Adrenal Fatigue: Tired All The Time?
“I’m in bed and I can’t get up.”
If this sounds like you, then read further.
- Are you experiencing stress related adrenal fatigue?
- Are you tired for no reason?
- Having trouble getting up in the morning?
- Need coffee, colas, energy drinks, sodas, salty or sweet snacks to keep going?
- Feeling run down and stressed?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when adrenal gland function becomes less than optimal—usually as a result of stress. An estimated 80% of people experience adrenal fatigue and the physical symptoms of stress at some point in their lives, yet it is frequently overlooked and misunderstood by the medical community. It is not the same as Addison’s disease.
In 1998, Dr. James L. Wilson coined the term “adrenal fatigue” to identify a specific kind of chronic tiredness that many people experience. It can affect anyone who undergoes frequent, persistent or severe mental, emotional or physical stress.
Adrenal function can also be an important factor in health issues ranging from allergies to obesity. Since the major job of the adrenal glands is to respond to perceived threats (stress), when it is assaulted with inordinate amounts of stress over a long period of time, it begins to secrete stress hormones, causing suppression of the immune system and a slowing down of metabolism making you more vulnerable to allergic reactions and weight gain.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
The adrenal glands are tiny organs that rest on top of each kidney. Despite their small size, the adrenal glands play an important role in the body, producing numerous hormones that impact our development and growth, affect our ability to deal with stress and help to regulate kidney function.
The adrenal glands are comprised of two parts–the cortex and medulla–that produce hormones (chemicals messengers that regulate body functions). The medulla, or inner part of the adrenal glands, produces the hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine, which regulate the “fight or flight” response in the body, the body’s reaction to stressful events. The cortex, the outer portion of the adrenal glands, produces several hormones that affect blood pressure, blood sugar levels, water balance, growth, as well as some sexual characteristics.
With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected as the functions of growth, metabolism, regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, kidney function and hormone production are compromised.
Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.
This syndrome has been known by many other names throughout the past century, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue. Although it affects millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, conventional medicine does not yet recognize it as a distinct syndrome.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is produced when your adrenal glands cannot adequately meet the demands of stress. The adrenal glands mobilize your body’s responses to every kind of stress (whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological) through hormones that regulate energy production and storage, immune function, heart rate, muscle tone and other processes that enable you to cope with the stress.
Whether you have an emotional crisis such as the death of a loved one, a physical crisis such as major surgery, or any type of severe repeated or constant stress in your life, your adrenals have to respond to the stress and maintain homeostasis. If their response is inadequate, you are likely to experience some degree of adrenal fatigue.
During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain optimal homeostasis because their output of regulatory adrenal hormones has been diminished – usually by over-stimulation. Over-stimulation of your adrenals can be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.
Anyone can experience adrenal fatigue at some time in his or her life. An illness, a life crisis, or a continuing difficult situation can drain the adrenal resources of even the healthiest person. However, there are factors that can make you more susceptible to adrenal fatigue. These include: