Do you have adrenal fatigue? If you are chronically tired and have lost the ability to handle stress, chances are you have adrenal fatigue, a condition often overlooked by traditional doctors. The adrenal glands produce several key hormones, including adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone). When a person is under excessive or prolonged stress, the adrenal glands respond by producing excessive secretions of these hormones until they become exhausted. Adrenal fatigue can affect anyone who experiences frequent, persistent or severe mental, emotional or physical stress, a common occurrence in the modern world. When this happens, many body systems may be affected.
Many conventional doctors refuse to recognize there is a problem with the adrenal glands unless their patient meets the diagnostic criteria for Addison’s disease (extremely little adrenal function) or Cushing’s disease (hyper-adrenal functioning). These diseases together affect less than 2% of the population, but some experts believe that upwards of 80% of the population suffers from some level of adrenal insufficiency. Fortunately, more and more alternative health practitioners are beginning to realize how widespread adrenal fatigue is in the general population.
Besides the usual symptoms of overwhelming fatigue and inability to handle stress, the symptoms listed below provide a more complete picture of adrenal fatigue:
Asthma, bronchitis or chronic cough: Any person with lung problems, especially asthma or bronchitis, should be checked for poor adrenal function. The lungs cannot respond appropriately to stress or allergens because of lack of cortisol. Asthma is often considered an emotional disease because stress can trigger an attack. Fix the adrenals so the body can respond normally to stress, and the asthma will disappear.
Allergies: Most allergies involve an inflammatory process. As adrenal function decreases and inflammation increases, allergies worsen. Generally, when the adrenal glands are functioning properly, the body does not respond to an allergen. This anti-inflammatory property of the adrenals is also important in preventing asthma. As adrenal glands heal, allergic responses become markedly reduced.
Recurrent infections: Severe and/or recurrent infections (especially respiratory) often indicate adrenal problems. The more severe the infection, the more frequently it occurs, or the longer it lasts, the more likely it is that adrenal fatigue is involved in the infection.
Muscle weakness and back pain: Dr. Goodheart has identified five skeletal muscles that can point to inadequate adrenal function. These are 1) sartorius, 2) gracilis, 3) posterior tibialis, 4) gastrocnemius, and 5) soleus. When the adrenal glands are malfunctioning, there will be weakness in one or more of these muscles. The sartorius and gracilis attach on the pelvis. Weakness in these muscles can cause the sacro-iliac joint to subluxate posteriorally (toward the back) leading to low back pain. In persons with adrenal fatigue, low back pain is frequently caused by instability of the pelvis rather than an actual back problem. These same two muscles also attach to the knee and help provide support. Weakness will cause knee pain and instability of the joint. Any person with knee problems should be checked for adrenal fatigue. The other three muscles mentioned stabilize the feet and ankles. Weakness of any of these muscles leads to complaints of tired, aching feet, weak ankles or aching calves. The symptoms related to the muscle weakness will improve when the adrenal glands are treated.
Sleep disturbances: Cortisol follows a curve from its highest levels being around 8am, and then dropping throughout the day until the lowest levels are reached about 11pm. In early stages of adrenal fatigue the body compensates with high night-time cortisol. In this case the person finds it difficult to relax from the stress of the day and has trouble going to sleep. High night-time cortisol results in reduced REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that is neither restful nor restorative. This can lead to depression and reduced energy levels the next day. In later stages of adrenal fatigue, the body may produce adrenaline in an attempt to compensate for low cortisol. This too will result in insomnia.
Dizziness: When a person stands from a sitting or lying position, the systolic blood pressure usually rises about 10 points as blood vessels in the lower body constrict to force blood to the heart, lungs and brain. This is a result of the action of epinephrine on the blood vessels. In people with adrenal fatigue, the blood vessels are unable to respond to the release of epinephrine because of lack of cortisol, so blood pools in the abdomen and pelvis and blood pressure drops. This systolic drop ranges from 10 to 40 points and is present in over 90% of those with adrenal fatigue. Dizziness is usually present upon standing; however, in some people it is present intermittently or constantly throughout the day as even resting blood pressure is low. Paradoxically, in order to prevent pooling of blood in the abdomen and lower extremities, the body may keep blood pressure extremely elevated. Pressure will still drop when the person stands but only to around 150. Remember, it may have been 180 or higher before standing. Treating the adrenals will lower blood pressure whereas blood pressure drugs and diuretics will make the adrenal problems worse in many cases.
