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Adrenal Fatigue

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

It seems we are hearing more and more about supplements created to address weight gain related to adrenal fatigue or high cortisol levels.  Even if you aren’t concerned about your weight, but suffer from chronic allergies, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), recurrent colds or sinus infections and chronic fatigue, you may have adrenal fatigue.  To give you a little more insight about just how important your adrenal glands are, we would first like to explain what they are.

Where are your Adrenal Glands?

Each adrenal gland sits on top of the kidney, near your spine and is only about 1” high by 1 ¼” wide by ¼” thick, and weighs about 1/8 to ¼ ounce.  The adrenal glands are comprised of different areas with specific functions that respond to signals from the brain, liver, kidneys, and pancreas, as well as other organs.  Essentially, they influence every organ, tissue and gland in the body.  The center of the gland, or the medulla, responds to “Fight or Flight” situations when rapid response is needed.  You may have experienced that sensation before when your respiratory rate increases and you heart beats noticeably faster.  This is typically the response to a crisis.

Other areas of the adrenal glands convert cholesterol into cortisol and other hormones like testosterone, progesterone, DHEA, and estrogens which address tissue repair, sex hormones, and anti-aging functions.  As we work our way through the adrenal gland, the areas that produce cortisol regulate blood sugar, anti-inflammatory responses, and stimulate the central nervous system.   The most external areas of the glands produce the hormone aldosterone which regulates sodium, potassium, and fluid volume in our bodies.


The purpose of the adrenal glands is to help our body cope with the stressors in our world, our ability to respond to chronic and serious illness, or even the development of those illnesses to begin with.  But in today’s world, typically stress isn’t sporadic but often more constant in nature.  Whether mild or severe, adrenal fatigue is typically caused by some form of stress.  Sources of stress can be emotional, physical, dietary, psychological, environmental, and infectious, and frequently a combination of these.  A sense of helplessness is the most stress inducing emotion.  With the state of our economy and job market, not to mention the unrest in the world, a sense of helplessness is not uncommon.  Often, we get so accustomed to our daily stressors that we don’t even realize the toll it may be taking on us.  A person suffering from recurring bouts of asthma, poor dietary habits, and work stressors may find themselves on a downward health slope.  If these stressors become chronic with no prospect for recovery, the adrenal glands may not be able to compensate.  Once a body exceeds the capacity to recover, some form of adrenal fatigue occurs.


What are the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?

Some common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Fatigue

  • Body aches

  • Digestive problems often leading to weight loss

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Low blood pressure

  • Low sex drive

  • Cravings for sweet or salty snacks

Primary components of lifestyle leading to adrenal fatigue are:

  • Lack of sleep

  • Poor food choices

  • Using food and drinks as stimulants when tired

  • Staying up late even though fatigued

  • Being constantly in a position of powerlessness

  • Constantly pushing yourself

  • Trying to be perfect

  • Staying in no-win situations over time

  • Lack of enjoyable and rejuvenating activities

How Adrenal Fatigue be treated?

  • If unsure of diagnosis first do a saliva test to assess cortisol levels

  • May even consider a Cortisol stimulation test to evaluate your body’s response to stress

  • A nutritional plan involving vitamins, minerals, and herbs to help build your body’s energy

  • Optimize thyroid and iodine levels

  • Balance sex hormones or replacement therapy as needed.

  • A customized lifestyle plan to rebuild your adrenal glands and protect them from daily stressors which may include sleep management and exercise/diet routines.

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