So what are the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue? Let’s find out.
Adrenal Fatigue is a condition where your adrenals are overworked and not producing enough adrenal hormones, particularly cortisol, but also DHEA and aldosterone. The signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue can help lead to the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue. Now, signs are different than symptoms. Signs are what healthcare providers see on your exam. And in your bloodwork. Symptoms are what you perceive.
So let’s start with the adrenal fatigue symptoms:
- 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 reversed circadian rhythm is usually early in the course of adrenal dysfunction.
- Skin and hair changes. You may be losing your hair as initially high cortisol which precipitates adrenal fatigue can cause profound 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 a lot. 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.
- Slow Metabolism. Eventually, your thyroid is affected. That’s because thyroid function is controlled by the same hypothalamic hormone as the adrenal glands. A sluggish metabolism leads to weight gain with fat deposited in your middle.
- Sex Hormones Decline. That’s because reproduction is not a necessary function when your body is under profound stress. Most brides experience this stress response 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 inadequately opposed estrogen leads to heavy, painful periods and fibroids.
- Anxiety and depression. Adrenal hormones affect your moods. Most people with adrenal fatigue express increased anxiety, difficulty handling stressors with a hyper-reactive anxious response. Some people will also notice a flat depressed mood.
- Dizziness. You get up too fast and you feel dizzy. Healthy adrenals produce enough aldosterone to raise your blood pressure 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?
Now, let’s talk about some of the signs of adrenal fatigue:
Meaning what we perceive when a health care provider evaluates you.
Your body composition is not healthy – you’re either underweight with loss of muscle tone or overweight with fat distributed around your abdomen belly fat. New striae or stretch marks on your torso and hips from rapid weight gain.
Loss of body hair is very common. I notice it frequently in women with patchy pubic hair – a clear sign that their DHEA levels are low.
Orthostatic hypotension – your blood pressure should be checked sitting, lying and then immediately upon standing. If you have normal adrenal aldosterone production, your blood pressure should rise 10 to 20 millimeters of mercury going from a prone to upright position.
Your other vital signs are usually normal. Although you may experience a racing heart, kind of a wired and tired feeling. Most of the adrenal fatigue patients that I see in my practice seem to be tired, with really low energy and affect meaning their expressions are kind of flat. They may be really stressed to begin with, but eventually they just get kind of pooped out so they present very fatigued in my exam room, it’s hard for them to concentrate on what we’re talking about. It’s hard for them to focus on our treatment protocols. If you suspect you have adrenal fatigue try not to make an afternoon appointment when your energy is at the lowest.
Adrenal fatigue is more common in women than men. And it can affect your life tremendously.
If you have any questions about adrenal fatigue signs and symptoms, please join me in our Hormone Support Group, where you’ll get access to our free Hormone Reboot Training. I hope to see you there!