Fatigue – it is by far the most common complaint heard by physicians from their patients. But it is also one of the most common symptoms that is easily dismissed by physicians. Sure, everyone feels tired now and again, but how do you know when fatigue is actually a serious symptom that should be looked into? When do you decide that it’s just from staying up late too many times in a row, or when it’s from something more than that?
Adrenal fatigue is a common cause of fatigue in a majority of people. It is not often understood by the medical profession because the adrenal glands produce a wide variety of chemicals and hormones that affect a majority of the cells in our bodies. It is also a term that is loosely thrown around as a means to explain the medical repercussions of being constantly stressed out all the time.
So what exactly is adrenal fatigue, and why can it be so detrimental for those who are suffering from it?
The adrenal glands are small walnut sized glands that sit on top of our kidneys. They may be tiny in comparison to our other organs, but these miniature glands are a production powerhouse that cranks out some of our most widely used hormones including cortisol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and many others. Its main processes are essential for our everyday functioning. But in relation to adrenal fatigue, it is mostly the hormone cortisol that we are concerned with.
Every cell in the human body has a receptor for cortisol. It is responsible for regulating blood sugar, suppressing the immune system, increasing fat metabolism and many other functions. It is also the main hormone that is produced when our bodies are stressed and is the main contributor to adrenal fatigue.
But stress in and of itself is not necessarily detrimental to our health. It is only when it occurs in excess that it can cause problems. Acute stress is necessary for our bodies at certain times in our lives. Acute stress and flares of cortisol help bring blood to our brain and help our muscles get oxygen and nutrients so that they can work properly if we need to do something quickly like run from a bear. But if this constant stimulation occurs over time, it can make our adrenals go into overload and it burns our cortisol out. This is what leads to adrenal fatigue – being in a situation where our adrenal glands are so tired from running constantly that our bodies become tired.
When someone has adrenal fatigue, they generally have many presenting symptoms that can lead to problems of overall functioning throughout the day. One of the main things affected for people with adrenal fatigue is sleep. In early adrenal fatigue, people may have high cortisol at night which can lead to insomnia and difficulty staying asleep during the night. In later stages of adrenal fatigue, a lot of people report that they will still feel tired regardless of the number of hours of sleep they get at night.
Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue can include mood swings, anxiety, temperature intolerances, weight loss or weight gain, fluid retention or problems controlling blood pressure and blood sugar. Adrenal fatigue can also change DHEA and testosterone levels in a majority of people, especially women.
The important thing to note about adrenal fatigue is having a physician that is good at recognizing it and open to helping you find ways to treat your symptoms. Supplementation in combination with stress reduction techniques are often very effective in treating those with adrenal fatigue. The physicians at Aria Integrative Medicine are very skilled at recognizing and treating adrenal fatigue, along with a majority of inflammatory conditions. If you have questions about what you can do for adrenal fatigue, or if you want to start on the path to overcoming your fatigue, call our office today at 206-588-1227 to schedule an appointment.