Adrenal fatigue has become a buzz word on social media over the last few years. What is referred to as adrenal fatigue is actually a complex chain of reactions in the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands; HPA-axis dysregulation is the proper medical term.
As explained in a previous blog post, weight loss resistance is closely linked to adrenal fatigue syndrome.
If you are constantly tired, frequently waking up at night, lacking energy to exercise, struggling with poor concentration and mental fogginess, battling regular mood swings, on top of no longer being able to control your weight, then adrenal fatigue might be at the source of the weight loss resistance. Whichever arose first, the symptoms described above are usually present altogether because they are both due to hormonal imbalances
There are several factors that can lead to adrenal fatigue:
- Constant and continuous stress, at work, in training, or with relationships, among others
- Too many stimulants and refined sugars, like coffee, energy drinks, coca cola, etc.
- Chronic lack of sleep or disrupted sleep
- Low quality diet
- Chronic inflammation of the digestive system
- Chronic anger or negative thoughts
- Series of traumatic events: death of a loved one, car accident, injury, surgery, divorce, unemployment, etc.
Our body is well equipped to deal with stressors. The release of cortisol, our stress hormone, helps to mobilize resources needed to deal with the stressing factors: increased blood flow, increased blood glucose, increased mental and visual acuity, etc. This is called the alarm reaction and is a normal physiological process.
However, when cortisol remains elevated for a prolonged period of time, called the resistance response, then the cortisol curve is impaired: cortisol stays elevated morning, afternoon, and evening, and symptoms incurs.
Overtime, this pattern leads to exhaustion where the cortisol curve is now flat: low cortisol output throughout the day. The person then starts experiencing the symptoms of adrenal fatigue because pregnenolone, a precursor to cortisol and sex hormones, is diverted to produce more cortisol instead of DHEA (precursor to testosterone) and progesterone. Hence, hormonal imbalances are the causes of the majority of the symptoms.
Let's now look at the symptoms of each phase of the syndrome.
In the alarm reaction, no symptoms are usually reported at this stage other than a sense of being tired.
Then, in the resistance response, anxiety sets in, insomnia becomes an issue, infections become frequent, irritability is concerning, and a general sense of fatigue is present.
However, in adrenal exhaustion, symptoms of resistance response are more present, and the body and mind are in a constant state of fatigue. Reactive sugar imbalances (hypoglycemia) events happen -felt as a sudden lack of energy or exhaustion and sweet cravings, dizziness and low blood pressure (hypotension) spells -felt as dizziness when standing- are regular, anxiety attacks -felt as a sense of being overwhelmed- are possible, as well as depression -felt as a lack of motivation, and there is impaired fluid balance -felt as a sense of lethargy and salt cravings.
If you experience more than one of these symptoms, it would be advised to check with a health professional. There are a few tests that can help to determine your adrenal glands' health. Only practitioners familiar with the condition and specialized in integrative medicine will conduct the proper tests that can actually diagnosed the syndrome.
The first step would be to fill a symptoms-rating questionnaire to see if your symptoms are linked to high or low cortisol levels. If you think you are currently suffering from adrenal fatigue syndrome, send me an email and I will send you the questionnaire to fill. Helping people recover from adrenal fatigue is my expertise!