The adrenal glands (also known as suprarenal glands) are two small structures located above the kidneys and responsible for the production of essential hormones related to stress. Adrenal Fatigue is a recent term that is used to describe a group of unspecific symptoms related to suboptimal functioning of the adrenal glands. The symptoms may appear as:
Low sex drive
Cravings for sweet or salty snacks
This condition is frequently observed in the modern days due to continuous exposure to daily stresses including physical, emotional and psychological stress as well as poor diet and sleep. Although adrenal fatigue seems to be common among men, it is rarely acknowledged or managed by mainstream medicine.
The outer part of the gland (cortex) secretes Cortisol (stress hormone) which initiates multiple changes in the body during stress. Stress can also cause internal changes of the body such as inflammation or changes in the immune system. During normal physiological stresses that are short in time and occur once in a while, the adrenal gland actively reacts to the stress and recovers soon. However, when chronic stresses affect the body, adrenal fatigue may occur due to continuous overload of the adrenal glands.
Cortisol is essential to the body as it is needed to maintain a balance in the body as in regulating metabolism and blood sugar level. The level of cortisol fluctuates during the day based on stress exposure arising from within or outside of your body.
Adrenal insufficiency can occur when adrenal glands produce lower amount of their hormones (a condition called Addison's disease). As a result, some symptoms and signs may occur including; fatigue, body aches, low blood pressure, skin pigmentation, and weight loss. Adrenal Fatigue can be described as a mild type of adrenal insufficiency due to chronic stress. It is assumed that adrenal fatigue may be due to the inability of adrenal glands to cope with the frequent changes in hormonal production in response to stress which can cause a hormonal disturbance.
Causes of adrenal fatigue include inadequate sleep, poor diet, nutritional or hormonal imbalance (like Low T), continuous stressful exposure, and lack of relaxation or participation in enjoyable activities.
Some tests can be useful to identify adrenal fatigue, but patient history is sufficient to start treatment. A saliva test can aid in recognizing the adrenal stress index. Cortisol sample can be
also indicated to test the body’s response to stress. Nutritional markers, Thyroid and Testosterone levels are very helpful too.
Treatment can take a long time in order to return the adrenal glands to their balanced hormonal production, but significant improvements are expected upon initiation of medications and supplements. Some herbs can be useful in this condition by acting as an adaptogen supplements such as Ashwagandha and Holy basil. In addition, people suffering from Adrenal Fatigue should change their lifestyle, try to avoid stressful events, improve diet, correct sleep problems, and practice some relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. Many individuals with hormone and nutritional imbalances or deficiencies show a quick improvement when these are resolved.