Infammation: Cortisol and other glucocorticoids produced by the adrenal glands are the body’s own anti-inflammatory hormones. People who have responded to injections of corticosteroids into joints or who have taken them orally are usually those whose adrenal glands produce insufficient amounts of these hormones. Any person who responds to corticosteroids should be checked for adrenal fatigue.
Hypoglycemia: As adrenal fatigue progresses, blood glucose levels will tend to fall too low. The body responds to hypoglycemia by causing the person to crave anything that will rapidly raise blood sugar levels, such as a soda, candy bar, a cup of coffee or even cigarettes. Often adrenal fatigue leads to the abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and hard drugs because of the need to “fix” recurrent hypoglycemia. Unfortunately, the rapid rise in blood glucose provided by the “fix” only serves to start the whole cycle over again.
Headaches: This is caused again by blood pooling in the abdomen and pelvis leading to inadequate blood supply to the head.
Behavior and memory problems: Cortisol even regulates the electrical activity of neurons in the brain and thus influences behavior, mood and memory. Behavior changes frequently occur in both excess and deficient cortisol levels. Sleep disorders for example, are common with both high and low cortisol. Symptoms more closely related to adrenal fatigue involve decreased tolerance (quick to anger), decreased clarity of thought, and poor memory and memory retrieval.
Salt craving: The adrenal glands produce many more hormones than just glucocorticoids. One very important hormone is aldosterone, a mineralocorticoid. Aldosterone regulates fluid and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and magnesium) in the blood, between and in the cells of the body. As adrenal fatigue progresses, the production of aldosterone lessens. This causes “salt-wasting.” As salt is excreted by the kidneys, water follows leading to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. Those with adrenal fatigue should always add salt (preferably sea salt with its trace minerals) to their water. Soft drinks and electrolyte drinks like Gatorade are high in potassium and low in sodium, the opposite of what someone with low cortisol needs. Commercial electrolyte drinks are designed for those who produce high cortisol when exercising, not for someone who produces little or no extra cortisol during exercise. Add ¼ to 1 teaspoon of salt to a glass of water or eat something salty to maintain fluid/electrolyte balance.
Excessive thirst and urination: A person with low aldosterone may urinate 15 to 20 times a day and drink excessive quantities of water. Unless salt is added to the water, the fluid/electrolyte balance in the body is further disrupted.
Swelling: As the body tries to keep the ratio of electrolytes and fluid balanced, fluid may pour into the tissues and cause swelling. Most doctors will only see the symptom and not the cause, and prescribe a diuretic which further compounds the dehydration and electrolyte imbalance and makes the patient worse.
Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are basically varicose veins of the rectum and are caused by blood pooling in the abdomen and pelvis. When a person presents with hemorrhoids, it is usually from adrenal fatigue, but can be caused by liver congestion. Once again, listening to the heart can help determine the cause. If the loud second sound is over the pulmonic valve, it is indicative of adrenal problems, while a loud second sound over the tricuspid valve is indicative of liver congestion.
Varicose veins: Varicose veins of the lower extremities result from the same pooling of blood in the abdomen and pelvis that causes hemorrhoids.
Indigestion: The same sluggish circulation in the abdomen can cause symptoms of indigestion and poor absorption of nutrients.
Hyperpigmentation: Although more often seen in actual Addison’s disease, hyperpigmentation is occasionally seen in adrenal fatigue. This increased pigmentation of the skin may show up as “bronzing” somewhere on the body or as unusual brown patches.
Heart sounds: The heart normally makes a “lub-dub” sound, with the second sound being much quieter than the first sound. In a person with adrenal fatigue, the second sound will be equal or louder than the first sound over the pulmonic valve. When the body is stressed, it produces epinephrine which will cause vasoconstriction throughout most of the body, including the lungs. This vasoconstriction decreases the production of mucus in the airways. At the same time, epinephrine will relax the bronchi (bronchodilation), allowing more air to reach the lungs. In those with adrenal fatigue, the body cannot respond to the epinephrine because of lack of cortisol, so they experience bronchoconstriction instead, leading to symptoms of asthma. The bronchoconstriction, along with vasodilation and swelling of the mucus membranes, creates a back pressure in pulmonary circulation (pulmonary hypertension) that causes the pulmonary valve to slam shut, hence the accentuated second sound over the pulmonic valve.
