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Adrenal Fatigue: Causes, Symptoms, and Susceptibility

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-11-22 (Revised/Updated 2016-10-07) - Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms that result when the adrenal glands function below the level necessary. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Ian Langtree at Disabled World.

Main Document

Quote: "Adrenal fatigue is produced when a person's adrenal glands cannot adequately meet the demands of stress."

Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, adrenal fatigue may also occur during or after acute or chronic infections, particularly respiratory infections such as bronchitis, influenza, or pneumonia. Its main symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep yet it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of a person's finger. A person may appear and act fairly regularly with adrenal fatigue and might not have any obvious signs of physical illness, but live with a general sense of, 'un-wellness,' gray feelings, or tiredness. People who experience adrenal fatigue often times have to use coffee, colas or other stimulants to get going in the morning and to keep themselves going during the day. Adrenal fatigue has been known by several other names throughout the past century, such as:

  • Neurasthenia
  • Adrenal apathy
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Adrenal neurasthenia
  • Sub-clinical hypoadrenia
  • Non-Addison's hypoadrenia

While it affects millions of people in America and around the world, conventional medicine does not yet recognize it as a distinct syndrome.

Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc on a person's life. In the more serious instances, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that the person affected may have difficultly getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in a person's body is more profoundly affected. Changes happen in the person's protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, sex drive, heart and cardiovascular system. A number of other alterations take place at the cellular and biochemical levels in response to, as well as to compensate for, the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs in adrenal fatigue. A person's body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, yet it does so at a price.

Causes of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is produced when a person's adrenal glands cannot adequately meet the demands of stress. The adrenal glands mobilize a person's body's responses to every kind of stress, whether it is emotional, physical, or psychological, through hormones that regulate energy production and storage, immune function, muscle tone, heart rate and other processes that enable them to cope with stress. Whether the person has 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 their life - their adrenals have to respond to the stress and maintain homeostasis. If their responses are not adequate, the person is likely to experience some degree of adrenal fatigue.

During adrenal fatigue a person's adrenal glands do function, yet not well enough to maintain optimal homeostasis because their output of regulatory hormones has been diminished - usually by over-stimulation. Over-stimulation of a person's adrenals may be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.

Adrenal Fatigue Susceptibility

Anyone can experience adrenal fatigue at some point in their lifetime. An illness, life crisis, or continuing difficult situation may drain the adrenal resources of even the healthiest person. There are factors; however, that may make a person more susceptible to adrenal fatigue. These factors include:

  • Poor diet
  • Chronic illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Too many pressures
  • Too little sleep and rest
  • Maternal adrenal fatigue during gestation
  • Repeated infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Prolonged situations that you feel trapped or helpless in

While there are not recent statistics available, Dr. John Tinterra, a medical doctor who specialized in low adrenal function, stated in the year 1969 that he estimated that around 16% of the public could be classified as, 'severe,' but that if all indications of low cortisol were included, the rate would be closer to 66%. The Dr.'s statement was made prior to the extreme stresses involved with living in the current century, 9/11 and the economic recession.

How to Tell if Your Adrenals are Fatigued

Adrenal fatigue is something that has certain signs associated with it. You might be experiencing adrenal fatigue if you consistently notice one or more of the following. For example, you:

  • Crave sweet or salty snacks
  • Feel tired for no particular reason
  • Are feeling rundown or overwhelmed
  • Have difficulty bouncing back from illness or stress
  • Feel more awake, energetic and alert after 6PM than you do all day
  • Have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour

Health Conditions Related to Adrenal Fatigue

The processes that take place in any chronic disease, from arthritis to cancer, place demands on a person's adrenal glands. It is likely that if you experience a chronic disease and morning fatigue is one of your symptoms, your adrenals might be fatigued to some degree. Any time a medical treatment includes the use of corticosteroids, diminished adrenal function is most likely present. All corticosteroids are designed to imitate the actions of the adrenal hormone, 'cortisol,' and so the need for them arises mainly when the adrenals are not providing the required amounts of cortisol.

Related Information:

  1. Addison's Disease - Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment - Thomas C. Weiss - (2009-05-12)
  2. Workplace Stress - Symptoms and Solutions - Wendy Taormina-Weiss - (2012-05-29)
  3. Why We Eat More When Stressed - Link Between Stress and Appetite - University of Calgary - (2011-08-22)

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