Do any of these adrenal disorder symptoms apply to you?
- Tired all the time.
- Groggy in the morning but wide awake at night.
- Feel dizzy when you stand up.
- Always stressed out.
- Wake up anxious at 3 or 4 a.m.
- Energy crash around 3 or 4 p.m.
- Wake up not feeling rested.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you likely have issues with adrenal function, whether it’s adrenal fatigue, adrenal hyper function, or something in between.
The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys and release stress hormones to help us cope with the stress of daily life. Unfortunately, they were not designed to deal with what constitutes daily life for the average person.
Most of us are far more stressed out on a continual basis these days than nature intended. A large part of this stress simply comes from inflammatory diets that are too high in sugars, processed carbohydrates, and artificial additives.
Your adrenal health determines your vitality
- Your adrenal health can mean the difference between being energetic and productive or run down and burned out.
- Chronic stress and insufficient sleep are obvious factors in taxing the adrenal glands.
However, less obvious factors for adrenal dysfunction include:
- Low blood sugar
- High blood sugar (insulin resistance, or prediabetes)
- Leaky gut
- Chronic viral or bacterial infections
- Food intolerances
- Environmental toxins
The body interprets all of these factors as threats. This causes the adrenal glands to secrete stress hormones to raise blood sugar in order to meet the demands of the stress.
Little known factors that cause adrenal fatigue and dysfunction
The human body is designed to respond to stressors on an occasional basis. In the past, this might come from running from a predator or some other occasional life-threatening event.
Unfortunately, stress today is constant. The body does not know whether it’s a saber-tooth tiger or the stress of a pressing work deadline compounded by too much caffeine, skipping meals, and not sleeping enough.
The chronic and unrelenting stress of modern life can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue, over active adrenal function, or something in between.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue
- Weak immunity
- Low blood sugar
- Being groggy in the mornings
- Crashing in the afternoon
- Waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. feeling anxious
- Low blood pressure
- Blacking out when you stand up
- Hormonal problems
Symptoms of over active adrenal function
- Don’t feel rested after sleeping
- Insulin resistance
- Excess estrogen
- Irritability, anxiety, mood swings
- Excess belly fat
- Muscle aches and pains
- More susceptible to infection
- High blood pressure
- Hormonal problems
Imbalances in the adrenal glands are one of the most common health problems we see in functional medicine.
Adrenal problems are always caused by something else
Adrenal health is always secondary to something else. For instance, blood sugar imbalances are a very common cause of poor adrenal health. When blood sugar drops too low, the body perceives this as a threat and the adrenals secrete the stress hormone cortisol to raise it up again.
But when this happens throughout each day due to eating a sugary, high-carb diet, skipping meals, or waiting until you “crash” to eat, the repeated demands exhaust the adrenal glands. This also exhausts the brain’s control of adrenal function.
As a result, constant cortisol production weakens the gut, making it more susceptible to bad bacteria, inflammation, and leaky gut.
Now the body perceives a damaged and inflamed gut as a stressor, and the stress response keeps cranking.
Other factors that contribute to adrenal problems include autoimmune disease, food intolerances, chronic infection, chemical sensitivities, and hormonal imbalances.
Assessing adrenal health with lab testing
We can measure adrenal hormones with saliva collected throughout the day. This can help you see where on the spectrum your adrenal dysfunction lies.
But even more important than the initial test is the second test. It shows whether your protocol is improving your health. If not, we have to dig deeper to find out what is causing your adrenal fatigue and dysfunction.
The adrenal salivary panel is also useful to measure your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake, cycle. This is a very important and finely tuned system on which other system in the body rely. It also is a window into how well your brain is doing.
An altered circadian rhythm cycle, such as one that has you tired in the morning and wide awake at night, can mean you also suffer from hormonal imbalances, accelerated brain degeneration, immune imbalances, and more.
Adrenal problems can cause hormone imbalances
Poor adrenal health is a very common contributor to PMS, a difficult transition into menopause, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women, and testosterone imbalances in men.
Constant adrenal stress causes the body steal a hormone called pregnenolone from cholesterol to make more cortisol, which is known as pregnenolone steal. Normally, the body uses pregnenolone to make the sex hormones. As a result, pregnenolone steal causes hormonal imbalances such as PMS, infertility, male menopause, and PCOS.
Healthy adrenal function is a vital aspect to your recovery process. In addition to taking stress-reduction and sufficient sleep seriously, you may also benefit from some targeted functional medicine therapies to support your adrenal health.
Ask my office for help in supporting your adrenal health.