What is adrenal fatigue?
Simply put, it is the condition wherein your adrenal glands gets 'overworked' that it functions far below than normal when our body needs its 'services'. Stressful situations can trigger the adrenal glands to release adrenaline(epinephrine) and stress hormones.
Normally, the adrenal glands releases hormones which are necessary to meet the challenges of demanding situations. These hormones make your senses sharper than normal, increases your blood pressure, increases your heart rate, increases glucose levels in the blood, release your body's stored energy for use at the specific situation and boost your physical and mental energy.
I have heard of a person who carried a heavy object, which would normally require 2 to 3 people, during a fire alarm. When the fire threat was over, it was impossible for him to carry that same object!
That's an example of adrenal glands at work. Nature had designed it to last for a short period of time only.
Too much stress on your daily activities can put your adrenal glands at high alert constantly and in the long run could cause adrenal fatigue. Fearing the loss of your job, your too demanding boss, your financial worries and relationship woes are some examples of situations which demand action from your adrenal glands.
Caffeine can cause adrenal fatigue
Coffee contains helpful antioxidants which can neutralize free radicals that are constantly occurring in our bodies but sad to say it also contains caffeine which can deceive the adrenal glands into thinking that the body needs its services. A lot of people drink coffee to keep them alert like when they are going to drive a car, study, make a presentation, etc., not knowing that the more coffee they drink each day, the more 'fatigued' their adrenal glands become.
How caffeine fools the adrenal glands
As we tire, adenosine levels rise and binds to receptors in the brain instructing our cells to slow down. It's some sort of a natural tranquilizer. Caffeine's structure is much like adenosine and it binds easily with the receptors, however, it gives the opposite instructions, it speeds up the cell's activity. This change in activity triggers the adrenal gland to release hormones via the instruction from the pituitary gland which thinks that there must be some stress going on. That's why coffee seems to make you more alert, the adrenal glands are triggered.
After the effect of caffeine has worn off, you'll feel more exhausted than before you drank your cup of coffee. Feeling worn down, you drink another cup to pep you up not knowing that you are stressing out your adrenal glands.
My next post will touch on the hormones that the adrenal glands release as a result of caffeine intake.
Limit your coffee as much as possible for good health. The antioxidant benefit can be over shadowed by the stressful events that caffeine brings. If you cannot help it, go for the decaffeinated variety.