As you can see, the adrenal glands are very complex parts of the endocrine system producing glucocorticoids (cortisol is the most important), mineralocorticoids (aldosterone), epinephrine, norepinephrine and even steroid hormones. Adrenal fatigue affects every part of the body and every aspect of life. For anyone experiencing the symptoms described above, it is imperative to find a practitioner and get tested and treated. It may be helpful to print this article and take it to the practitioner. Saliva cortisol testing usually includes the steroid hormones too, and can be ordered from several on-line sites without a doctor’s order. If done this way, testing will usually not be covered by insurance. Saliva testing is the most accurate test because it shows the rhythm of cortisol production and because it shows how much cortisol is present that the body can actually use. Blood tests only show bound cortisol which gives no indication if what level of cortisol is actually available to enter the tissues. Many people test “normal” on blood cortisol yet very low on saliva testing.
Saliva testing is also extremely important because there is much symptom overlap between high and low cortisol. Although the above symptoms are low cortisol symptoms, high cortisol is an early stage of adrenal fatigue and needs to be addressed. If not addressed, it will lead to low cortisol over time.
The rhythm of cortisol production is as important as the actual amount produced. On the ideal saliva test, cortisol should be near the top of the range at 8AM, around 75% at noon, 50% at 6PM and toward the bottom of the range at midnight.
Editor’s comments: If you are seeing yourself in this symptom picture it’s time to take action. But be prepared to be blocked in your efforts by conventional doctors who frequently deny the existence of this disease. If you don’t have access to an alternative health practitioner with knowledge of adrenal fatigue, you will have to take charge of getting yourself well.
A good way to start is with the Adrenal Profile, a state of the art saliva test that evaluates stress hormones, including cortisol and DHEA. This test pinpoints any imbalances contributing to chronic fatigue, inability to handle stress, and the other symptoms of tired adrenal glands.
The test kit comes directly to you in the mail from a lab that specializes in adrenal hormone testing. You supply four saliva samples during a 24 hour period. After you have completed your samples, return the kit by mail as directed. Your results and interpretation will be sent right to you. Once you have the test results and the interpretation of what they mean, you will know just what to do.
Dr. Joe Esposito has pointed out the need to support your adrenal glands with dietary changes, nutritional supplementation and relaxation. He has created the Adrenal Balance Program to provide needed nutrients to help your body cope with the stresses of modern living and keep you from sliding into adrenal fatigue.
For those just beginning to experience the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, he has created the Adrenal Boost Program designed to repair the adrenal glands while increasing energy and vitality. Halting the progression of adrenal fatigue will prevent adrenal burnout, the situation that occurs when adrenal glands become completely exhausted.
If you are already are suffering from several of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, your adrenal glands may be exhausted, and getting the Adrenal Profile is particularly important. In this stage the need to repair and restart the adrenal glands is paramount. Dr. Joe’s six step Adrenal Restoration Program is designed to provide maximum healing of the adrenals leading to the return of energy and stamina, and cessation of troubling symptoms.
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Published with permission from Alignlife. Original article link is here.
About Patty Donovan
In 2004 while working as an hospice RN, I was seriously injured. By 2007, I was mostly in a wheelchair and rudely told by the neurosurgeon to: “Just use the wheelchair, shut up, take the morphine and learn to deal with it”. I was on over 20 prescriptions including multiple psychotropic medications. When I left the neurosurgeon’s office that day I knew something had to change. Prayer led me to chiropractic which changed my life. Within a few months, I lost 50 lbs, put my cane and wheelchair in a closet and parked my scooter in the house. I have gotten off almost all medication. After 30 years in the Health Care Industry, I have gladly walked away from allopathic medicine. The rapid, positive results made it easy to undo 30 years of brainwashing. I continue to struggle with lung disease and CFIDS but I am able to remain functional through alternative health and nutrition. My goal in life now is to share my story with others and teach the truth about pharmaceuticals, nutrition and health care.