Adrenal fatigue, also known as adrenal exhaustion or hypoadrenia, is one of the most under diagnosed illnesses in western society. It has been estimated that 80% of adults suffer from adrenal fatigue to some degree. Adrenal fatigue is a decline in adrenal gland function ultimately resulting in diminished production of adrenal hormones which adversely affects your physiology causing exhaustion, etc.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
The most common signs of adrenal fatigue include: continued fatigue, exhaustion, trouble sleeping, trouble getting out of bed, depression, anxiety, sugar and/or salt cravings, weight gain and inability to lose weight, increased effort to do everyday tasks, decreased sex drive, decreased ability to handle stress, light headed when standing up, low body temperature, more prone to colds and flu and less tolerance to stress.
When under stress the stress-fear signaling impulses activate both the sympathetic nervous system and the modulating systems of the HPA axis in the hypothalamus. Stress neurons in the hypothalamus secrete corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which causes the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland into the general bloodstream, which stimulates the secretion of cortisol and other glucocorticoids from the adrenal glands. This is cascade of events is known as the HPA axis and is a major part of the neuro-endocrine system.
The stress impulse also activates the autonomic nervous system from the hypothalamus which provides a more rapid response to stress. This engages the sympathetic nervous system and a withdrawing the parasympathetic nervous system. This is known as the fight-or-flight response.
If you are under constant chronic stress the adrenal glands become exhausted and the sympathetic nervous system becomes over stimulated. At this stage anxiety gets worse, insomnia, inability to relax, nervousness and a racy mind may also occur and in more severe cases breathlessness, palpitations and even tremors may manifest. A stimulated sympathetic nervous system also results with a decrease in production of digestive juices and gut motility which cause digestive and gut problems which are very common in these patients. Click here for more information on an overstimulated nervous system.
To complicate things further adrenal fatigue also triggers thyroid imbalances as the thyroid gland and adrenal glands work hand in hand regulating metabolism and thus energy production. During periods of stress when adrenal function decreases the thyroid responds by producing more thyroid hormones in order to overcompensate for under active adrenals. This is where you get the tired but wired symptoms. As time progresses the thyroid gland also eventually burns out producing less thyroid hormones and thus causes hypothyroidism which further exacerbates your fatigue and exhaustion. Alternatively, the high cortisol levels in stage 1 adrenal fatigue can cause reverse T3 dominance, another poorly diagnosed thyroid condition very common in adrenal fatigued patients.
As a result of decreased adrenal function people with adrenal fatigue frequently also suffer from hypothyroidism, reverse T3 dominance, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), allergies, arthritic pain and low immune response. Women with it also have hormonal imbalances such as increased menstral problems, PMS and menopausal symptoms.