Adrenal Fatigue – Things Your Should Know
You might have read of the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ in health magazines and websites and you might have thought of it as some sort of weakness. However, it’s a collective term of many indications like fatigue, body pains, sleep disturbances, problems in digestion and nervousness. Surprisingly, adrenal fatigue has not been accepted as a medically diagnosed condition.
Adrenal glands actually release various hormones essential for our life. The medical condition called Addison’s disease or adrenal insufficiency means insufficient production of one or more of them caused by an underlying disorder.
What Happens in Adrenal Fatigue?
One or more of the following things can happen in adrenal fatigue according to the severity of the condition:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Body ache
- Loss of body hair
- Low blood pressure
- Skin discoloration
Four Stages of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue occurs in four stages:
1. Fight or Flight Response: At this stage, body responds to the stresses aggressively to overcome them. Anti-stress hormones, like cortisol, are increased. Fatigue is often mild and occurs mostly in the morning while waking up or in the afternoon. As such there is no dysfunction, but the person is unable to achieve peak performance.
Adrenal glands are often the first to collapse in the endocrine system in a stressful situation. Sadly, it isn’t considered as a pathological condition. Responses such as increase intake of coffee cover up the underlying problem and put adrenals into over-drive to mask the signs of fatigue. Fluctuations of blood sugar levels cause low energy and it is often temporarily fixed with sugary drinks, high carbohydrate foods like donuts and energy potions. Several people even think of it as normal and a part of modern life. Those who need coffee to start the day may already have landed in this stage but not aware of it.
2. Resistance Response: When severe stress occurs, the adrenals ultimately become unable to meet the body’s increased demand of cortisol and here the body enters stage 2 of adrenal fatigue. At this stage, the person carries out daily functions but is captured by a sense of fatigue at the end of each day as her/his body requires more rest than normal to restore. Though s/he sleeps for a full night, s/he doesn’t feel fresh in the morning. The person starts feeling anxious and irritated. It takes longer to sleep and frequent awakenings also occur. At this stage, thyroid glands are also affected.
3. Adrenal Exhaustion: At stage 3, adrenal function is weakened further but if stress isn’t lessened, body keeps demanding adrenal hormones, which can’t be sufficient to meet the demand. Output of cortisol starts declining, often slowly. In case of severe stressors, adrenal can crash and that puts body into a stage where survival is the primary goal and so, body starts conserving energy. For this, body starts breaking down muscles and wasting protein. Exercise tolerance is decreased and chronic fatigue becomes common. Eventually, chronic fibromyalgia takes place. Toxic metabolites start accumulating across the body resulting in insomnia and brain fog. Depression becomes severe and continuous.
4. Failure: 4th stage is failure of adrenals. At this stage there is a high risk of cardiovascular failure and even death. Sudden piercing pain, loss of consciousness and low blood pressure are some symptoms of this stage.
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