by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.
I am often asked what is the most common ailment or problem that I see practicing Chinese medicine in Talent, Oregon. Since starting the practice in 2005, my husband and I have treated thousands of patients. We would both say that about 50% of our patients are struggling with a pattern called adrenal exhaustion, or what we call Qi(energy) deficiency. This basically means that the bodies’ ability to rest and rejuvenate has been compromised or even lost. Instead of being able to rest properly, the nervous system is always ‘on’ and the general sense of well being has been replaced with incessant mental chatter, anxiety, worry, or stress.
The main symptoms of this pattern include: fatigue, irritability, restless sleep, low back pain, anxiety, depression, nervousness, feeling wiped out upon waking, many female hormonal problems, food cravings and various addictions, weight gain, sluggish metabolism, and so on.
The real question is, what is the cause of this pattern and, more importantly, what is the solution?
In our experience most people have adrenal weakness because they are using excessive amounts of will power to get through life. It is like they are constantly swimming upstream, fighting against life. They work too hard, rest too little, and have a ‘to do’ list a mile long. These are some of the outward causes. The real cause is more of an inner dynamic. In this day and age, many people are disconnected from their true purpose for being alive. Because of this, they don’t know themselves on a intimate level, which causes them to make decisions that lead to distress and distraction.
Generally speaking, adrenal weakness is as much of a spiritual issue as it is a physical one. If the root causes of are not addressed, then the person can take all the supplements in the world or get acupuncture 3 times a week and it will only have a minimal effect. This is why for most of our patients we have a conversation about how their current lifestyle is serving them, or not serving them.
So often small changes in daily life can have big effects on one’s sense of well-being and their energy level. When our energy increases we often feel inspiration and more sense of our clarity of purpose. Again and again, I have witnessed patients making simple changes to their attitude, daily routine, or diet that has completely shifted the way they feel. Suddenly the chronic pain goes away or they can finally sleep at night, etc.
I certainly agree that herbs, supplements, massage, and various forms of care can be helpful for adrenal weakness. I have used acupuncture alone to kickstart someone’s adrenal function in a way that is very powerful for certain patients. But by far, the patients who make the most progress are the ones who are willing to do the work of taking a look at the bigger picture of their life. They are motivated to make the lifestyle changes necessary to live in balance and awareness.