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What is adrenal fatigue?

Published on June 20, 2015 by Dr. Myra Reed

Your body is a complex system of hormones, chemicals and processes that must work together for optimal function. Unfortunately, the way many of us live today can really stress our bodies—causing it to wear down and throw our system into a cycle that leads to a variety of health problems. Adrenal fatigue is one of these. Unlike many obvious illnesses like a growth on your finger that we could see, adrenal fatigue leaves many people feeling generally and vaguely unwell. Traditional screening blood tests or scans come back normal and your doctor says you’re healthy. But you sure don’t feel that way.

What are the adrenal glands?

The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. These glands are responsible for your “fight or flight” response. You know what I mean—the drive you have when you feel stressed or scared. Fight or flight is supposed to help us be prepared to run or fight in times of danger. Maybe you’ve heard of people lifting cars off of someone who has been injured or outrunning a wild animal suddenly. Triggered by the release of cortisol, the body raises its heart rate, the eyes dilate to let in more light, and breathing patterns increase so that we can move faster and be more alert.

This natural response can be positive when triggered for sudden events, but for many people in the U.S. (researchers estimate up to 80%) the stress of life keeps cortisol levels up almost constantly, and over the time the adrenal glands can no longer make enough cortisol or other hormones to sustain the response. This is adrenal fatigue.

Triggers for adrenal fatigue can include:

  • Physical illness or battling an illness for a long time (surgeries, cancer, the flu, etc.)
  • Emotional stress at home or work
  • A busy lifestyle with early mornings and late nights

What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?

There are many, and because adrenal fatigue can be mild or severe, no two people may experience it the same way. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Sleeping an adequate amount of time but waking up tired
  • Craving sweet or salty foods
  • You are tired for no reason
  • You feel overwhelmed
  • You are more alert after 6 p.m. than you are all day
  • Depression
  • Low sex drive and many others

Have you been told your “normal”?

If you are like many Americans living with adrenal fatigue, maybe you’ve seen your doctor with complaints about being “always tired” or feeling “blah”. Your doctor may do some tests and tell you that everything is normal. Maybe he or she prescribes an antidepressant or other medication but it’s not really helping.

If this is you, I encourage you to call the office and make an appointment so we can further explore your symptoms. Testing for adrenal fatigue is simple and together we can take the steps to help you recover, and take care of your adrenals so you can feel like yourself again.



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