the adrenal fatigue symptoms mentioned above, TCM explains why. The Kidney meridian travels through the low back, along with the knees and soles of the feet. If there’s a blockage of Qi along the meridian, physical discomfort can manifest around acupressure points. 

In addition to the parallels between the kidney of Western anatomy and the Kidney meridian of TCM in relation to adrenal fatigue/insufficiency, there’s another interesting connection between East and West here…

One of the expressions in the west for being stressed is “feeling burnt out.” In TCM theory, the Heart organ is a fire element and provides warmth to the lower body. The Kidney organ is a water element, according to TCM five element theory. If Kidney Yin is deficient (Yin is cooling), there’s not enough water to cool Kidney’s engine. The Kidney then will essentially operate like a car engine that revs on high RPM without enough radiator fluid to keep the engine cool. 

Over time, as your Kidney Qi becomes depleted, you’ll not only feel exhausted and “burnt out”, you may also lose your hair, and have the hair you do retain turn grey. Your memory may start failing you and your sleep quality may suffer, and your bones may become more brittle. 

The Easy Way To Nourish Kidneys With TCM 

As you can see, correcting Kidney imbalances is crucial for living a long, vibrant life. Since there’s no mention of adrenal fatigue or cortisol in any of the classical Chinese medical texts, does that mean TCM can’t do anything to address the problem of overworked and insufficient-producing adrenal glands? 

Although TCM doesn’t specifically address adrenal fatigue, it does address Kidney deficiencies.  

The best TCM formula for adrenal support address both Kidney Yin and Yang imbalances and works by first nourishing Kidney Yin energy to “cool down the body’s engine.”

AllTonic combines the best TCM herbs that nourishes Kidney Yin and boosts Kidney Yang. Formulated with 17 herbal ingredients, AllTonic is like a TCM multi-vitamin that supports several aspects of wellness including immune function, digestion, stamina, libido, circulation, cognitive function, vision and more.

It’s important to note that it may take time for TCM to help nourish the Kidneys.