Adrenal disorders are some of the most under-diagnosed health problems in the United States which cause the most problems. The body’s inability to handle stress (either too much or too little Cortisol) is usually the cause of anxiety, depression, weight gain around the abdomen, fatigue, and sleep troubles, to name a few.
Adrenal disorders can occur after abuse of caffeine/stimulants, long-term stress (physical, emotional, or nutritional), and chronic viral or fungal infections. Babies are now being born with adrenal problems due to their mom’s stress and nutrition during the pregnancy. These babies may then have their own adrenal difficulties, like allergies, eczema, asthma, autism, ADD/ADHD, too much/little growth, and sleep issues.
The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Each adrenal gland consists of two separate parts, an inner part called the adrenal medulla and an outer part called the adrenal cortex. They are responsible for the production of a number of important hormones including adrenaline, Cortisol, and Aldosterone. These hormones help the body to cope with stress, assist in blood pressure control, and regulate blood sugar levels.
The outer adrenal cortex makes a variety of steroid hormones, the most important ones being Cortisol, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and several male hormones (such as Androstenedione and Testosterone). It is interesting to note that the adrenal gland produces all its steroid hormones from cholesterol.
The inner adrenal medulla produces the hormone adrenaline which is sometimes called the “fight or flight” hormone because it stimulates the nervous system (and the rest of the body) into a state of increased activity so that it may face or flee from danger. This works well under stressful situations, however sometimes the adrenal glands produce high amounts of adrenaline when it is not required, which may lead to Anxiety, bowel disturbance, high blood pressure, and palpitations.
Cortisol is a life sustaining Adrenal Hormone essential to the maintenance of Homeostasis. Cortisol is called “the stress hormone” because it influences, regulates or modulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress, including, but not limited to:
- Anti-inflammatory actions
- Blood Pressure
- Blood Sugar (Glucose) Levels
- Central Nervous System activation
- Fat, Protein and Carbohydrate metabolism to maintain Blood Glucose (Gluconeogenesis)
- Heart and blood vessel tone and contraction
- Immune responses
Cortisol levels normally fluctuate throughout the day and night in a circadian rhythm that peaks at about
8 AM and reaches it lowest around 4 AM. While it is essential to health for the adrenals to secrete more Cortisol in response to stress, it is also very important that bodily functions and Cortisol levels return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the stress response is activated so often that the body does not always have a chance to return to normal. This can lead to health problems resulting from too much circulating Cortisol and/or from too little Cortisol if the adrenal glands become chronically fatigue.
What are symptoms of high Cortisol?
Higher and more prolonged levels of circulating Cortisol (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have such negative effects, as:
- Allergies forming
- Blood Sugar Imbalances (such as Hyperglycemia)
- Dampened Thyroid Function
- Decreased Bone Density
- Decreased Muscle Mass
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Impaired Cognitive Performance
Increased abdominal fat, which has a stronger correlation to certain health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems. For example: Lowered immune function, sleep disruption and slow wound healing.
What are symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue / Exhaustion? Chronically lower levels of circulating Cortisol (as in Adrenal Fatigue) have been associated with negative effects, such as:
- Blood sugar imbalances, such as hypoglycemia
- Brain fog, cloudy-headedness
- Brown pigmentation of the skin
- Depression, especially in the morning
- Fatigue – especially morning and mid-afternoon fatigue
- Increased aches and pains
- Low blood pressure
- Lowered immune function
- Low thyroid function
- Sense of smell becomes more acute
- Sleep disruption
- Worsening of Allergies
What are the causes of Adrenal Gland Fatigue/Exhaustion?
Autoimmune Diseases, Chronic viral infections (ie., Mononucleosis, Epstein Barr, and Herpes Simplex),
Heavy smoking and/or alcohol intake and long term use of some drugs such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and prednisone. Long-term use of Cortisone-type (Prenisone, Hydrocortisone, etc) drugs can be a secondary cause of adrenal failure along with poor diet and prolonged stress.
Take the Adrenal Fatigue Quiz
- Can’t bounce back from stress or illness?
- Crave salty and/or sweet snacks?
- Decreased sex drive?
- Feeling run down and stressed?
- Having trouble getting up in the morning?
- Need coffee, caffeinated sodas, salty or sweet snacks to keep going?
- Not having fun anymore?
- Struggling to keep up with life’s daily demands?
- Tired for no reason?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be experiencing Adrenal Fatigue.