Adrenal fatigue can be treated—but it takes time, patience and may require you make some changes in your life—changes designed to reduce the stress in your life. Our adrenal fatigue treatment doctors and hormone balance specialists will work with you to develop your specific treatment plan. This may include dietary and nutritional suggestions, lifestyle changes, vitamin iv and mineral supplements designed to support adrenal function and possible treatment with bio-identical hormone replacement therapies.
The adrenal glands are small—but powerful—glands located on top of the kidneys. Each adrenal gland is about the size of a walnut. These glands may be small, but they are very important— controlling our response to stress and helping maintain our biochemical balance.
Each gland has two parts, the adrenal cortex and the medulla.
- The adrenal cortex, or outer layer, produces steroid hormones including hormones that control water and mineral balance in the body, androgens such as testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and, importantly, cortisol.
- The adrenal medulla is at the center of the adrenal gland and produces a class of compounds called catecholamines—these include epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), norepinephrine and dopamine.
When the adrenals are overworked—stressed out—they become exhausted and finally, cannot produce enough cortisol to get you going in the morning—and to keep you going throughout the day.
How can you tell if you might be suffering from adrenal fatigue?
Ask yourself—how many times have you felt overwhelmed, exhausted and had to drag yourself out of bed in the morning—chances are pretty good that this has happened, and if it has happened a lot, chances are pretty good you may be somewhere on the road to adrenal fatigue.
Cortisol and Stress
Let’s just focus on cortisol and how different types of stress affect it.
Normally, cortisol begins to rise early in the morning, preparing you to wake up and start a brand new day. It rises during the day and begins to drop off in the late afternoon or early evening, preparing your body for sleep. Cortisol is a bit of a dynamo, helping to control your blood sugar levels, heart rate, muscle strength and blood pressure during a normal day and also helps to regulate your metabolism and your immune system.
In chronic stress, though, things are much, much different. You may tire more easily than you used to, you may get irritable, have trouble sleeping or lose interest in sexual activity. You may have trouble getting going in the morning and need two or more cups of coffee before you start the day. These are signs that your body is not coping with stress—and signs that you may be heading for adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue should be evaluated by your local hormone doctor or Dr. Yuabova. Any longer term treatment should be overseen by your fatigue specialist. Since some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue also are symptoms of more serious conditions, however, you should see your hormone specialist if the symptoms worsen.
Chronic Stress and How it Can Affect You
Modern life is stressful—no matter what you do for a living or where and how you live your life. Stress can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual—one of the main differences is that modern stress tends to be chronic for many people.
Steps Along the Way to Adrenal Fatigue
When we are exposed to chronic stress, at first, the adrenals produce cortisol at high levels. These high levels of cortisol can begin to disrupt other organs and systems—organs like the thyroid and systems like the immune system.
In early adrenal fatigue, you may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- A tough time waking up in the morning
- Absolutely, positively needing a cup of coffee to get moving in the morning—and maybe needing more caffeine—often at around 4-5pm
- Weight gain
- Decreased interest in sex
- Problems concentrating or problems with memory
- Irregular periods
Over time, the adrenal glands get more exhausted – but since the stress is still there, the adrenals start shifting biochemistry and stop producing the other adrenal hormones to save the building blocks needed to make cortisol.
This sets you up for slightly different types of signs and symptoms:
- “Wired but tired” describes a sense of heightened feeling of alertness while at the same time feeling exhausted, especially after 5 pm
- You start needing more sleep—but still don’t feel that you are rested…maybe even after sleeping for 10 or more hours. You might also experience insomnia
- Periods can be more irregular and you might have some PMS symptoms
- The thyroid gland may become less active—signs of this can include feeling cold, tired and foggy-minded.
- More weight gain
- Increased number of colds and other infections
- Joint pain
- Depression, anxiety or mood changes
Finally, the adrenals just can’t make enough cortisol—they are totally exhausted, and the cortisol levels don’t rise and fall as they should—those levels get “flat-lined”.
In this last stage of adrenal fatigue, you might see these signs and symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue throughout the day—your muscles don’t seem to work—even the simplest physical activity may just be too hard
- Food cravings—especially for salty foods
- You need coffee all the time, throughout the day just to get through the day
- When you wake up in the morning—it may feel like you didn’t get any sleep at all!
- Mood changes can become much more severe with significant signs of depression and anxiety
- Changes in digestion—increased gas or bloating, constipation or diarrhea, nausea and indigestion
- You may become much less interested—or even disinterested in sex
Testing for Adrenal Fatigue
Our adrenal fatigue doctors and hormone specialists will ask you many questions about your life and the symptoms you are experiencing, do physical exams and perform various lab tests to determine the levels of hormones including cortisol, thyroid, DHEA and sex hormones.
If you believe that you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, these steps may be taken in order to confirm your condition:
- Blood tests to measure thyroid hormones and levels (TSH, T3, T4, Total and reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies), blood count, electrolytes, cholesterol levels, and vitamin levels.
- Blood test can also detect diet intolerance and food sensitivities.
- Glucose tolerance test to measure fasting insulin and sugar levels.
- Saliva test to measure levels of cortisol, DHEA and other hormones.
Other tests to determine your overall health may be done as well. You may also be tested for food sensitivities. Testing can be pretty extensive because if one hormone is unbalanced, others may be as well. For example, adrenal fatigue often occurs at the same time as poor thyroid function.
Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
Our adrenal fatigue treatment doctors and hormone balance providers will work with you to develop your specific treatment plan. This may include dietary and nutritional suggestions, suggestions on how to improve your sleep and get more rest and relaxation, vitamin iv and mineral supplements designed to support adrenal function and possible treatment with bio-identical hormone replacement therapies.
One of the most important things for you to understand is that adrenal fatigue can be treated—but it takes time, patience and may require you make some changes in your life—changes designed to reduce the stress in your life.
Full recovery can and does happen—and it happens when we work as a team to develop a unique treatment plan that can work for you! A “cure” for adrenal fatigue is possible—and you should remember—should we say it? Yes, we will—don’t stress about it—it CAN and WILL happen when you empower yourself—and RE-empower your adrenals!