Adrenal fatigue is also known as adrenal insufficiency. It’s essentially condition when your adrenal glands are not longer able to meet the basic requirements of your body. In this situation, you may suffer various health problems, such as weight gain, poor sleeping patterns, hypoglycaemia, poor libido, impaired mental functions and reduced energy. The most common cause of adrenal fatigue is an extended period of excessive stress. Adrenal glands have complicated functions. They are essentially pyramid-shaped glands that secrete various important functions in your body. As an example, the adrenal cortex gland secretes aldosterone, which controls the hydration of your body. The adrenal medulla gland secretes the well-known adrenaline hormone, which controls your alertness and energy utilization.
Adrenal fatigue is often associated with the production of cortisol and DHEA hormones, by the adrenal cortex gland. The level of these hormones usually rises in the morning, so we can wake up. Their level will fall progressively starting from mid-afternoon, so we can unwind and start to sleep. Normal levels of cortisol and DHEA hormones help us in balancing decision making process, sustaining energy levels, regulating blood sugar levels and keeping the immune system functional. Cortisol is directly related to our blood sugar level and immune system, while DHEA is the base substance for the production of testosterone and estrogen. Unfortunately, it can be rather difficult to categorize and pin down the cause of adrenal imbalance.
There are three states of adrenal functions.
- Addison’s Diseases, a potentially fatal deficiency of cortisol and DHEA
- Cushing’s Disease, excessive level of cortisol and DHEA
However, adrenal dysfunction doesn’t always follow the textbook rules and we can’t really compartmentalize it. The adrenal medulla gland can be overactive, while the adrenal cortex works sluggishly. As stated above, adrenal fatigue is often caused by our body’s reaction to external factors. When we are in a potentially stressful situation, our brain sends the ACT hormone to the adrenal glands, so adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA are produced at higher levels. This will prepare our body for action, by increasing heart rate and overall alertness. In a normal situation, stress happens occasionally. However, problems can start to happen when adrenal glands are activated too regularly and their reactions can be over-exaggerated.
Due to continuous stress, adrenal gland could over-release adrenaline, followed by cortisol. This can be considered as the stage one of the adrenal fatigue. This could cause the overall increase of tiredness and we could become flustered quickly. People with adrenal fatigue stage one could become jittery and shaken easily by any loud noise. Although affected people could remain functional, stressors need to be removed to avoid future problems. If stressors remain or intensify, these people could enter Adrenal Fatigue Stage Two. This condition is characterized by constant release of cortisol, regardless of the condition. It means that the affected will be in “combat-ready” position all the time, which will be tiring mentally and physically.
People with Adrenal Fatigue Stage Two could become tense, unmotivated and forgetful. Sickness may start to emerge, such as ulcers, colds and wounds that heal slowly. Body pressure will increase and body fat pocket will thicken, especially at the abdomen. At stage two, out body will remain alert, even if it’s about time to get to bed. It will be longer for us to fall asleep, regardless of how exhausted we are. Again, the most effective way is to remove any stressor. At stage three, adrenal hormones “burn out” due to sustained production. At this stage, blood pressure will drop and because the person is mentally exhausted, they feel deep tiredness.