Chronically tired skin

I’ve not shied away from sharing my health history with all of you on this platform so it’s no surprise that at some point I would write about adrenal fatigue. I first discovered this epidemic when I met a functional medicine doctor at The Detox Market when I worked there. She offered to evaluate my health patterns so we started with a cortisol test. I genuinely never thought about how being chronically tired wasn’t something that everyone dealt with in their life. I just assumed that all of us need a nap at 12, and 3, and 5, and then can’t stay out past 10 pm. When she called me to go over my results of this test, I was shocked at how uneducated I was towards this vital part of our health.

If you’re like I was and never heard of adrenal fatigue before, the topic is a bit controversial. Basically when you experience high levels of cortisol from chronic stress that can lead to draining the adrenal glands. This can then force your stress hormones out at times when they are not necessary and end up messing with your hormones in other ways. This is not to be confused with adrenal insufficiency which can be tested blood testing. Adrenal insufficiency is when our adrenals are not producing enough hormones. It’s really important to talk to your doctor about the difference which can be subtle in how your symptoms present themselves.

  My results in 2015

My results in 2015

  My results in 2017

My results in 2017

As someone who has experienced this, I can tell you that there are really simple ways to help restore your adrenal glands but it does take commitment. The very sentence of adrenal fatigue is now considered taboo in our home because I have talked about it endlessly with my husband and he’s a bit over it. But the truth is that I’ve taken two cortisol tests in the past 3 years and both times I was underline of low or bordering it exactly. I’ve restored them and drained them all in the span of two years due to inability to commit to the numerous supplements and insistence that I “slow down” or “work less”. Don’t these doctors know that I’m running a company? As some of you know that most of my health issues do stem from chronic stress which has been traced back to my childhood. This just isn’t something I can turn off at but it is something that I’m glad that I understand so I can monitor the symptoms. Here are a few ways this can impact our skin and some corrective tips and support.

The first place I will typically notice adrenal fatigue would be through the eye area. If you’re chronically tired it will show up as a darkening under your eyes that simply won’t fade regardless of how expensive your eye cream is. For me, I found that setting a boundary from my screens really helps when dealing with my cortisol levels. We all spend way too much time on our smartphones, computers, and TVs as a part of our daily lives now and what can stress our natural rhythms into thinking we are in high stress are simple things like reading a stressful story, watching a scary movie, working too hard on a project where you are getting notifications on the deadline etc. Our bodies are not meant to process this type of light all the time and at the level, we are at so in order to start balancing it out you can:

  • Take off excess notifications on your phone and computer

  • Adjust the brightness and light to not stress your eyes

  • Add a filter to help protect your circadian rhythms like F.lux or the night light on the phone

  • Take an hour off of all electronics when you wake up and before you’re going to bed

The eyes will also notice a huge shift once you lay off of the excess coffee. I hate to say it because I love myself a good cup of coffee but it’s crucial to balancing your adrenals to try to allow your body to naturally wake up without the caffeine. I switch to an herbal tea or dandelion tea to help give me the satisfaction of a warmed beverage with breakfast. It might be hard at first but eventually, your body starts to settle and you don’t feel as jittery.

Another potential skin trigger can be that your skin loses a little bit of its collagen. Being chronically tired is sort of like your body is working overtime all the time so after a while, we tend to lose our natural rhythms in our basic functions. This can also be an indicator of a few things including:

  • There are potential foods that are more difficult to break down when your adrenals are fatigued

  • You’re not absorbing all the nutrients your body requires to maintain its best balance

  • You are just so dehydrated that your skin is either overproducing or underproducing your oil production to compensate.

The most important thing to do when you feel a loss of collagen and radiance is to avoid excess sugar, sodium, processed foods, caffeine, and gluten. Those foods are not of value to your skin's essential functions so it's best to try and eliminate a few of them while you are restoring your adrenals. You can increase your water-rich foods, and with the right guidance of a naturopath or holistic nutritionist, you can discover the meal plan that will work for you. 

Since your body is working overtime for you to regulate your stress it’s also really important to remember that you may need to watch how you channel any of your energy. Look to see if something in your life is draining you and reevaluate if it’s important. I’ve had to do this with work, relationships, projects, etc. because I become such a yes girl for the things I love. I had to ask myself, why am I going above and beyond if all I end up with is feeling worse than when I started.

Lastly, it's important to implement some self-care here. Find the time in your day to breathe and relax so that you can eventually restore yourself. It might take a couple of months or a few years to feel back to yourself again but the key is to find some calming practices that help you feel like you again. Stress can eventually drive us crazy where we start to feel completely out of our own bodies so try to avoid the draining activities and create space for the things that make you feel wonderful. Your skin will eventually start to recognize the shifts and, even though it takes a lot of time, you will notice a more impactful long-term change than just a quick fix. If you’ve experienced adrenal fatigue or suspect that you have it, visit your acupuncturist, functional medicine doctor, or naturopath to help you determine the best course of action for you. Thank you for reading and please comment below with any questions. Until next week, take care - xo, Hayley