Understanding Adrenal Fatigue
by Dr. Alaina Gair, ND
What is adrenal fatigue?
This stress-induced epidemic is often the result of
lifestyle without support or management.
What are adrenal glands?
We have two adrenal glands – they sit on top of each kidney and release hormones in response to stress. The outer part of the glands – called the cortex – releases cortisol, for our stress response and metabolism control and aldosterone to regulate blood pressure. The inner part of the glands – called the medulla – releases adrenaline, another part of the stress response.
When your central nervous system perceives stress it stimulates the adrenal glands to release their hormones as a part of the “fight or flight” response. This can happen several times throughout the day and can vary depending on your lifestyle. For example, an alarm clock startling you out of sleep will trigger this response, as will less sudden stressors like feeling overwhelmed by your email account at work or worrying about family members. In early stages of stress – this response can actually be beneficial. It can improve mental clarity, focus and energy.
Over time, the benefits start to fade and the consequences of chronic stress take over.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is when the overstimulation of the adrenal glands due to chronic stress, results in inconsistent, and over time, low cortisol levels.
The most common report is feeling “burnt out”.
Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:
- Extreme, chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
- Insulin resistance
- Mood changes – depression, anxiety, irritability
- Hair loss
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
- Male and female hormone imbalances (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone)
- Skin changes, example: eczema
- Autoimmune conditions
- Low libido
How do you know if you have adrenal fatigue?
Naturopathic doctors use a salivary or urine test for function that shows us how your adrenal glands are performing throughout the day.
The result is called a cortisol curve. Your cortisol levels should be at their highest in the morning and then ease off throughout the day without going too low. In early stages of adrenal fatigue we may see a lower morning cortisol and elevated levels during the day or at bedtime.
In later stages of full adrenal burnout, cortisol levels flatten out and start dropping below the normal range. This testing tells us whether or not adrenal fatigue is the problem and what type of support is most indicated for you.
If this sounds like something you might be experiencing, and you’re in the Guelph area, you can book a visit with me to discuss how naturopathic medicine can heal your adrenal fatigue.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing information on treating adrenal fatigue on the blog so check back!