Feeling tired and moody? Having difficulty sleeping? Dealing with PMS and irregular periods? Adrenal fatigue could be the reason behind these annoying symptoms.
I’m presently in the middle of a two-week break between semesters – no studying or exams for a little while. And it was when I finally allowed myself to slow down that I realized how tired I’d been.
Even though I’ve been sleeping in and taking naps during the day for about a week, my body still felt sluggish and didn’t seem to run as optimally as it usually does. I was running like a car that needs an oil change – badly. Still am.
I went to my doctor’s office to get a physical checkup. I’m generally healthy and rarely get sick, so it’d been three years since my last visit. I told my doctor about the feeling of fatigue and he ordered a blood test to evaluate my adrenal hormones, including DHEA and testosterone.
As I suspected, the numbers came back a bit on the low side, and it turns out I may be experiencing a mild case of adrenal fatigue. And apparently, I’m not alone.
With increasing amounts of stress in our busy modern lives, many people experience a sense of “sub-functioning” of their body without “identifiable causes.”
As women, we’re often concerned about female sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, and we’re often less educated about the adrenal hormones. But they are actually critical to our endocrine balance and overall wellbeing.
In this post, I want to briefly explain the functions of adrenal hormones, such as cortisol and DHEA. I’ll also share the 7 most common signs of adrenal fatigue.
Hopefully with this knowledge, you can catch the signals and signs your body’s trying to give you, and take steps to remedy the situation as early as possible.
So what are cortisol and DHEA hormones?
Cortisol and DHEA are hormones produced by the adrenal glands on top of your kidneys.
Cortisol is the main stress hormone
Cortisol helps your body respond to stress by regulating blood pressure and the way you convert food into energy, as well as maintaining the immune system’s inflammatory response.
DHEA produces sex hormones
DHEA is also called the mother hormone because it serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen. It also helps to keep cortisol in balance – nature’s check and balance mechanism.
What causes adrenal fatigue?
Chronic stress is believed to be the primary cause of adrenal fatigue. This includes stress from a demanding job or raising a family, financial stress, emotional challenges, chronic inflammation, suboptimal nutrition, lack of sleep, low blood sugar, etc.
When you’re under stress, your adrenal glands produce greater quantities of stress hormones, both cortisol and DHEA.
When the stress is gone, the body reduces its output of both cortisol and DHEA and everything returns to normal.
However, when the stress is prolonged, the body produces increasingly greater amounts of cortisol and less DHEA, interrupting the body’s natural hormone balance.
And what’s worse is that when the stress is removed, the body sometimes doesn’t recover and bring these hormones back to their normal levels.
Moreover, when your adrenal glands are required to chronically sustain high cortisol levels, they eventually become impaired in their ability to respond appropriately.
The resulting adrenal dysfunction not only affects short-term response to stress, such as a decreased ability to manage stress, but also the adrenals’ ability to produce and balance other hormones crucial to your long-term health and well-being: DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Common Signs of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue can affect many areas of your health and wellbeing. Below are the common signs to watch for:
Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, waking up feeling tired or dragging your feet to start your day.
Ongoing fatigue not relieved by sleep and rest, especially at around 7am, 11am and 3pm.
Easily feeling overwhelmed or depressed.
4. Menstrual Cycles
5. Mental Clarity
Mental fogginess, fuzzy thinking, or poor memory.
Frequent infections, longer recovery times from illness, injury, or trauma, catching a cold easily, or autoimmune disorders.
Low sex drive.
Other symptoms may include hair loss, low blood pressure, light-headedness, intolerance to cold, or increased cravings for salty, sugary foods, or refined carbohydrates.
Do you have any signs of adrenal fatigue? My advice is always to read the signs your body tries to tell you and make the necessary adjustments to bring your life back to balance as early as possible.
Even though I try very hard to walk the walk, I do realize that I need to do a better job on this one! Here’s how I recovered from adrenal fatigue!
Adrenal Fatigue and Progesterone Deficiency
Adrenal fatigue can also cause progesterone deficiency. This happens when there’s a high demand for cortisol and the body is unable to keep up with the supply.
So it takes from cortisol’s prehormone, pregnenolone. When more of pregnenolone is used to make cortisol, less will be available to make progesterone.
Due to this reason, you’re also likely to experience signs of progesterone deficiency along with symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
For more information, read:
Chasteberry (proven to help treat low progesterone and regulate menstrual cycles in more than 60 years of clinical research, including 5 randomized trials)
Vitamin B6 (one of the best vitamins to boost progesterone)
Progesterone Cream (bio-identical hormonal support)
Reduce Estrogen Dominance
Liver Cleanse Detox and Repair Formula (support liver functions)
Dim Plus (improve estrogen metabolism)
Support Adrenal and Thyroid Functions
Adrenal Health Daily Support (promote overall hormone balance)
Thyroid Support Complex (support energy and metabolism)
Once Daily Organic Whole Food Vitamin Supplement (provide essential nutrients for health and hormone balance)
Liquid Iron (support healthy blood)
The Hormone Cure, by Dr. Sara Gottfried
Cooking for Hormone Balance, by Magdalena Wszelaki