When we encounter stress we depend on our adrenals to release hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. These hormones regulate our stress response and allow us to increase our strength, focus, and awareness when we need it. However, when the adrenals are fatigued they struggle to release the necessary amount of these hormones. Patients with Adrenal Fatigue often report a lack of enthusiasm, feelings of apathy or disinterest, irritability and anxiety.
Then read on – I have good news! My husband and I recently took the kids on a much needed trip to the shore, and I managed to read up on adrenal fatigue and create a plan for my recovery. I was expecting to feel overwhelmed, but just the opposite happened. I discovered several simple things I can do to care for tired adrenals, which I’ll be sharing with in future posts. But first, I’ll bet you’re wondering if your low energy levels could really be related to adrenal fatigue.
Do you feel that your energy levels are just at a permanently lower level than they used to be? Aging is often a factor in this, but chronic stress can be a major contributor to exhaustion too. If you’re one of those people who find themselves drinking more and more coffee just to get through the day, it might be time to look at the underlying cause behind your tiredness.
Every woman who comes to our clinic with these symptoms gets an adrenal fatigue test, which consists of a series of tests of cortisol levels. And the results — in over thousands of cases — are remarkably consistent: only 1% have cortisol levels indicating healthy adrenal function, while 99% suffer impaired function, ranging from significant adrenal stress to complete adrenal exhaustion.
Fawne Hansen is an author and wellness coach specializing in the treatment of chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. This book includes much of the knowledge that Fawne gleaned from research into her own Adrenal Fatigue, in addition to countless discussions with doctors and naturopaths. The eBook also contains many of the strategies that she used to recover her health and vitality, along with the knowledge gained from real-life experiences of other Adrenal Fatigue sufferers that she has helped.
The adrenal glands (also known as suprarenal glands) sit atop the kidneys and are chiefly responsible for regulating the body’s stress response through the synthesis of corticosteroids and catecholamines, including cortisol and adrenaline. In other words, the task of your adrenal glands is to rush all your body’s resources into “fight or flight” mode by increasing production of adrenaline and other hormones. When healthy, your adrenals can instantly increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release your energy stores for immediate use, slow your digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpen your senses.
The largest difference between them is that people with adrenal fatigue usually have cortisol levels that fall in “normal” levels but not “optimal,” while adrenal insufficiency patients have cortisol levels consistently outside the normal range. In addition, most conventional doctors would say that stress is not a causative factor in adrenal insufficiency (which is “always caused” by damage from other, unknown sources), which seems unlikely.
Indeed, an article from a São Paulo university was released in 2016 with the title: “Adrenal fatigue does not exist: a systematic review.” According to this review, results of acceptable studies available to them at the time had “conflicting results” and could provide no definitive proof of the disease, nor diagnostic criteria or adrenal fatigue treatment. (4)
A: After ruling out possible endocrine disorders, your endocrinologist can refer you to other specialists, including urologists, cardiologists, rheumatologists, allergists/immunologists and infectious disease physicians. If you’re diagnosed with POTS or another disorder, these specialists will work together to manage your health and develop a targeted treatment plan — putting you on the path to symptom relief.
Conventional medicine will detect only the extremes of these conditions, when damage to the adrenals has already occurred (Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease). Within those extremes, you can feel miserable and still be told your cortisol levels are normal. But by responding to early-stage symptoms of adrenal fatigue, we can reverse the developing dysfunction.
According to the Mayo Clinic, severe adrenal fatigue symptoms may actually be Addison’s disease. This disease occurs when your adrenal glands stop producing sufficient amounts of cortisol permanently, due to autoimmune disease or damage to the adrenal glands or pituitary glands. Unlike adrenal fatigue, Addison’s disease is marked by unexplained weight loss, rather than gain. The Mayo Clinic urges anyone with symptoms such as hyperpigmentation (darkening of skin), severe fatigue, unexplained weight loss, major gastrointestinal issues, lightheadedness/fainting, salt cravings and muscle or joint pain to see a physician immediately.
Hi Dr. Jill. I’m in my 60s, and about 5 years ago I was diagnosed through testing with adrenal fatigue. I have high toxic metals, very low cortisol, but thyroid is normal. I understand that more sleep is restorative, but for the last 10 years I’ve been lucky to get 4 hours per night. I can go to sleep, but I can’t stay asleep. I’ve tried prescription meds, singly and in combinations (under a doc’s care), supplements of all kinds, and I just can’t stay asleep. My latest strategy is to go to sleep around 10 pm. Then when I wake up, I take Ambien to go back to sleep. Usually I can only sleep for another 2 hours, if that. I always feel sleep deprived and fall asleep at my computer or in meetings. My questions are:
My hope is that you find the advice below unique and not entirely repetitive of what you have read to date. My hope is also that you realize the seriousness of the destruction adrenal fatigue can and will play in your life if you do not start early via treatment. I also hope you gain the knowledge quickly — if you do in fact suffer from adrenal fatigue — that you are most certainly dealing with more than one another health issue.
Standard doctors often dismiss cortisol test results because they fall “within the normal range” of cortisol. But feeling like crap isn’t normal, and you shouldn’t accept it. It’s similar with testosterone: 300 ng/dL is “within the normal range,” and so is 900 ng/dL. But if you triple your testosterone levels, I promise you’ll feel a lot different.