Learn About Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a condition of the adrenal glands where they have been overworked to the point of exhaustion and can no longer sustain a normal level of output. The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized organs that sit on top of your kidneys, and are the stress control centers of the body. In day-to-day life, they do this via the release of cortisol, the main anti-stress hormone. The more we learn about adrenal fatigue we find that the adrenals become taxed from chronic stress, environmental toxins, and poor diet.
Cortisol is a unique hormone that has a variety of effects throughout the body, including regulating blood sugar levels, fighting inflammation, and constricting blood vessels. Via these and other functions, cortisol is able to maintain homeostasis and keep the body in balance when stress threatens to destabilize it.
If stress is chronic, the adrenals have to work constantly to produce cortisol. Consequently, higher levels of chronic stress make the adrenals work harder. If the adrenal glands are constantly working too hard, they begin to wear down, and cortisol levels begin to drop as the adrenals can no longer sustain the necessary level of cortisol production. This drop in cortisol levels manifests itself as early symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). These include tiredness, anxiety, insomnia, frequent infections, and hypothyroidism. These early symptoms of AFS are often very subtle and easy to miss. Most people will brush them off as a natural consequence of aging, and either ignore them, or use stimulants or medications to mask them.
About Adrenal Fatigue and What it Means for Most
For most people, this early stage of AFS is where they will stay for most of their lives. They are inconvenienced by it, but never think to look deeper and see why they no longer have the energy they once had nor why they are not sleeping well. For those with a weaker underlying constitution, other health problems, or overwhelming stress, the adrenal glands can be driven further and further into disrepair, and after a period that can last for years, they eventually enter the late stages of AFS.
During the late stages of AFS, sufferers generally are very aware that something is wrong. The earlier symptoms of AFS become much more pronounced and new ones arise. Reactive hypoglycemia, postural hypotension, mild postural orthostatic tachycardia (POTS) in the subclinical form, heart palpitations, a sensation of being “wired and tired” and insomnia, and adrenaline rushes, are common noticeable developments. Unfortunately, conventional medicine is often dismissive of, or unaware of AFS, and this can lead to a frustrating period of dead ends as doctors rule out one condition after another. Many times, after exhausting diagnostic protocols, physicians tell the sufferer that the condition must be psychosomatic, and physiologically nothing is wrong with them.
As the adrenals glands’ condition worsens, stressful situations begin to result in “adrenal crashes”. These are acute adrenal decompensation episodes where the body suddenly drops to a lower state of physiological function in order to conserve energy. The dysfunction in the adrenals also begins to affect other systems. It first begins with the most interrelated organs such as the thyroid and ovaries, and then affects the rest of the neuroendocrine system which impacts functions throughout the body.
The body continuously down-regulates energy levels to ensure preservation of essential body functions, which often leads to the sufferer to become bedridden. This low state of function gives rise to “paradoxical reactions” as the body is unable to utilize even helpful nutrients, which instead congest the body and cause more stress.
In the last stage of AFS, the symptoms become reminiscent of Addison’s Disease or adrenal insufficiency. Like adrenal insufficiency, this final stage of AFS has completely lost its homeostasis and is breaking down. If left untreated, this condition is potentially fatal.
What can be done about Adrenal Fatigue? Fortunately, very few people reach this state of dysfunction; but it is important to be educated about this condition to know if you are at risk or may already be in this state. For many people, reversing this condition is as simple as making lifestyle changes to reduce stress and improve nutrition. For an in-depth dive into the progression, physiology, and recovery methods of AFS, Dr. Michael Lam has written a comprehensive guide about Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, which is available at SupplementClinic.com* and Amazon.com.
* SupplementClinic.com is an online nutritional retail store independently owned and operated by a family member of Dr. Lam to ensure excellent service and competitive pricing. Royalties received from Supplement Clinic go to further the educational mission of DrLam.com.