Adrenal Fatigue is a condition in which the adrenal glands function at a sub-optimal level when patients are at rest, under stress, or in response to consistent, intermittent, or sporadic demands. The adrenal glands are two small triangle shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys and are responsible for secreting over 50 different hormones—including epinephrine, cortisol, progesterone, DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone.
The adrenal glands are the backbone of our hormonal system and the signaling that goes on in our body between our brain and the rest of the body. The outside of the gland (called the cortex) makes hormones like cortisol (our daytime hormone), all of our sex hormones and a hormone called aldosterone (needed by the kidneys). Over the past century, adrenal fatigue has been recognized as Non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, subclinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, and adrenal apathy.
Patients with adrenal fatigue have a distinct energy pattern. They are usually very fatigued in the morning, not really waking up until 10 AM, and will not usually feel fully awake until after a noon meal. They experience a diurnal lull in their cortisol (the stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland) and as a result, they feel low during the afternoon, generally around 2-4 PM. Patients generally begin to feel better after 6 PM; however, they are usually tired after 9 and in bed by 11 PM These patients find that they work best late at night or early in the morning.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when poor nutrition, physical or emotional stress weaken and deplete the adrenal glands to the point that they no longer are able to provide balanced amounts of steroid hormones. The adrenal glands can deplete the body’s hormonal and energy reserves, and may either shrink in size or hypertrophy (enlarge). Some key signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
Many patients appear in their practitioner’s office with symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attacks and are placed on antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication when in reality they suffer from adrenal fatigue. What causes Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome? Stress, stress and more stress! The most common causes of stress are work pressure, death of a loved one, moving, changing jobs, physical illness and marital problems.
Remove as many of the stressors in your life as possible and getting consistent nightly sleep (in bed with lights off by 10pm) is vital to ensure a full and speedy recovery. Staying awake past 10pm places a tremendous strain on the adrenals. Getting 9-10 hours of sleep every night during your recovery period is necessary. Awakening before the natural morning surge of cortisol again places an unneeded stress on the adrenals.
There are many nutrients and herbs to address adrenal fatigue that can be very effective, provided you are taking the right one for your personality and body. Adrenal Fatigue treatment will first require testing to determine a baseline. After your results are reviewed you will be prescribed a treatment plan which may include: nutraceuticals and/or compounded prescriptions, changes in diet and lifestyle (specifically increasing rest and relaxation). With diligence and commitment to reducing the major stressors responsible for your adrenal fatigue you CAN reclaim your energy, your enthusiasm and your LIFE!