What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
The Adrenals are small organs that sit on top of your kidneys. They make Epinephrine, Cortisol, Progesterone, DHEA, Estrogen and Testosterone. They are the organs responsible for how your body deals with stress.
Dr. James Wilson breaks this stress reaction called Adrenal Fatigue down into 3 phases: Alarm, Resistance and final Stage of exhaustion. The 1st phase, is the Alarm phase and is accompanied by decreased body weight, increased stomach acids and risk of ulcers. The next phase of stress is Resistance where body weight returns to normal and you are slowly able to withstand the stress because your body is using all precursors to make cortisol thus DHEA is low. The last phase of ongoing stress is Exhaustion where there is a deceased ability to withstand stress, premature aging and decreased Cortisol levels.
The three phases describe people who at first have normal stresses in their lives, deal with them, and move on, allowing their adrenals to recover. In caveman times, this would correlate to fighting (or running from) a wild animal and then recovering, mentally and physically. In our current environment, stress is more continuous in nature. Work, relationship issues, commuter traffic, financial concerns are all examples. Our perception of these stressors is key. This continued and chronic stress makes it difficult for the adrenals to adapt or keep up.
Chronic stress leads to “burn out”, where we have no energy, new onset allergies, and chronic illnesses.
What does Adrenal Fatigue Feel Like?
People with adrenal fatigue wake up tired and have trouble getting started in the morning. They do well once fully awake and then have an afternoon low around 3pm. They tend to feel better again around 6pm. They crave salty foods and have low blood sugars with the onset of stress causing them to crave foods at these times. Women with adrenal fatigue often have worse PMS than their counterparts and mild depression.
What Makes Adrenal Fatigue Worse?
Any life stressor that lingers such as relationship discontent, work stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, or any perception of loss of control over a situation can worsen Adrenal Fatigue.
How do you test for Adrenal Fatigue?
Dr. Harris has a comprehensive testing screen for Adrenal Fatigue which includes:
- Cortisol levels are tested at four times throughout the day. This may be done by saliva or blood.
- A 24 hour urine is also used to measure total Cortisol.
- It is helpful to measure DHEA at the same time to test for total adrenal function.
- Comprehensive sex hormones as well as thyroid hormones are useful to assess the interdependence of sex hormones, thyroid and adrenals. Proper steroid balance and evaluation of precursor hormones gives the full picture.
- Also available is complete nutrient evaluation and screening for toxins.
How do we treat Adrenal Fatigue?
First line therapy for any problem is to try to correct the source of the problem. For this, rest, relaxation, breathing exercises and meditation are all helpful. On your own, you can ensure you have organic, healthy meals which are low on refined carbohydrates and are supplemented by omega 3 fatty acids. You can cut back on caffeine and go to sleep by 9pm to get a full 8 hours sleep.
Dr. Harris will prescribe nutritional supplements and herbal remedies to support the adrenals. If necessary, based on testing, she will replace adrenal hormones such as DHEA, cortisol, progesterone, and pregneneolone.