Your adrenal glands -- small, peanut-shaped glands located next to your kidneys -- are the body's key producers of stress hormones. The autoimmune condition Addison's Disease refers to a life-threatening situation where the adrenals are unable to produce sufficient hormones. The opposite condition, Cushing's Disease, is an excess of adrenal hormones. Both conditions are fairly uncommon.
More common are cases where the adrenal glands are producing some – but not enough – stress hormones. This is known as adrenal fatigue. (Note: the integrative health world is pioneering in this area, but conventional medicine still does not recognize that adrenal dysfunction includes more than just an absence or excess of adrenal hormones!)
Some Causes/Triggers of Adrenal Fatigue
What are some of the causes and triggers of adrenal fatigue?
- An acute life stress — death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, etc.
- Prolonged emotional or life stress — particularly when you have an inability to manage this chronic stress
- Acute infectious illness- i.e., a respiratory infection like bronchitis or pneumonia
- Prolonged physical stress — such as ongoing bacterial/viral infections
- An accident or surgery
- Other hormonal deficiencies or imbalances
- Insufficient levels of good-quality sleep
- Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies
- Overuse of stimulants
- Substance abuse
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
What are some of the more common signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
One of the most common symptoms is feeling “tired but wired.” You’re exhausted, but when you are ready to sleep, your mind races, and you feel anxious or stressed.
- You are fatigued and run down, but fatigue is not relieved by sleep or rest
- You feel tired for no reason.
- You have trouble waking up in the morning
- You wake up tired
- You feel energetic at night, and exhausted in the morning
- You wake up in the middle of the night, and find yourself unable to go back to sleep
- You wake frequently at night
- You have difficulty sleeping, or insomnia
- You wake up too early
- If you are thyroid patient, you continue to have symptoms after being prescribed thyroid hormone
- If you are thyroid patient, you can not tolerate increases in your thyroid medication dosage
- You feel overwhelmed by or unable to cope with stress
- After a stressful physical or emotional experience, you feel run-down and especially exhausted
Other Physical Symptoms
- You feel exhausted after exercise, you’re slow to recover after exercise
- You have poor resistance to respiratory infections, you tend to catch everything going around
- You have difficulty recuperating from illness
- You are slow to recover from injury
- You have difficulty recuperating from jet lag
- You have cravings for salty foods
- You have an excessive mood response after eating carbs
- You have a tendency to overuse stimulants like caffeine
- You have difficulty concentrating, brain fog
- You have particularly low blood pressure
- You have cystic breasts
- You feel momentarily lightheaded after standing up
- You are extremely sensitive to cold
- You have chronic food or environmental allergies
- You have a history of mononucleosis and/or Epstein Barr Virus reactivation
- You have a history of chronic fatigue syndrome
- You have a history of chronic viral or bacterial infections
- You are post-menopausal
- You are hypothyroid
Diagnosis of Adrenal Fatigue
Learn about how adrenal fatigue is diagnosed in this article.
To learn more about the adrenals, watch the free Health Chat with Dr. Evans — “All About Adrenals” — of Holtorf Medical Group here.