What Causes Adrenal Gland Fatigue?

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


The adrenals can become fatigued by overwork, but there?s no simple adrenal fatigue testThe adrenal glands are a pair of walnut-sized endocrine organs that sit just above the kidneys. They are responsible for the production of over 50 hormones, including adrenaline, norepinephrine, aldosterone, and cortisol. Cortisol is the most important stress control hormone in the body, regulating blood sugar, constricting blood vessels, and fighting inflammation, among other functions. When stress pushes the body out of balance, cortisol fights back and keeps internal homeostasis intact. Like any other organs in the body, the adrenal glands can malfunction. So what can fatigue this pair of stress-fighting organs and cause Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?

Adrenal Gland Fatigue Causes are All Too Common

Stress, the very force the adrenal glands are meant to combat, is the key to their downfall in this case. In today?s world, stress seems to be waiting for us every day. Whether it?s a bad day at work or difficulty with the kids, we can?t seem to escape it. This means our adrenal glands are always running at full steam to keep us functional and able to deal with it all. But just like any other part of our body, the adrenal glands need a break to rest and recuperate, or else they?ll wear themselves out.

This is exactly what happens, the adrenal glands fatigue and start functioning under normal levels. In the early stages, the adrenal glands are still able to maintain a functional pace, but are quickly tiring. Functional Laboratory tests are not sensitive enough to detect any problem at this early stage. Do not be surprised if your doctor tells you all is well. The symptoms at this point are not very serious and can be easy to miss. Feeling a bit of fatigue is usually fixed with coffee or an energy drink, and life goes on without a thought to what?s causing the tiredness. After all, we think that as we age, we don?t have the same energy anymore.

One of the many signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue is anxiety, you may wonder if you can get an adrenal fatigue testMore tiredness, anxiety, and insomnia pop up, but we get used to it, and take sleeping pills and antidepressants. For a lot of people, this is their Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome experience, and unfortunately, they do not know better. For some who have a higher stress load, experience a traumatic stressful event, or are constitutionally weak, the condition can get much worse. The late stages of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome are unmistakably an unhealthy state.

Heart palpitations, postural hypotension, reactive hypoglycemia, feeling ?wired and tired? and adrenaline rushes, begin to interfere with daily life. At this point, many will seek help from their doctor; unfortunately, the medical community is not well-educated, and some are entirely dismissive of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Some are prescribed medications to suppress the symptoms, while others are told there is nothing physically wrong with them and the condition is in their head. Laboratory tests continue to be negative. Sufferers are given anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

If this continues, the adrenals will weaken to a point that the body begins to taper down its energy use to conserve what it has, and sufferers can actually become bedridden and unable to function for long periods of time. Paradoxical reactions crop up where the body can?t effectively process medications or even helpful nutrients, and these just gum up the works even more. Most people never get to this stage of the condition, but for those who do, it?s important to seek expert help to recover.We are now in late stages of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome . Do not take this lightly. Without help, many become bedridden and are unable to live productive lives.

So how do we prevent adrenal gland fatigue? And how do we recover if they?ve already started to fatigue? The most important first step is to be sensitive to your body?s cry for help. Be on the alert and listen to your body. If you feel tired, take a break. Do not push through. If you have sugar cravings, think of adrenal fatigue. Learn the physiology of what the symptoms really mean. This educational process is so critical because symptoms can become overwhelming over time. Without the proper education on the source of problem, it is so easy to get caught up on a symptoms-patch approach and the underlying problem becomes masked. Unattended root problem will only worsen over time.

Many get lost self navigating, so it is important to consult an expert instead of trying to interpret an adrenal fatigue test on your ownBecause laboratory tests are not conclusive and can often be misleading, always seek professional help. Unfortunately, conventional medicine rejects adrenal fatigue. The key determinant of a clinical state comes down to a detailed history taken by an adrenal literate practitioner. Those in early stages of adrenal fatigue can start with lifestyle changes to reduce stress and improve their diet. These are changes anyone can benefit from, but for Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome sufferers specifically, they need to give their adrenal glands a chance to take a break and get themselves back into working condition. Nutritional supplementation may be needed for optimal recovery. But for anyone in the late stages of the condition, do not take natural compounds that can potentially be stimulatory in nature. This includes many herbs such as ginseng, licorice, ashwagandha, rhodiola, and even vitamin C in high doses. etc.

Professional help will be needed to avoid congesting the body and triggering paradoxical reactions if you are in advanced stages. Most self-navigation efforts fail and without proper monitoring and a systematic and comprehensive recovery plan, sufferers end up worse in advanced stages.