Adrenal Fatigue is a stress-related condition that occurs when your adrenal glands, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland are functioning below their optimal level. Adrenal Fatigue is usually the result of long term physical or emotional stress, and can lead to symptoms like low energy levels and weakened immunity.
As you might expect, fatigue is one of the most common Adrenal Fatigue symptoms. However, it is far from the only one that you might experience.
What is Adrenal Fatigue and how can you recognize it? Adrenal Fatigue leads to lower levels of a number of hormones and neurotransmitters, changes that can affect every single part of your body. Every individual with Adrenal Fatigue tends to have a slightly different set of symptoms, although there are always common complaints.
You can split up Adrenal Fatigue symptoms into two sets. The most common symptoms are those that are experienced by most (if not all) Adrenal Fatigue sufferers. These include symptoms like fatigue and food cravings. Then there are the less common symptoms, which are only experienced by a smaller set of patients. These include low blood pressure and frequent urination. Typically, an individual with Adrenal Fatigue will have most or all of the main symptoms listed here, along with a handful of the less common symptoms. Take a look and see how many apply to you.
The signs and symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- High levels of fatigue each day
- Inability to handle stress
- Cravings for salty foods
- Higher energy levels in the evenings
- Overuse of stimulants like caffeine
- A weak immune system
Do any of these sound like your experience of Adrenal Fatigue? Read on to find out more about each symptom. And if you read on to the end of the page, I’ve included a list of 17 less common symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue.
Difficulty Getting Up Each Morning, Even After A Long Sleep
As we discuss in the The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, one of the major causes of Adrenal Fatigue is getting insufficient sleep. Getting more rest is therefore one of the best ways to recover. However, when suffering from Adrenal Fatigue many patients wake up extremely tired and ‘foggy’, even after getting a long sleep.
This can be caused by one of two factors. Adrenal Fatigue sufferers in the early stages of their condition tend to be under significant stress, and therefore their adrenaline and cortisol levels are high. This interrupts the natural 24-hour cycle of cortisol levels, leading to a state of alertness in the evening that prevents restful sleep.
Those Adrenal Fatigue sufferers who are at a later stage of the condition will have consistently lower levels of cortisol. However, their blood sugar will tend to be much lower during the early morning (cortisol regulates blood sugar too). Your body realizes it’s hungry and forces you to wake up. Many Adrenal Fatigue sufferers are chronic late-night snackers for exactly this reason. You can get a better night’s sleep by improving your sleep hygiene.
High Levels Of Fatigue Each Day
Do you feel that your energy levels are just at a permanently lower level than they used to be? Aging is often a factor in this, but chronic stress can be a major contributor too. If you’re one of those people who finds themselves drinking more and more coffee just to get through the day, it might be time to look at the underlying cause behind your tiredness.
In the later stages of Adrenal Fatigue, your adrenals become depleted and unable to produce enough of the hormones that you need. This means that your levels of cortisol, along with neurotransmitters like adrenaline and norepinephrine, are generally lower than they should be.
The relative lack of these crucial hormones explains how patients suffering from Adrenal Fatigue find it difficult to ‘lift’ themselves or maintain any kind of reasonable energy level throughout the day. There is one exception though (see below) – Adrenal Fatigue sufferers sometimes experience a bounce in energy in the late evening.
If you want to get your energy levels back to where they were, there are a few things that you need to do. Improving your diet will give your adrenals and HPA axis the raw materials they need to recover. Removing sources of stress from your life will eliminate one of the causes of your Adrenal Fatigue. And changing your lifestyle will have a measurable impact on your ability to handle stress.
Inability To Handle Stress
Do you find that the slightest amount of stress leaves you feeling overwhelmed? Adrenal Fatigue sufferers often have a difficult time dealing with physical or emotional stress. This is for exactly the same reasons that are behind that unrelenting feeling of tiredness. It all comes back to the low hormone levels associated with late-stage Adrenal Fatigue.
When we encounter stress we depend on our adrenals to release hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. These hormones regulate our stress response and allow us to increase our strength, focus and awareness when we need it. However, when the adrenals are fatigued they struggle to release the necessary amount of these hormones. Patients with Adrenal Fatigue often report a lack of enthusiasm, feelings of apathy or disinterest, irritability and anxiety.
Cravings For Salty Foods
A part of the adrenal glands named the cortex is responsible for producing aldosterone, a mineralocorticoid which works with the kidney to regulate our fluid and mineral excretion. When the adrenals become fatigued, we produce less aldosterone and tend to excrete large amounts of important minerals in our urine. Individuals with depleted endocrine systems often report frequent urination, which is often attributed to age but may actually be caused by depleted adrenals.
