Part 1 should have helped you understand the basics of Adrenal dysfunction, now it’s time dive deeper.
How does adrenal fatigue affect health?
Remember in part 1 when I said that the adrenal hormones are the pharmacy of the body. These 2 little glands are involved in almost every process in the body. If the adrenals are happy life is good, if fatigued and hormone production is altered, every organ in the body will eventually be compromised. Here is just a small list of how they affect our health:
- Anxiety, anger and irritability
- Arthritic pain
- Autoimmune illnesses
- Blood sugar imbalances eventually leading to diabetes
- Cardiovascular issues
- Changes in the way we metabolise carbohydrates, fats and proteins
- Chronic fatigue
- Craving for sweet or salty food
- Depression or mood swings
- Fluid and electrolyte imbalance
- Gut problems
- Immune system weakened
- Libido problems (decreased sex drive)
- Menstrual and menopausal symptoms
- Sleep disturbances
- Thyroid issues
- Unexplained weight loss and gain
Likely victims of adrenal fatigue?
I bet you think business executives, individuals who work crazy hours or those with high pressure jobs. This is true, although anyone can fall into the adrenal dysfunction trap. Adrenal fatigue does not discriminate, it is dependant on an individual’s ability to cope with stress and the lifestyle they lead. Even then, if an unexpected scenario comes along such as a death of a loved one, illnesses (major or small), life crisis or difficult living circumstances, expect adrenal strain to be a side effect. There are certain factors that increase the chance of adrenal dysfunction. The big 4 stresses tend to be:
- Chemical = Eating foods that aren’t real foods or that our body is sensitive to, varying from junk food to food deemed as healthy.
- Physical = A sedentary lifestyle, too much sitting, not enough articulation of the joints, having a job which requires long hours of manual labour and overtraining in the gym.
- Emotional = money, family, relationship issues, life’s curveballs pretty much.
- Environment = toxins, hostile environment, allergens and population etc.
How can I tell if I am adrenally fatigued?
A good question and before you use doctor google and self-diagnosis yourself with stage 3 adrenal fatigue, do some research or see someone who is qualified within this field. Unfortunately there in itself lies an issue. When I enquired about getting my adrenals tested and mentioned leaky gut, my GP smiled and said “is this the new thing to get tested for nowadays”. Less than impressed with this reaction, I looked elsewhere for answers. The issue is unless a person’s adrenals are absolutely shot and cease to function (the autoimmune disease most commonly known as Addison disease) then doctors are not going to be able to help. If anything expect to be given medicine has been shown to increase the likelihood of depleting the adrenals or rob hormones of the base materials they need to regenerate causing MORE FATIGUE!
For some bizarre reason I feel like the medical community tend to ignore the existence of this illness, maybe it could be the close association between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry.
Now back to the original question – if you are experiencing symptoms such as listed below I would recommend seeking professional advice:
- All day tiredness especially mid-morning and afternoon
- Sleeping well and feeling fatigued first thing
- Constantly feeling overwhelmed or uneasy
- Always feeling rundown and struggling to deal with stress or illnesses
- Craving sugar snacks in the afternoon, or having salt cravings all day
- Tending to be a night owl instead of an early bird
Stages of adrenal fatigue?
Believe it or not adrenal fatigue has 3 stages which misleads individuals, causing misdiagnosis via DR. Google. A potential reason for this is that there are a variety of different stages needing to occur before adrenal exhaustion. For example, a lot of us recover from stage 1 without even knowing or being diagnosed. Here is the breakdown of each stage:
Stage 1: Acute phase:
If we stay in a state of stress for too long the body will to respond to this. Throughout this the endocrine system is happy and equipped to handle this. DHEA (recovery hormone) and sex hormones (Testosterone, Oestrogen) begin to reduce diverting the production of the much needed stress hormone, Cortisol. Common diagnoses for this stage is feeling “wired but tired”, crashing bigtime in the evening, an unhealthy dependence sugar or caffeine may occur.
Stage 2: Compensatory phase:
During this stage expect to be able to function but also expect an inability to show enthusiasm, being tired the majority of the time, mad cravings for sugar, zero sex drive and constantly being sick. As the body prioritises the production of cortisol, substantial drops in DHEA sex hormones happen – most commonly known as “pregnenolone steal”. Pregnenolone is the precursor material from which other hormones are made – in this case our sex and stress hormone.
Stage 3: Exhaustion phase:
The final phase and most unpleasant: since the body is unable to produce cortisol it inevitably drops. Now the body depleted both of stress and sex hormones, this causes a constant battle for the body to cope with basic functions leading to complete burnout. As you can imagine, the level of stress people have to endure would have been an extremely high or a prolonged unhealthy lifestyle. Expect to suffer from depression, weight loss or gain, apathy, zero sex drive, disinterest with everything or everyone and pretty much a shit lifestyle at this stage.
How to get tested?
How to get tested?
Since the majority of the medical profession are unaware of this condition my recommendation is to be careful if getting tested at the doctors. Another concern is that some tests (blood tests) are a snapshot in time. This does not show the full picture or even worse allows you think that your adrenals are fine when its not. Health professionals who are qualified in this area, like myself, will opt to use the cortisol saliva test. This test has been shown to be the most accurate and easiest to follow. The test consists of spitting into 4 test tubes throughout the day to see what your cortisol levels are (morning, midday, afternoon and night). It also looks at your cortisol (stress hormone) to DHEA level (recovery hormone) identifying if your recovery properly when sleeping or in a pregnenoline stealing phase.
Next week’s blog will look at how to overcome drained adrenals and how I am currently doing in my own journey into restoring my health.