The adrenal glands are tasked with regulating many different bodily functions through the production of numerous hormones.
Areas affected by the adrenals include mood, energy level, weight regulation, stress response, and much more. Because it has such far-reaching influence over these and other functions, even minor adrenal imbalances can lead to serious dysfunction. Unfortunately, many suffer from chronic adrenal fatigue without them even knowing it. To avoid finding yourself in this situation it is essential that you have a strong understanding of adrenal fatigue and be able to recognize its symptoms.
A Quick Look at the Adrenals
The adrenals are small but highly influential glands that regulate many processes throughout the body. The adrenals exert their influence through the production of hormones. There are several functions regulated by adrenal hormones including, but not limited to, blood sugar level, immune function, inflammatory action, blood pressure, and stress response. If the adrenals malfunction, these and other important areas of health may become disrupted.
What is Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is a chronic condition wherein the adrenals are incapable of supplying the hormones needed for healthy bodily function. There are several common contributors of adrenal fatigue including physical trauma, a stressful professional or personal life, hormone imbalances, chronic illnesses, lingering infections, and sleep deficits or poor sleep quality. These and other physiological stressors trigger adrenal activity. If an increased demand on the adrenals is maintained for an extended period, they will eventually become exhausted and incapable of sustaining healthy function. If pushed past this point, the adrenals may crash resulting in severe dysfunction.
Typically, adrenal fatigue develops over a long time as stressors compound and continually tax the adrenals. As the adrenals become drained, physiological function declines and symptoms may begin to develop or worsen. Sadly, due to the non-specific nature of adrenal symptoms, it is common for those suffering from adrenal fatigue to overlook or disregard them during their development. Generally, it is only after symptoms have become severe that patients recognize a problem. Identifying symptoms early can facilitate greater adrenal protection and recovery.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal imbalances such as those associated with adrenal fatigue can trigger a cascade of dysfunction throughout the body. There are many non-specific and general symptoms that may suggest some degree of adrenal dysfunction. However, because symptoms are so diverse, it can be difficult to identify adrenal dysfunction based solely on the following adrenal-related issues:
- Chronic or worsening fatigue
- Craving sugar or salty foods
- Decreased sex drive
- Dizziness when standing
- Feeling that caffeine is necessary
- Food sensitivities
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to handle stress
- Loss of appetite
- Low blood sugar
- Moodiness or irritability
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Recurrent infections
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia
If you experience one or more of the above symptoms it is worth considering the possibility of adrenal insufficiency.
Hallmark Symptoms of Adrenal Dysfunction
In addition to the generalized indicators of adrenal fatigue noted above, there are several symptoms that strongly suggest the presence of adrenal fatigue. If you are having trouble in the following areas it is probable that you are suffering from some adrenal insufficiency:
Sleep Cycle and Energy Level
In the presence of adrenal fatigue, the natural cycle of the stress hormone cortisol (high in the morning and low in the evening) becomes imbalanced and erratic. Those suffering from adrenal fatigue tend to experience swings in cortisol values throughout the day. Such an imbalance can manifest itself through symptoms such as difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, nodding off during the middle of the day, and sensations of feeling wide awake but physically tired in the evening. These symptoms can greatly impede everyday life and even perpetuate adrenal fatigue.
Hormones and neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers that influence how the brain functions. Impediment or disruption of these critical conveyers of information can result in mood disorders, headaches, difficulty thinking clearly, loss of motivation, and even depression. The adrenals produce hormones that coordinate the activity of neurotransmitters and others that interact directly with the brain. Adrenal fatigue chokes the supply of these important regulatory hormones, which disrupts healthy neurological activity. If you have difficulty focusing, or seem more grouchy or irritable, adrenal fatigue may be the cause.
Physical Pains and Malfunctions
A lack of cortisol and other adrenal hormones may impede physical ability and cause discomfort. Some of the most inconspicuous signs of adrenal fatigue are issues such as muscle aches, shakiness, swollen ankles that worsen at night, and weakness. These problems may seem generic, but they can actually indicate adrenal imbalances. Those with adrenal fatigue may also find that they do not recover from physical exertion as quick as they once did.
Addressing Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is usually the result of many different compounding factors. As such, the ideal approach to treating adrenal fatigue is by attending to and resolving any and all underlying contributors. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by improving individual lifestyle factors. If you are struggling with symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue, try implementing the following changes.
- Practice good sleep hygiene, maintain a regular sleep schedule, and aim to get eight hours of sleep every night
- Eat smaller meals more often, avoid refined carbohydrates, sugars, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol
- Engage in mild to moderate exercise such as walking, yoga, or light swimming, while making sure not to overexert yourself
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as meditation, massage, and deep breathing
In addition to these personal improvements, you may benefit from enlisting the aid of adrenal experts. Holtorf Medical Group specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all forms of adrenal dysfunction including adrenal fatigue. Our doctors are well-equipped to effectively treat adrenal issues through comprehensive approaches that include dietary improvements, therapies, supplements, and more.
Getting the Best Adrenal Support Possible
The adrenals are a critical component of healthy bodily function. Adrenal dysfunction in the form of adrenal fatigue comes with symptoms that can have a dramatic physical, emotional, and mental impact on your health. If you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue or simply want more information on the subject, give us a call at 877.355.9146 to see how we can help you!
Resources1. Kent Holtorf, MD. “Diagnosis and Treatment of Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis Dysfunction in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia (FM).” https://www.holtorfmed.com/download/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-and-fibromyalgia/Diagnosis_and_Treatment_of_HPA_Axis_Dysfunction.pdf
2. Kent Holtorf, MD. “Adrenal Fatigue Testing.” https://www.holtorfmed.com/download/other/Adrenal-Testing.pdf
3. Kent Holtorf, MD. “Adrenal Fatigue Treatment Options.” https://www.holtorfmed.com/download/other/Adrenal-Treatments.pdf.
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