There is perhaps no greater stress than not having the energy to be present in your life —and when you are struggling with your adrenals, the more stress you are under, the worse it gets.
Having adrenal function problems, also known as adrenal fatigue, can be debilitating, making even everyday tasks difficult. However, if you have the information you need to understand the imbalances in your body, you can restore your systems and feel well again.
Your adrenal glands are an essential part of the endocrine system, which produces a variety of hormones including cortisol, aldosterone, and adrenaline. These hormones regulate the energy production systems in all of your cells. When your adrenals aren't functioning properly, it can affect every system of your body.
Adrenal function disorders, particularly low-functioning adrenals, can worsen during times of stress or tension. Stress prompts a signal in our nervous system to stimulate the adrenals.
In the alarm stage of the cycle, the adrenal glands produce cortisol and other hormones to help the body maintain resilience. This increase in cortisol production helps you manage stress for a time, through the resistance stage of the cycle. But if the stressors are prolonged, at some point or another, you will burn out.
By the time your doctor diagnoses you with a chronic condition like Addison's disease — in which the adrenals produce few or no hormones at all — it's likely you've already been suffering from inexplicable fatigue for years.
However, adrenal gland issues can be detected through lab testing well before the stages of chronic conditions and diseases. With enough information, it's possible understand what is happening with your adrenals so you can take positive action.
Here are some of the most prominent symptoms of low-functioning adrenals:
Decreased physical endurance, stamina or strength
Fatigue upon waking in the morning
Losing interest in hobbies and passions
Weakness/numbness when standing up after sitting
Weakness and fatigue after long periods of standing or talking
Low or anxious mood
Intolerance of intense sensory inputs (bright lights, temperature changes, loud sounds, etc.)
One of the hallmark signs of low adrenal function is the cycle of feeling exhausted in the mornings but wired at night. Such a schedule can mean that your cortisol production is maxed out by the time morning comes. This disruption in the diurnal circadian rhythm can be disheartening; you know how desperately you need a good night's sleep, but your inability to rest can start a cycle of depressed or anxious feelings that only make the situation worse.
Once you've hit the burnout/exhaustion stage of adrenal deficiency, you could be struggling to keep up with even the most basic demands of your life. Engaging in conversations with loved ones, participating in your favorite hobbies and events, and even maintaining hope and the motivation to seek treatment can feel nearly impossible.
Perhaps you have even been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, but feel hopeless trying to resolve it. A chronic fatigue diagnosis can be frustrating because the stress and tension contributing to it could have a wide variety of internal or external causes.
It's important to consider that low-functioning adrenals can affect your overall health. Moving forward from a diagnosis of adrenal gland deficiency takes focus, dedication and patience. Functional and integrative medicine can help by providing detailed information about your bodily systems so that you can get to the root cause of your imbalances.
To begin the road to recovery from adrenal burnout or adrenal fatigue, you can take an at-home lab test to understand how your endocrine system is functioning.
The test looks at key hormones such as estradiol, progesterone ratios, testosterone, DHEAS and cortisol, providing a comprehensive picture of how your endocrine system is functioning.
For people struggling with symptoms that present as chronic fatigue syndrome, these types of tests can be used to identify thyroid issues potentially caused by the adrenal gland HPA dysfunction, estrogen and progesterone levels. This type of test can also identify the exact levels of TSH, T3, and T4 in your body, which indicate how well your thyroid is functioning.
Rick became unable to function on a daily basis and experienced a near-total meltdown. He was having trouble staying awake throughout the day and was particularly sensitive to any external stressors like bright lights or loud noises.
As Rick learned the fundamentals of integrative medicine, he studied how his bodily systems functioned. In order to get the complete picture of the underlying causes of his health issues, he used several at-home lab tests. Rick was able to review the results of his tests during a personalized health coaching session and finally understood the nutritional and mineral deficiencies that he needed to remedy to heal his endocrine system.
With dedication and persistence, Rick was gradually able to restore balance in his body and regain the energy and vitality that he had been lacking. The diagnostic tests and coaching made it possible for Rick to live his life on his own terms again.
If you've been dealing with extreme forms of fatigue and/or adrenal failure, it can feel like you'll never get your life back. While adrenal fatigue can be a thorny issue to negotiate, it is possible to restore your endocrine system to a healthy balance and reclaim the life you want to live.