This is the common name given to a set of symptoms that result from working the adrenal glands to exhaustion. The adrenal glands are walnut-sized glands that sit on top of your kidneys and are your primary stress glands. Usually the adrenal glands become fatigued after months or years of chronic stress and/or inflammation. Some of the common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
• Depression (due to hormonal imbalance)
• Get sick often
• Thyroid dysfunction
• GI dysfunction
• Reproductive hormone imbalances
• Low sex drive
• Trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep
A quick tutorial of your vital adrenal glands: the adrenal glands sit on top of both kidneys. They are composed of two parts, the outer portion (adrenal cortex) and the inner portion (adrenal medulla). The adrenal cortex secretes the hormones cortisol, DHEA, aldosterone and small amounts of sex hormones. The adrenal medulla secretes epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. Your main stress hormones are cortisol, DHEA and epinephrine. These hormones help you adapt to every day stresses and demands. Under stress, healthy adrenal glands increase their output of cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline, giving you a burst of energy when needed.
Acute stress is normal and we are well adapted to deal with it. It is chronic stress that is our nemesis. In a Chronic Stress Response all body functions have become compromised due to prolonged hormone, immune and metabolic breakdown that can lead like falling dominoes to a cascade of chronic degenerative diseases from which the weakened body has a reduced chance to recover. Our bodies respond to stress the same way every time no matter what the actual stressor is. Whether we are stressing over a deadline at work, have a 1 ½ hour commute in traffic or are running a marathon, our bodies respond the same way it did when we were cavemen running from saber-toothed tigers. So when we have chronic stress in our lives (and who doesn’t these days) we drive our adrenal glands into submission.
The reach of the adrenal glands is far reaching. They affect most systems in the body for good or for bad (depending on if we abuse our adrenals or not). Some of the very important roles that the adrenal glands play are:
• Pro/anti-inflammatory state
• Immune regulation
• Fat and protein metabolism
• Glucose homeostasis (carbohydrate metabolism)
• Pro/anti-inflammatory response
• Immune regulation
• Memory and learning
• Quality of sleep
• Thyroid function
• Sex hormone function
There are two rare diseases that affect the adrenals and do require medical attention. These diseases represent the extremes of adrenal disease, they are, Addison’s Disease and Cushing’s Syndrome. Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands produce too little cortisol. This can be life-threatening (Addisonian crisis). Cushing’s Syndrome is when the adrenal glands produce way too much cortisol. This may be caused by glucocorticoid drugs and pituitary tumors most often. These two diseases are the extremes and require medical intervention to manage. However, like most things, health is a continuum. There are grades of adrenal fatigue and you do not need to have Addison’s Disease or Cushing’s Syndrome in order to have adrenal compromise (it is not ‘all or none’).
If you experience any of these symptoms you may be dealing with adrenal fatigue. You do not need to wait for the extremes to occur before you do something about it. As functional medicine practitioners we look for the underlying causes of chronic diseases and the adrenal glands are often a part of the puzzle. Making the proper lifestyle changes along with good supplementation can heal your adrenal glands and also help other body systems return to a better state of health. If this approach makes sense to you then give our office a call to schedule your functional medicine consultation. We look forward to working with you.
Yours in health,
Village Center Chiropractic healthcare team