Adrenal fatigue is a collection of symptoms that consistently occur together – a syndrome. The symptoms vary by an individual and the stage he is in.
I recovered from a severe adrenal fatigue. This post contains some of the things I learned about adrenals in my years of struggling with adrenal fatigue. My recovery plan gives an outline on the treatments I did.
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Consult your healthcare provider before starting any treatments.
What Do Adrenal Glands Do
Adrenal glands are small organs sitting on top of each kidney. They produce hormones that are vital for life. Such as cortisol, aldosterone, sex hormones, adrenaline and other catecholamines; cortisol and aldosterone being the most important ones.
Adrenals help your body to cope with stress by producing cortisol. Cortisol is anti-inflammatory and it is also needed for metabolism.
The adrenal glands aid in controlling blood sugar; and they help to burn protein and fat. In addition, the glands help to regulate blood pressure by maintaining the salt and water levels in your body.
Furthermore, adrenal glands have a role in maintaining the proper level of various sex hormones. Low adrenal function plays a part in premenstrual syndrome and a severe menopause.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue
Stress is the main cause of adrenal fatigue. There is acute stress and chronic stress. Stress factors include
- chronic illness
- lack of sleep
- over exercising
- lack of nutrients
- h. pylori
- Lyme disease
- Ebstein Barr virus
- pressure at work
- chemical toxicity
- lack of alone time
Adrenals produce cortisol to help you to cope with stress. If the stress is chronic, the adrenals can’t keep up with the cortisol demand. And eventually, they will wear out. This will cause a variety of problems.
Your body considers stress hormones more important than any other hormones. Which can lead to hypothyroidism and having low sex hormones.
If you keep your body in constant stress you will have a hard time getting better. Even if you take supplements or do other treatments. They certainly will help. But it is easier if you don’t fight back.
I know it can be hard and at times impossible to avoid stress. Do what you can and find ways to reduce it by doing fun stress relieving activities and using various breathing techniques.
What Are the Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
As I mentioned, symptoms vary by an individual and the state of adrenal fatigue. Here is a list that is by no means comprehensive.
(I had almost all of the following symptoms and some others. More in my recovery story.)
- Multiple allergies
- Blurry vision
- Upper back pain
- Body aches
- Chronic muscle pain
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Cold hands and feet
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Heart palpitations
- Severe PMS
- Unexplained nausea
- Unexplained and frequent headaches
- Nervous stomach
- Sudden fatigue
- Constant fatigue
- Low tolerance for cold
- Shaky under stress
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Swollen ankles
- Salt cravings
- Sugar cravings
- Fat cravings
- No energy
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Thyroid problems
- Slow recovery from colds
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
What Are the Adrenal Fatigue Stages
In general, adrenal fatigue is divided in four stages. And the stages vary little depending on the doctor.
Many people have a stage 1 adrenal fatigue in their lifetime some several times. In this stage, the crashes usually are not too bad and the recovery is very quick. Sometimes a good rest is all that is needed. Many at this stage require coffee to start the day. The stage 1 fatigue is often considered to be a normal part of life.
Sleep problems are common in stage 2. The patient often feels “wired and tired” and unable to fall asleep. Crashes happen more often.
Your body uses pregnenolone from cholesterol to make cortisol and other hormones. Since cortisol need under chronic stress is high, your body focuses on producing it. And puts the other hormones on the back burner. Women start experiencing PMS and menstrual problems. And often the thyroid starts malfunctioning.
Weight gain, especially around mid-section, is common in spite of exercise or diet. Normal daily functions can still be carried out. Some other things happening: a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and hyperglycemia.
Stage 3 is when things start getting ugly. Dr. Lam divides it in stages A through D. Each step adding problems on top of problems. Your body can’t keep up with the cortisol demand and cortisol level starts to decline. Fatigue is more severe and performing everyday tasks becomes harder and harder. And eventually, you get to the point of not being able to do them no matter how hard you push.
Mild symptoms become worse and chronic. Your fatigue gets more severe. Insomnia is an everyday thing. Infections happen frequently and become hard to get over. And the seasonal allergies seem to be year around.
Multiple endocrine axis dysfunction. For women, the Ovary-Adrenal-Thyroid axis is compromised, for men Adrenal-Thyroid.
Stage 3 C is accompanied by swings in blood sugar level, postural hypertension, and inability to stand a long time. You very likely experience also heart palpitations, night sweats, and severe fatigue. Crashes can be so bad that you end up in the ER. Recovery from a crash is usually super slow. At this stage, you have only a few hours of productive time. And spend the remainder of the day in bed resting.
At stage 3D, the body tries to preserve only the most essential functions. The patient is bedridden requiring assistance with daily activities and personal hygiene.
The adrenals are completely exhausted and if left untreated can lead to Addison’s which can be fatal (if not treated.)
What Does Conventional Medicine Say About Adrenal Fatigue
Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is not recognized by the mainstream medicine. If you go to a doctor you are, more than likely, told it is all in your head. You are depressed. Or that you are tired because you have little kids, or you don’t eat well, or exercise enough.
Some say that the better name for it would be hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction. (HPA-axis dysfunction)
Only when you hit the point of complete failure, Addison’s, you are considered to have an adrenal problem. Or if you have a Cushing’s Syndrome.
Can Severe Fatigue Be Cured
I was at late stage 3C barely able to function… on my way to 3D. I had less than a handful of hours a day that I was able to push through and get stuff done. The rest of the day I spent in bed.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’m not any kind of healthcare provider. I can’t diagnose or prescribe treatments. But I will gladly tell you what I did.
I recommend a book written by James L. Wilson for more information on adrenal fatigue. Dr. Lam has a lot of very good information in his book and his site. So much that it can seem overwhelming. You might also be interested in checking out Marcelle Pick’s book: Is It Me or My Adrenals.
If you catch the adrenal fatigue early, the recovery should be fairly quick. But don’t give up hope even if you have a severe adrenal fatigue. Healing adrenals is possible.
Check out the Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Plan that worked for me.
Note: Some prefer to refer to this condition as a hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation. Whatever one wants to call it, this stays the same: there are effective treatments to heal your body from this ailment.
drjockers.com the 7 phases of adrenal fatigue
Pick, Marcelle. OB/GYN NP, Adrenal Dysfunction. www.womentowomen.com
Wilson James L. Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome
www.womenlivingnaturally.com. Adrenal Fatigue and Exhaustion.