Adrenal fatigue is constant tiredness, a feeling of being exhausted or unable to cope with everyday life. And because fatigue is such a common symptom, doctors often miss the syndrome and misdiagnose it.
The adrenal glands are each no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape, yet they are responsible for one of the body’s most important functions: stress management.
When your adrenal glands are tired, which is called fatigue or adrenal exhaustion, your whole body feels it and also suffers from extreme exhaustion. It is estimated that up to 80% of adults experience an episode of adrenal fatigue in their lifetime, yet this condition remains one of the most underdiagnosed.
The optimal functioning of your adrenal glands
The body has two adrenal glands, located just above the kidneys. The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system and secrete over 50 hormones, many of which are essential for life, including:
– Glucocorticoids. These hormones, among which we find cortisol, allow the body to transform food into energy, normalize blood sugar, respond to stress and preserve the inflammatory response of the immune system.
– Mineralocorticoids. These hormones, including aldosterone, help maintain normal blood pressure and blood volume by maintaining a good balance of sodium, potassium and water in the body.
– The adrenaline. This hormone increases heart rate and controls blood flow to the muscles and brain, and it is also involved in the conversion of glycogen to glucose in the liver.
Vital functions controlled by the adrenals
These hormones, along with others also produced by your adrenal glands, control the following bodily functions:
- Maintaining metabolic processes such as regulating blood sugar and inflammation
- Regulating the body’s salt and water balance
- Control of the “fight or flight” stress response
- Pregnancy maintenance
- The triggering and control of sexual maturity during childhood and puberty
- The production of sex steroids such as estrogen and testosterone
Paradoxically, although one of the main functions of the adrenal glands is to help manage stress, it is excess stress that disrupts their functioning.
In other words, one of the main jobs of the adrenal glands is to prepare the body for the “fight or flight” stress response, by increasing adrenaline and other hormones. This response means things like increasing heart rate and blood pressure, slowing digestion, and preparing the body to deal with a potential threat or problem.
Although this response is sometimes necessary and beneficial, many people deal with lifelong stressors: work, environmental toxins, lack of sleep, anxiety, relationship problems, etc. They are therefore in “fight or flight” mode for far too long – far longer than is biologically intended.
Factors that fatigue the adrenals
The result is that the adrenal glands, faced with excess stress and pressure, become overworked and fatigued. Here are some common factors that put undue stress on your adrenal glands:
- Anger, fear, anxiety, guilt, depression and other negative emotions
- Overwork, whether physical or mental
- Excess physical exercise
- Lack of sleep
- Disruption of the day-night cycle (caused by working nights, for example, or by often going to bed late)
- Surgical intervention, trauma or injury
- Chronic inflammation, infection, disease or pain
- Extreme temperatures
- Toxic exposure
- Nutritional deficiencies and/or severe allergies
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
When your adrenal glands begin to weaken, it leads to a decrease in the level of certain hormones, especially cortisol. Adrenal hormone deficiencies range from mild to severe, depending on the case. The most severe case is called Addison’s disease, a condition that causes muscle weakness, weight loss, low blood pressure and blood sugar, and can be life threatening. in danger.
The other degrees of severity, up to the lowest, are called adrenal fatigue (or hypoadrenalism). Although the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are less severe than those of Addison’s disease, they can be debilitating.
In the most severe cases of adrenal fatigue, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that the person may not be able to get up for more than a few hours a day. As the functioning of the adrenal glands slows down, the organs and systems of the body are more profoundly affected. »
Typical signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- Fatigue and weakness, especially in the morning and afternoon
- A failing immune system
- Increase in allergies
- Muscle and bone loss and muscle weakness
- Cravings for very salty, sweet or fatty foods
- Hormonal imbalance
- skin problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Increased PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or menopausal symptoms
- Decreased libido
- Dizziness when getting up from a sitting or lying position
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Difficulty getting up in the morning despite a full night’s sleep
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances and altered rhythm of life
In addition, people with adrenal fatigue often have a surge of energy around 6 p.m., followed by a desire to sleep around 9 or 10 p.m., which they often resist. A “second wind” of energy then often occurs around 11 p.m., which risks preventing them from falling asleep before 1 a.m.
In addition, people with adrenal fatigue often also have abnormal blood sugar levels and mental disorders, such as heightened fears and anxiety, and resort to coffee, sodas and other forms of caffeine to help them cope.
As the name suggests, the most common symptom of adrenal fatigue is constant fatigue, a feeling of being exhausted or unable to cope with everyday life. And because fatigue is such a common symptom, doctors often miss the syndrome and misdiagnose it.
How do you know if it’s the adrenals that are tired?
The only effective test for detecting adrenal fatigue at any stage is a saliva test to measure cortisol. It is an inexpensive test that can be purchased on the Internet and performed at home, without a prescription. However, if you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, an experienced natural medicine practitioner can help you with a diagnosis and treatment.
Simple and Natural Steps to Recover from Adrenal Fatigue
It takes time to exhaust the adrenal glands and, as you can imagine, it also takes time to recover. It is generally necessary to count:
Six to nine months to recover from minor adrenal fatigue
12 to 18 months for moderate adrenal fatigue
Up to 24 months for severe adrenal fatigue
The good news is that natural treatments are very effective against this syndrome and, with time, patience and following the advice that follows, it is possible to cure it.
Probably the most important element is having effective strategies and tools to resolve present and past emotional trauma in your life. Prayer, meditation and Chinese medicine techniques (acupuncture, tuina, shiatsu, etc.) can be very useful from this point of view.
– Listen to your body and rest when you are tired (including during the day by taking short naps or simply lying down)
– Sleep late (until 9 a.m. if you feel the need)
– Exercise regularly following a comprehensive program that includes strength training, aerobics, core exercises, and interval training.
– Adopt a healthy diet, rich in nutrients, such as the one described in my food plan, to be adapted according to your nutritional type
– Avoid stimulants such as coffee and soda, as these can further exhaust your adrenal glands.
Food advice against fatigue
In addition, to maintain proper functioning of the adrenal glands it is imperative to control your blood sugar. If you’re eating the right food, based on your nutritional type, your blood sugar levels should be balanced, and here are some tips that may also be helpful:
Eat a light meal or snack every three to four hours
Eat within an hour of waking up
Have a small snack shortly before bedtime
Eat before you’re hungry If you’re hungry, it means you’ve already run out of fuel (low blood sugar), which puts extra stress on your adrenal glands
You can also see a doctor experienced in bioidentical hormone replacement who will perform a test to determine if using DHEA might benefit you. DHEA is a natural steroid and hormone precursor produced by the adrenal glands, which is often low in people with adrenal fatigue. Bear in mind, of course, that DHEA does not provide rapid healing and should not be used as a sole treatment.
Treating adrenal fatigue requires a whole-body approach that addresses excess stress and poor lifestyle habits that have exhausted the adrenal glands. The health of your adrenal glands is so important to your overall health and well-being that I urge you to consult a qualified natural health practitioner to determine if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, and to remedy it if it does.
However, the tips above are an excellent starting point, and can be applied by almost anyone to strengthen their adrenal glands.