Adrenal Fatigue - What is It?
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of physical signs and symptoms that are the result of inadequate levels of adrenal hormones from too much adrenal stress. It is often caused by intense or prolonged stress or serious illness. It occurs when the adrenal glands can no longer produce adequate levels of the ‘stress’ hormones it typically manufactures.
People with adrenal fatigue experience a level of physical fatigue that is not relieved by an adequate night’s sleep, among other symptoms. They often cannot even begin to function without nearly continual doses of caffeine, sugar and other stimulants that are needed to get them going in the morning and to keep them afloat the rest of the day.
Many people are affected by this condition; however it is grossly under recognized, especially by conventional medical doctors. It can be difficult to diagnose adrenal fatigue syndrome using conventional lab tests; however a trained practitioner looking for the right signs and symptoms can help establish a diagnosis.
People with adrenal fatigue syndrome have great difficulty getting out of bed. They may have problems throughout the many organ systems of the body leading to a variety of symptoms. All of which occur as the body tries to compensate for inadequate levels of the adrenal hormones, most specifically cortisol.
What the Adrenal Glands Do
The adrenals are responsible for the secretion of several hormones, namely those related to stress. These include cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine; all of which orchestrate the ‘fight or flight’ stress response.
Other hormones include the androgens (testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S), and those that regulate water and electrolyte balance to help maintain blood pressure.
The adrenal gland is directly wired to the nervous system, and responds nearly instantaneously to any kind of stress.
Signs and symptomsWeight gain, especially around the waist and stomachNon-restorative sleepFrequent wakening at night; poor sleep Inability to recover from exerciseFrequent illness, especially respiratory infectionsInability to cope with stress; completely ‘wiped out’ after a stressful situationFoggy memoryDizziness when standing up“Tired, but wired” in the late evenings (sleepy but can’t fall asleep)Must have coffee or sugar to get moving in the morningGreat difficulty getting out of bed in the morningIncreased PMS in women, heavy menses, menses that starts and stops irregularlyFeel much better when stressors are gone (when on vacation)
Making the Diagnosis
Establishing a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue involves a careful interview process at our Fort Collins or Highlands Ranch clinics about the different signs and symptoms a person may be having, and testing the levels of cortisol and DHEA. In some instances, other conditions may need to be ruled out and testing for additional hormones/factors may be necessary.
Treatment of adrenal fatigue is ultimately very individualized, as the person's specific lifestyle factors will need to be addressed. An individual treatment program will be designed based on test results. It will include a variety of adrenal fatigue supplements, botanical medicines and sometimes bioidentical hormones, depending on the patient.
Our cornerstone treatment recommendations include:Saliva testing: We test saliva to determine the 'functional' amount of adrenal hormones being made in the body. Both morning and night time cortisol levels should be measured, at a minimum. Also, the hormone DHEA should be measured too, as it assists in diagnosing and determining the severity of the condition. B complex + adrenal adaptogens: B vitamins are important for assisting with recovery of adrenal stress, while adaptogenic botanical medicines serve to support adrenal function. Vitamin C: The adrenals contain the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body; vitamin C supports adrenal hormone production. Rhodiola: An adaptogenic herb, rhodiola is excellent for assisting recovery. DHEA: DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands, and output becomes drastically reduced from adrenal stress. Replacement of DHEA allows the adrenals to rest and not be forced to make this hormone during recovery.
Treatment and recovery from adrenal fatigue is not a quick fix. It takes time and adherence to a well-designed treatment plan. If you are interested, here's a detailed paper on the subject.
These are the quality supplements that we use. Treatment is available at our Fort Collins or Highlands Ranch clinics.
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