What is Adrenal Fatigue?

I’ve been struggling with adrenal fatigue for over a year now, but when I was diagnosed with Hashimotos nearly 4 years ago, I thought that was it. I would get my meds (and get off and back on them), and feel better. I would lose weight, sleep again, and be “me.”

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

…but that didn’t happen. As you may guess, the main symptom of adrenal fatigue is, not surprisingly, fatigue. I thought that I knew a thing or two about feeling fatigued. Boy was I wrong. 

adrenal fatigue

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal Fatigue is a stress-related condition that occurs when your adrenal glands, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland are functioning below their optimal level. The problem is that it often occurs in conjunction with other conditions that have similar symptoms. 

This is not good. Your adrenals are important. They release the hormones your body needs to properly deal with to stress. That means your adrenals are in charge of some pretty big players, including cortisol, DHEA and epinephrine. Together, these hormones help regulate your heart rate, immune system, and energy storage.

If you have Adrenal Fatigue, your adrenals are not releasing the hormones your body needs correctly, so you’re more prone to an irregular heart rate rate, or you may feel stressed out or tire more easily.

The problem with Adrenal Fatigue is that it isn’t a condition that is completely understood. In fact, most people don’t even know anything is truly wrong until it’s too late and your body begins to shut down. 

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

There is a laundry list of symptoms attributed to adrenal disease. As I mentioned before, this list also coincides with issues like Hashimotos. This makes adrenal fatigue not only difficult to diagnose, but may cause issues with your other illnesses. A few adrenal fatigue symptoms that are often overlooked are:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Body fat accumulation
  • Brain fog
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Chronic fatigue
  • High or low heart rate
  • Caffeine addiction
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Cravings for things such as salty or fatty foods, alcohol, etc.
  • Dark undereye circles that do not go away with rest
  • Depression
  • Feeling “wired” and unable to relax
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Grave’s disease
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Insomnia
  • Joint and muscle pain

That’s a long list! And, just because you have a few of those symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have adrenal fatigue. Clear as mud, right?

Getting Help

If you’ve checked off a lot of the above symptoms, it’s possible that you may have adrenal fatigue. Please don’t self diagnose. Instead, please make an appointment to discuss your health with your doctor or naturopath.

Together, you’ll be able to determine if you need to have tests run so that you can confirm a diagnosis.

Make Changes

While you’re waiting for you appointment with your doctor, there are some easy things that you can do to improve the way you feel. Remember, this is not a cure-all, and it does take work. I recommend choosing just one thing that you want to work on, and then improve from there. 

Eat Better

Often times, those suffering from adrenal fatigue find themselves deficient in some important vitamins…specifically Vitamin B5 and other B and C-Vitamins. Taking a quality multivitamin can help combat this. Some of us (myself included) will find that they need to supplement with extra B Vitamins to make up the difference (I take this one). 

Ditch Bad Habits

Yes it’s tough. And yes, it sucks. But bad habits, such as caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and drug use are seriously detrimental to your adrenal health. I’m not saying you can’t have a glass of wine now and again-but it certainly should not be daily. 

Stress Less

You really do need to remove any unnecessary stress from your life, or at least work toward a more peaceful environment. To help you deal with stress you can meditate (this book is a great beginner practice that helped me learn), practice yoga, do deep breathing exercises, or try light exercise. 

I personally love my FitDesk and use it daily. It allows me to get in some movement without added stress.

And, don’t be afraid to say no to things that you don’t enjoy.

Self Care

Work on your self-care routine. No, you don’t have to go off and get a daily facial or massage (who has time for that?!), but a simple bath with some lavender epsom salts or a walk around your neighborhood to clear your head. Heck, start by just washing your face when you get home. You’ll feel so much better, I promise!

Final Thoughts

Despite having so many varied symptoms, Adrenal Fatigue is fairly easy to diagnosis if you have the right health care provider. To get an accurate diagnosis, you will have to go the lab to have your blood-work drawn more than once, in addition to taking notes of every symptom that you are experiencing. I suggest using a bullet journal to track your symptoms so that you have something to hand your doctor. 

There are several different ways to get a diagnosis for Adrenal Fatigue, but the most popular way to test for Adrenal Fatigue is by measuring the Cortisol levels in your body. Your doctor will measure them when you’re experiencing symptoms, and then re-measure them again after a determined period of time. This will let you know if your Cortisol is returning to normal after times of stress.

To do this your doctor will likely order saliva tests, so make sure to be well-hydrated. 

Being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue may seem daunting, and the treatment may not seem like any fun. I get it. But having answers to those lingering questions will help you feel a little more normal. And, as you heal, you’ll find that you are far more yourself.

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