According to James Wilson in his book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome,
“The adrenals are known as ‘the glands of stress. It is their job to enable your body to deal with stress from every possible source, ranging from injury and disease to work and relationship problems. Your resiliency, energy, endurance and your very life all depend on their proper functioning.”
When the adrenal glands are overworked, they lead to hormonal imbalances and reduce cortisol levels.
It is actually a dysfunction between the brain and adrenal glands, that are located atop the kidneys and produce cortisol and sex hormones. In a state of a healthy balance, a person sleeps well, has a stable energy during the entire day, has a good sex drive, a normal body weight, and fast metabolism.
Yet, in the case of stress, the normal response of the body is as follows: it produces hormones to fight it, and the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone, that triggers the production of the adrenocorticotropic hormone, that in turn stimulates the release of cortisol raises the levels of blood pressure and sugar.
However, in the case of chronic stress, the levels of cortisol remain elevated, and lead to depression, anxiety, and adrenal burnout, since serotonin is depleted, and one develops a neuroendocrine dysfunction.
Adrenal fatigue disrupts normal life, and it is a set of different symptoms, like fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, anxiety, and more.
Here are the most common symptoms of this condition:
Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea
Sugar and/or salt cravings
The “3 pm crash”
increased susceptibility to illness
Low sex drive
Decreased ability to handle stress, feeling frazzled
Insomnia or waking around 4 am, unable to get to sleep
PMS/hot flashes associated with menopause
Inability to focus
According to Wellness Mama, the symptoms of his condition can be divided into several stages, as follows:
-“Stage 1- Wired and Tired: Cortisol levels should be naturally elevated in the morning. The first stage of adrenal fatigue is often characterized by elevated cortisol at night (when it should be low), leading to a “wired” feeling at night and difficulty sleeping. People in this stage may also regularly feel “on edge”.
-Stage 2- Stressed and Tired: The second stage shows more severe cortisol disruption. People in this stage may have higher cortisol in the morning but it tends to fall quickly after lunch, leading to afternoon fog and tiredness. They may get a second wind at night, but most often wake in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep.
-Stage 3- Full Burnout: This stage resembles how a person feels in early pregnancy or with a new baby at home- exhausted all the time no matter how much he/she has slept and completely burned out. Cortisol patterns in stage 3 are completely disrupted or even completely flat and this is especially risky because this stage is associated with a higher risk of thyroid disease and autoimmune disease, as well as gut problems.”
Adrenal fatigue is most often a result of emotional stress, like after an injury, divorce, break- up, a death of a close person, job loss, etc, or even positive stress, like getting married or a pregnancy. Moreover, it can be caused by a diet rich in processed foods and low in nutrients, chronic inflammation in the body, sleep deficiency, autoimmune conditions, pain or microbiome imbalance, and digestive infections.
When constantly under stress, the brain warns that the adrenals should produce more cortisol, but they cannot manage it, so one starts to crash. The cortisol levels are low, women might have irregular periods or painful PMS symptoms, thinning hair and constipation, weight gain, and slow metabolism.
In this case, many people eat less to prevent gaining extra weight, or sleep less to finish all the work, skip meals and rely on caffeine, and these habits can lead to an even more serious burnout.
Here is how to reverse adrenal burnout:
-- The first thing you should do is to do a saliva testing in order to check the cortisol levels. They should be the highest in the morning, to wake you up, and lowest at night, for you to be able to fall asleep
-- Follow a strict schedule every day, wake up and go to bed at the same time, eat every 4 hours
-- You should incorporate vegetables in every daily meal, combined with high quality, organic and fatty acid-rich protein, and increase the intake of sea salt, olive and coconut oil, bone broth, organ meats, and raw kraut/probiotic foods. Avoid coffee, gluten, sodas, white sugar, and nightly wine
-- Support digestion with probiotic foods
-- Lower stress by using the beneficial properties of adaptogenic herbs like maca, Rhodiola, schizandra, ashwagandha, licorice root, and holy basil
-- Sleep well every night to calm the body and mind, avoid stress, and try some relaxing activities like yoga and meditation
-- Take supplements like minerals, C, B vitamins, adaptogenic herbs, blood sugar support, and Tulsi and nettles tea
You can successfully prevent serious health issues and illnesses if you manage to reverse adrenal fatigue, and you will sleep better, look better, and be much healthier.
Adrenals & Thyroid Part 2
Explanation of adrenal fatigue and HPA axis
Our podcast on adrenal fatigue
Dr Kalish video on adrenal fatigue