Fatigue + Adrenal Issues

Fatigue + Adrenal Issues

Fatigue is a feeling of constant physical and/or mental tiredness or weakness that we are all likely to experience at some stage of life. However, when fatigue becomes constant and affects our ability to work, perform daily tasks or affects other areas of health and our quality of life then it must be addressed.

Fatigue is one of the most common reasons people will seek out a practitioner, but rather than being a disease in itself, fatigue is a symptom of dysfunction in the body and can be caused by a variety of issues including;

  • Stress and emotional upset
  • Insomnia and sleep issues
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Anaemia (low iron levels)
  • Toxicity
  • Poor digestion
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Food sensitivities
  • Poor diet
  • Diabetes and blood sugar metabolism issues
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Chronic infections
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Adrenal dysfunction
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Inactivity and lack of exercise
  • Depression
  • Other diseases

Apart from general tiredness and weakness, additional symptoms of fatigue can include;

  • Irritability & moodiness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle soreness or weakness
  • Poor decision making
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Poor memory
  • Appetite loss
  • Poor immune function and increased susceptibility to infections
  • Poor concentration and attention
  • Melancholy
  • Poor motivation
  • Slow reflexes and response time
  • Blurry vision
  • Impaired co-ordination
  • Lack of stamina and endurance
  • Poor stress tolerance and increased recovery time from exertion

Adrenal fatigue

The adrenal glands are small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and have a huge role in monitoring our stress response by releasing various hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is one of the main hormones that we release in response to stress. Now short term elevations in cortisol and adrenal function can be beneficial – making us think faster, run quicker and become more productive. However, if we are under stress for a longer period we can see patients with elevated cortisol levels which means they often experience insomnia, anxiety, irritability, heart palpitations etc. Then if the stress becomes chronic, the adrenal glands can struggle to produce enough cortisol at the right times, which can be a major trigger for fatigue – commonly known as “Adrenal Fatigue”. (Please note, Adrenal Fatigue is not a medical “diagnosis” as such, but a term that describes a group of symptoms that may be associated with subtle imbalances in the way that the adrenals are functioning at a microscopic level).

Adrenal “fatigue” or dysregulation can trigger a cascade of changes in other hormone pathways (such as insulin release, thyroid hormones and reproductive hormones), so that in addition to tiredness patients may also experience the following;

  • Hormonal issues – irregular periods, increased PMS, increased pain, aggravation of menopausal symptoms.
  • Cognitive issues
  • Irregular sleep-wake patterns
  • Increased sugar/carbohydrate cravings
  • Salt cravings
  • Moods issues – depression, agitation, emotional sensitivity
  • Issues with weight management
  • Poor cognition
  • Dry skin
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Low libido
  • Low blood pressure
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme tiredness and poor recovery after exercise

Adrenal function or balance can be measured through a salivary hormone test that tracks cortisol levels over the course of the day. If adrenal fatigue is an issue, diet and lifestyle strategies, along with herbal and nutritional medicine, can be used to help restore normal adrenal balance, assist with energy and reduce symptoms.

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