Adrenal Fatigue, what it is and why we should know about it.

Adrenal Fatigue, what it is and why we should know about it.

I think we all agree, the modern day lifestyle is demanding. Be it work, exercise, family, diet, it's fast paced and stressful. And they are all having an impact on our body and mind, particularly our adrenals.

In 1998, Dr. James Wilson noticed a distinct connection between increased stress levels and impaired function of the adrenal system. His research led him to coin the term, 'adrenal fatigue,' to describe the chronic fatigue that affects millions of men and women worldwide. Estimates have 66% of people are or have been affected by adrenal related health issues. With a stat like that, it's something we should know about.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal Fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms that comes about when the adrenal glands function below the normal levels.

What causes Adrenal Fatigue?

There are a number of causes but generally it comes after an intense or prolonged stressful period. This could be acute or chronic infections like the flu, a life crisis, a continuing difficult situation, even a very excessive exercise regime. Adrenal Fatigue is common amongst elite athletes such as marathon runners, people we consider to be some of our healthiest people.

What does it do to you?

Adrenal Fatigue can be very difficult to live with. The major symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep. You may look and act normally but you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or "flat" feelings.

In more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. Every organ and system in your body becomes more profoundly affected the more you are fatigued. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, even your sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels as a way to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue.

People experiencing adrenal fatigue often resort to using coffee, soft drinks and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day. This is counter intuitive as the increase in caffeine places further pressure on our adrenals, compounding the problem.

What's happening in your body?

The adrenal glands rest on top of each kidney, secreting a number of hormones and neurotransmitters – such as estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, adrenaline (epinephrine), norepinephrine and dopamine. When your adrenal glands cannot adequately meet the demands of the stress you are experiencing, they mobilize your body's responses to every kind of stress. The body acts the same whether it's physical, emotional, or psychological stress, something that is not often considered. The hormones regulate energy production and storage, immune function, heart rate, muscle tone, and other processes that enable you to cope with the stress and maintain homeostasis. If their response is inadequate, you are likely to experience some degree of adrenal fatigue.

Who is susceptible to adrenal fatigue?

The short answer is anyone.

An illness, a life crisis, or a continuing difficult situation can drain the adrenal resources of even the healthiest person. I like to think of it like you run out of petrol. However, there are factors that can make you more susceptible to adrenal fatigue. These include certain lifestyles (poor diet, substance abuse, too little sleep and rest, or too many pressures), chronic illness or repeated infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia, mental health issues (bad relationships, stressful jobs, poverty), or the pressures of being pregnant.

How common is adrenal fatigue?

The statistical evidence for the prevalence of adrenal fatigue is thin at this stage. There are still a number of doctors that don't recognise it as a condition though the symptoms in society are very prevalent today. 

How can you tell if your adrenals are fatigued?

You may be experiencing adrenal fatigue if you regularly notice one or more of the following:

  • You feel tired for no reason.
  • You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  • You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
  • You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
  • You crave salty and sweet snacks.
  • You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.

What’s the difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency?

While adrenal fatigue is not always accepted by doctors, adrenal insufficiency is a real medical condition. It occurs when our adrenal glands cannot produce enough hormones. Adrenal insufficiency is caused by damage to the adrenal glands or a problem with the pituitary gland—a pea-sized gland in the brain that tells the adrenals to produce cortisol. 

A person with adrenal insufficiency may be dehydrated, confused, or losing weight. He or she may feel weak, tired, or dizzy, and have low blood pressure. Other symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Adrenal insufficiency is diagnosed through blood tests, and can be treated with medications that replace the hormones the adrenals would normally make.

Are there health conditions related to adrenal fatigue?

The processes that take place in any chronic disease, from arthritis to cancer, place demands on your adrenal glands. Therefore, it is likely that if you are suffering from a chronic disease and morning fatigue is one of your symptoms, your adrenals may be fatigued to some degree. Also, any time a medical treatment includes the use of corticosteroids, diminished adrenal function is probably present. All corticosteroids are designed to imitate the actions of the adrenal hormone, cortisol, and so the need for them arises primarily when the adrenals are not providing the required amounts of cortisol.

Can people get back to your best?

Yes, with proper care most people experiencing adrenal fatigue can expect to feel good again. Some simple lifestyle changes can lead to healthy adrenal gland production. Morning coffee drinkers don't have to give up their favorite breakfast drink. but everything in small quantities. Obviously lower caffeine drinks will be a better call. Other caffeinated drinks like soda should be eliminated as much as possible though. Beside providing empty calories, they keep people stressed.

Foods that are high in anti-oxidants are an excellent way to help heal your body. Organic matcha is a great option. It been used in Asia for many years and has a lower caffeine level and L-Theamine amino acid which acts as a relaxing agent.

Meditation also helps. It has been scientifically proven to lower cortisol levels from stress and calm adrenal glands. Exercise is great for lowering stress but again, too much can be detrimental.

Further help?

If you are experiencing some of the symptoms that have been discussed, please seek medical assistance to make sure you get the best possible treatment. Dr Google can get you so far but options such as blood tests are not on the internet. Get the right care and get back to your best.



Alistair Schuback
Alistair Schuback