This means that Adrenal Fatigue sufferers effectively lose the ability to balance the levels of minerals like sodium, potassium and magnesium in their blood. In turn, this leads to cravings for foods which will replace the sodium that we have lost. If you find yourself suddenly craving salty snacks, you could be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue.
Higher Energy Levels In The Evenings
The lower levels of cortisol can play havoc with our energy levels throughout the day. In a healthy person, cortisol reaches its highest level early in the morning before declining gradually throughout the day. However, some Adrenal Fatigue sufferers experience spikes in cortisol in the late afternoon and evening, often leading to insomnia.
A typical progression is to find yourself tired all day, then suddenly get a bounce in your energy levels late in the evening. This tends to occur in the earlier stages of Adrenal Fatigue, when the adrenals are still capable of producing significant amounts of cortisol and adrenaline.
Overuse Of Stimulants Like Sugar And Caffeine
Are you one of those people whose day revolves around finding your next shot of caffeine? If so, you’re not alone! Millions of people rely on stimulants like coffee and sugar to lift them up when they get tired. However, there’s a big difference between drinking an occasional coffee and consuming stimulants all through the day.
The problem is that stimulants tend to lose their effect over time. As chronic stress takes its toll on your endocrine system, each cup of coffee or sugary snack gives you less of an energy boost. Caffeine can prevent you from getting a good sleep too. The more stressed and tired you become, the more stimulants you need. This vicious cycle is how many people unwittingly accelerate their decline into hormonal dysregulation and extreme fatigue.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Simply becoming more mindful of your caffeine and sugar consumption will often help to reduce it. Limit yourself to one or two coffees each day at first, then try to give it up entirely. Eat a nutritious, healthy diet, and try some of these low sugar recipes. Look for low glycemic fruits instead of sugary dried fruits or fruit juices. Learn how to improve your sleep hygiene so you won’t feel the need for those stimulants. And identify ways to work more efficiently during the day, so you take rests when needed.
A Weakened Immune System
Cortisol has an anti-inflammatory effect that helps to regulate your immune system. Inflammation is often simply a sign that your body is fighting an infection, but cortisol prevents this reaction from getting out of control. Maintaining a balanced cortisol level – not too low and not too high – is an important part of our health.
If stress is causing your cortisol levels to be elevated, this anti-inflammatory effect becomes too strong. This effectively stops your immune system from working as it should, and this weakened state can last for the duration of whatever is causing the stress. Without a properly functioning immune system, you become vulnerable to disease. Conversely, a lower level of cortisol allows your immune system to over-react to pathogens. This can lead to chronic inflammation and a number of respiratory or auto-immune diseases.
So what does this mean for Adrenal Fatigue sufferers? It depends on which stage of the condition you have reached. In the early stages, consistently high levels of cortisol suppresses your immune response and leaves you vulnerable to infection. In the later stages of Adrenal Fatigue, low levels of cortisol can lead to chronic inflammation, allergies and autoimmune diseases. Neither is a good outcome, and so your Adrenal Fatigue treatment should focus on restoring cortisol to a sustainable, balanced level.
17 More Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue
There are a large number of other complaints that are associated with Adrenal Fatigue. Many of these are linked directly to one of the more common complaints listed above. Depending on which stage of Adrenal Fatigue you have reached, you may be experiencing a handful or a large number of these symptoms.
- Asthma, allergies or respiratory complaints
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Dry skin
- Extreme tiredness an hour after exercise
- Frequent urination
- Joint pain
- Lines in your fingertips
- Loss of muscle tone
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar
- Low sex drive
- Lower back pain
- Numbness in your fingers / Poor circulation
- Weight gain
What’s The Next Step?
If you’ve looked through this list and you recognize lots of the symptoms, what’s next? Treating Adrenal Fatigue is not as simple as just taking a pill each morning. It probably took a long time to get yourself into this position, so it will take some time to recover.
To recover from Adrenal Fatigue and get your energy levels back to normal, you will need to follow a number of different strategies. If you don’t know where to start, check out The Adrenal Fatigue Solution. I wrote it with Dr. Eric Wood, and it contains everything you need to know about beating Adrenal Fatigue.
Here are a few more links to get you started:
- Improve your diet, and give your HPA Axis the support it needs.
- Try some of these adrenal-supportive recipes.
- Use techniques like meditation and deep breathing to reduce your stress levels. Meditation has lots of other benefits too!
- Consider taking some adrenal-supportive supplements.
- Get better sleep by improving your sleep hygiene.
- Check out The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, which covers all of these strategies and much, much more!