Adrenal fatigue refers to fatigue and other symptoms that crop up when your adrenal glands fail to cope with mental, emotional, or physical stress, leaving you feeling unwell, tired or exhausted.
When there is severe, chronic stress, the adrenal glands can stay in the ‘on’ position, making extra amounts of stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine). If this continues for long enough, the adrenals can become depleted and that throws a whole lot of things out of whack.
Although adrenal fatigue is becoming increasingly common, many in the medical professional still do not give it the recognition it deserves until it reaches later stages, when it is diagnosed as adrenal insufficiency or addisons disease.
There are large number of symptoms associated with Adrenal Fatigue. Depending on which stage of Adrenal Fatigue you have reached, you may experience some or a large number of these symptoms:
Early Morning Tiredness: When suffering from Adrenal Fatigue many patients wake up extremely tired and ‘foggy’ even after getting a long sleep. This happens because body needs more rest than usual to recover. The energy level remains low till mid after noon and people usually have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day. Fatigue is usually quite mild and does not affect the normal daily function, though peak performance cannot be achieved. This situation worsens as Adrenal Fatigue progresses to next stage.
Higher Energy Levels in the Evenings: Some Adrenal Fatigue patients experience spikes in cortisol in the late afternoon and evening, resulting in relatively higher energy levels in late afternoons and evening. This tends to occur in the early stages of Adrenal Fatigue, when the adrenals are still capable of producing significant amounts of cortisol and adrenaline.
Fibromyalgia /Joint And Muscle Pain: Adrenal Fatigue patients suffer from pain in joints, muscles, lower back and elsewhere for no apparent reason. The situation typically improves during a vacation.
Cravings For Salty Foods/ Frequent Urination: Adrenal Fatigue patients lose salts due to frequent urination and hence crave for foods which will replace the sodium that was lost.
Infections Become Recurrent: Adrenal Fatigue patients frequently suffer from flu and other respiratory diseases with symptoms that tend to last longer than usual. Females may experience irregular menstrual periods.
Thyroid Glands Get Affected: At this stage many patients get hypothyroid. Patients report of sluggishness, feeling cold, and weight gain, despite exercise and diet. Many people will visit their physicians for the first time at this stage and are prescribed thyroid hormone tablets but nothing for adrenal glands.
Immune System Gets Weaker: Disturbance in cortisol level leads to chronic inflammation and a number of respiratory or auto-immune diseases. The joint & muscle pain gets worsened and infections become frequent and last longer.
Insomnia & Anxiety Sets In: Anxiety starts to set in and the person becomes easily irritable. Insomnia becomes more common, as it takes longer to fall asleep and there are frequent awakenings as well. Toxic metabolites begin to accumulate throughout the body, leading to brain fog and insomnia. Depression becomes severe and constant.
Inability to Handle Stress: In the last stage of Adernal Fatigue, the adrenal glands are no longer able to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for cortisol production needed to overcome the stress and they become exhausted. Cortisol output starts to decline and thus the patients struggle to cope with physical or emotional stress. If not attended to, the body is further weakened and enters into a state of disequilibrium with loss of homeostasis. In this stage, patient often cannot function smoothly throughout the day, no matter how hard they try.
Many other conditions can overlap the above noted signs and a symptoms, so know that adrenal imbalance is not always the root cause.
The treatment of Adrenal Fatigue is mainly about reducing stress in your life and assisting adrenal grands in producing stress hormones as per the need of body. If you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, you should:
1. Avoid drinks containing caffeine since it can put tons of stress on the adrenals. While it will provide an initial stimulus to your brain, in the long term it will do more harm than good.
2. If your job or a relation is keeping you in stress, then its best to quit it.
3. Exercise regularly. Get active and start playing a game, join some sports club or go for a walk daily.
4. Follow the basic elements of a healthy lifestyle by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean meat.
5. Get enough sleep. If your body is usually tired in the morning, try to sleep early in the night and get up late in the morning so that your body gets the rest it needs to recover.
6. Consume enough dietary sodium, calcium and vitamin D.
7. Supplementing with Ashwagandha (Ayurvedic/natural herb) is a good idea as it can help your body cope with stress without any side effects.
Remember, the holistic treatments mentioned above only help in supporting the adrenal function as long as the gland is not damaged. These treatments alone may not be able to treat the advanced stages of Adrenal Fatigue when the Cortisol output has declined. Or in case you develop adrenal insufficiency or addisons disease. At that time you will need corticosteroid treatment and other medicines on advise of a medical practitioner.