3 min|Dr. Jam Caleda

Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue


Adrenal glands are essential to life and part of optimal functioning of the human body.

They are the essentially the master regulator of how we respond to stress overtime, and more importantly have a global effect on all the cells of our body. They are two small organs that sit atop your kidneys that secrete sex, stress, and regulatory hormones.

Each adrenal gland is composed of an outer layer called the cortex and an inner component called the medulla. The adrenal cortex secretes three main types hormones, cortisol, androgens, and aldosterone. The adrenal medulla secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Adrenal Cortex Hormones

  • Cortisol is our main regulatory hormone for our blood sugar levels, resistance to stress, and has anti-inflammatory effects. It effects all tissues of our body and if secreted in dysfunctional levels (either too high or too low) can have significant detrimental effects on us.
  • Androgens are a group of hormones that mainly include Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione. These hormones function primarily to increase testosterone levels, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and improve memory and mood.
  • Aldosterone controls blood volume and electrolyte concentration in the body. It does this by regulating how much fluid and electrolytes we retain and excrete through the kidneys.

Adrenal Medulla Hormones

  • Epinephrine and norepinephrine are also known as adrenaline. These are our fight or flight hormones. They are important because they allow to respond to stressful stimuli. They prepare our body’s to either fight or flee from situations.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical diagnosis like Cushing’s disease or Addison’s disease but more of a syndrome used to describe suboptimal secretions of the adrenal hormone glands. It is a functional diagnosis, meaning that it may drastically reduce quality of life but not be directly life threatening. It occurs when we are exposed to prolonged periods of emotional, mental, physical, or environmental stresses and can manifest as many different types of presentations.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Weight gain or inability to lose it, particularly around the waist
  • Frequent infections or other respiratory diseases with symptoms that tend to last longer than usual
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Lightheadedness when rising from a seated or lying position
  • Brain fog
  • Afternoon fatigue or sleepiness
  • Reliance on coffee to get the day started
  • Salt and/or sugar cravings
  • Low blood symptoms

Adrenal fatigue occurs when prolonged stresses from any source exceeds the body's capacity to adjust appropriately to the demands that have been placed on it by the stress. These stresses may include anger, chronic illness, long term depression, surgery, high sugar intake, over exercise, sleep deprivation, chronic or acute infections, and many more.

Naturopathic physicians are excellent functional doctors that help improve quality of life by addressing these types of syndromes. Optimal nutrition, improving lifestyle circumstances, and supplementing to support the adrenal glands have been shown to be helpful in adrenal fatigue.

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