Adrenal fatigue is real. It’s when your adrenal glands become so overworked from chronic stress that they can no longer keep up with normal daily functioning.
The adrenals are small glands that lie on top (ad) of the kidneys (renals). These amazing glands have multiple functions. While the adrenals are endocrine glands producing hormones in response to pituitary stimulus that control carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, the adrenals also respond to neurological stimuli to initiate the fight, flight or freeze response, as well as electrolytes circulating in the blood to control blood pressure, and produce cytokines that influence immune function.
The adrenal glands control blood pressure, orchestrate protein and fat and carbohydrate metabolism; influence the immune system, and run the stress response.
The catabolic adrenal hormone–cortisol–breaks down tissues. Skin, hair, nails, muscles, and organs. Bones break down leading to osteoporosis. Even the gut lining is affected by high levels of cortisol leading to leaky gut syndrome, food allergies and malabsorption.
Remember the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis? Stress induces an adrenaline response which alerts the hypothalamus which in turn stimulates the pituitary to tell the adrenals to produce cortisol to fuel the fight or flight response.
The hypothalamus is the maestro of the entire system. And it does not know the difference between a tiger chasing you and you being late for work. The adrenal response is the same–adrenaline–> cortisol–> DHEA–> cortisone. Over and over and over again, day after day, week after week, for months, maybe years on end, the stress of modern day life puts a toll on the adrenals. Eventually they become fatigued, producing less and less cortisol and DHEA until you can hardly function.
What are the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?
• Profound fatigue. You struggle to wake up in the morning. You need caffeine and sugar to start your day. Your energy crashes in the afternoon. Sometimes you get a second wind at night and cannot sleep. A days circadian rhythm is usually early in the course of adrenal dysfunction.
• Hair loss. Your nails are brittle and slow growing. Your skin is dry and aging fast, although early in the stress response the high cortisol levels will induce oily, acne prone skin. Wounds heal very slowly. This is partially because of the catabolic nature of cortisol and mostly because of the lower production of DHEA that helps you metabolize protein and fat to grow new you (hair, skin, nails and other more important tissues) if your hair, skin and nails are unhealthy, you can bet that your internal organs do not look so good.
• You’re sick alot. You cannot seem to recover from illnesses. You keep catching one cold after another. All your old viruses come back to haunt you. You break out in old sores, genital warts, relapse with chronic infections like Epstein Barr and hepatitis. Your immune system does not seem to be working properly.
• Sugar Cravings. You crave sugar after you eat. When you eat, cortisol is produced which releases stored sugar so that you have immediate fuel until your food is digested. Tired adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol and you crave sugar after you eat.
• Salt Cravings. Why? Because your adrenals also make another hormone called aldosterone that regulates salt water balance. Fatigued adrenals do not produce enough aldosterone, so your blood pressure is low. You get up too fast and you feel dizzy. Healthy adrenals produce enough aldosterone to raise your blood pressure twenty points when you rise from a lying to a standing position. Otherwise if you were napping under a tree, how would you be able to get away from that tiger?
• Slow Metabolism. Eventually your thyroid is affected. That’s because thyroid function is controlled by the same hypothalamic hormone as the adrenal glands.
• Sex Hormones Decline. That’s because reproduction is not a necessary function when your body is under profound stress. Most brides experience this stress repsonse when their period shows up on their wedding day. Your adrenals use progesterone to make cortisol. Progesterone stabilizes the lining of the uterus. High stress equals high cortisol production and there is not enough progesterone to regulate the menstrual cycle. Eventually inadeaquately opposed estrogen leads to heavy, painful periods and fibroids.
Conventional medicine does not recognize adrenal fatigue. Why? Because while adrenal fatigue is not optimal functioning, it is not a disease. Allopathic practitioners treat diseases. Complete adrenal failure is called Addison’s disease. Your adrenal glands no longer produce cortisol. You need cortisol to survive, so you are given synthetic cortisone for the rest of your life.
Why wait until you have full blown Addison’s disease? Why not stop before you fall off the cliff?
Integrative medicine recognizes less than optimal functioning as something that can be improved through better lifestyle choices, detoxification, and supplementation.
Adrenal fatigue is recognized by integrative medicine as a treatable condition.
Adaptogenic herbs, B vitamins, essential fatty acids can help adrenal glands recover. Glandular products are also useful initially to support adrenal function. Sometimes bio identical cortisol and DHEA is prescribed to supplement adrenal function.
I believe the body will heal itself given the proper nutrients. So first I recommend a foundational support to heal the adrenals as well as all the organ systems affected by stress. Getting the adrenals functioning properly will stop the hair loss, weight gain, and aging, but the body needs extra nutrients to grow hair and healthy skin, improve body composition to increase lean body mass and decrease body fat, and optimize health.
Then I recommend hypothalamic support to improve the communication system between the adrenals and the brain. Supporting the hypothalamus allows it to orchestrate the rest of the endocrine system as well as the neurological and immune system to harmonize the symphony of hormones, neurotransmitters and cytokines so your DNA dances optimal health and well being.
Yes, I recommend adrenal glandulars and adaptogenic herbs to boost adrenal activity, but revving the engine without providing gas and oil will burn out the vehicle.
For my patients who need extra support during times of stress, I developed a natural treatment protocol for adrenal fatigue that includes extra adrenal glandular support, adaptogenic herbs, essential nutrients plus homeopathic adrenal cortex with full instructions on how to use supplements. My DMAR Natural Adrenal Therapy is a great rescue measure until your hypothalamus can get back in balance with Genesis Gold and Sacred Seven.