Written By Liz Oakes
Adrenal gland fatigue is a syndrome that is commonly related to feeling severe tiredness or even exhaustion, which is why this health problem is known as adrenal exhaustion when it becomes critical.
So what causes it and why is it related to stress?
Although you may see the term adrenal fatigue used in literature and on web-sites doctors do not call it by this name.
Your doctor may call it functional hypoadrenia, or if its severe he or she may diagnose you with Cushings disease, if you have the appropriate symptoms.
The causes of adrenal gland fatigue are in many cases related to chronic stress, and relate to how you live your life.
Adrenal fatigue is not a medical term, rather it is used by alternative practitioners, such naturopaths.
One of the problems is that the tests that doctors may send you for, do not adequately diagnose the problem, unless you are at a critical stage.
If you are not sure if you have adrenal fatigue there are tests that can be done to discover exactly what stage you are at. But it is more normal for it to be your symptoms that will help you to be sure that you have this problem.
There are a number of excellent books that will help you to better understand the adrenal fatigue syndrome and help you to take action to prevent it to going to the critical stage of adrenal exhaustion.
Unfortunately many of you may already have the problem, and it is only when you are diagnosed by a naturopath or alternative health practitioner that you seek more details on what to do to turn the situation around.
While it is advantageous to look at your adrenal gland fatigue symptoms to help you to understand the health problem you are suffering from, it is of value to understand how the adrenal glands work.
You have two adrenal glands which are located above each of your kidneys and weigh around five grams each, and they are each about the size of a grape.
Although they are quite small, the hormones they secrete are very important to a very large number of bodily functions.
The adrenal glands are made up of two separate sections, and these two sections have different roles and secrete different hormones.
The inner core of the adrenal gland which is also known as the medulla secretes the group of hormones called amines.
The most well known of these are norepinephrine and epinephrine, which is more commonly known as adrenaline.
These hormones increase your metabolism and help you to deal with the minute by minute stresses, as they occur.
They are the hormones that are responsible for the fight or flight hormone reaction that was designed to save the stone age man from danger, such as being attacked by a tiger.
The way that these hormones work, is to give you a surge of energy to make you able to escape from danger. These days it is more likely that a surge of this hormone will be a reaction to a stressful situation.
The outer cortex of the adrenal gland secretes different hormones that are commonly known as corticoids, the most well known of these being cortisol, which is also known as hydrocortisone.
This is an important stress hormone that is designed to help the body to keep functioning during long term periods of stress. This hormone relates to how you respond to the world you live in and the activities going on around you.
This second group of adrenal hormones are not designed to be instantly released in response to some outside influence, but are a more long term on-going response, a more lasting and permanent process.
There are three groups of specific hormones made in the outer cortex.
Cortisol is released in response to messages from your pituitary gland.
These hormones should be available to you at any time but they are really designed to change according to outside stimulus from what is happening around you on a daily basis, rather than a response to an instant of danger like adrenaline.
The way that the adrenal glands function is a process that is overseen by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, both areas of the brain that are responsible for hormonal responses.
Adrenal gland fatigue needs to be managed because the adrenal hormones are so important to how the body runs.
The adrenal glands control many important bodily functions. This includes blood pressure, blood sugar, fluid balance in the body, as well as many other important operations within the body.
The way that adrenaline is designed is like this: if you need to move fast, say run from the tiger, these adrenal hormones provide instant energy, and increase your blood pressure and heart rate to help you to run faster.
It also provides the hormones known as glucocorticoids which increase your blood sugar, to give you extra energy available to keep running from danger.
Adrenal gland fatigue is a result of too much of these hormones circulating in your blood. There are health problems caused by an excess of it circulating.
Usually it is not a one off situation that causes this, but it is more commonly caused by a lifestyle where you work long hours, don't eat a good enough diet and don't get enough sleep.
Often it may start when you are young and strong, so you live this way without knowing the long term effects.
Over some years you begin to find it harder and harder to get up in the morning.
Unaware that you have adrenal gland fatigue, you drink more coffee to keep you going, which is not helpful as this in turn makes it harder for you to sleep.
Often you begin to feel extremely tired, and as you reach a state of adrenal exhaustion you are always tired.
So why do the adrenal glands release too much of these hormones? More often than not, cortisol is released as the result of intense physical or emotional situations.
Are you aware that stress can affect your health? These days it is uncommon for it to be real danger that causes a release of adrenaline into your blood.
Even quite pleasurable exciting situations can cause the hypothalamus to react by perceiving that your body is in danger, because you are asking more from your body.
It reacts by sending messages to the adrenal glands to release more hormones into your system.
The harder you push your body to do what you want it to do, the more cortisol you need to make.
Your adrenal glands may find it harder and harder to cope with the demands of large amounts of these hormones required to keep you going.
Eventually these glands can't continue to make these hormones, which leads to adrenal gland exhaustion.
Once they reach the stage that they cannot meet the demand for these hormones, this can lead to a state of adrenal burnout when you are no longer able to cope with life.
Often this can lead to a complete collapse, where you find it hard to get out of bed, a state known as adrenal exhaustion.
There are a large number of of adrenal fatigue symptoms, and you do not need to have all of the symptoms for it to lead to adrenal exhaustion and collapse.
Some of the symptoms that flag low adrenal function are low blood pressure, low blood sugar, low body temperature and severe fatigue even exhaustion.
If you have been diagnosed with adrenal gland fatigue and have not yet reached a crisis point where you are unable to continue, you may find that you will be able to benefit by making lifestyle changes that will help you to cope better.
Look at using other natural treatments, such as meridian tapping or EFT, which is an easy natural healing method that may also benefit you.
If you have been having trouble sleeping, you might also want to look at my article on things you can do to help you sleep.
There are a number of adrenal fatigue treatment options that you can look at, including following the adrenal fatigue diet as well as using some of the adrenal fatigue treatment options.
As potassium deficiency symptoms can be related to a lack of potassium in your diet, which can cause adrenal fatigue look at adding more foods high in potassium to your diet.
Often specific adrenal fatigue supplements will contain a mixture of these herbs along with vitamin and mineral supplements.
Using some of the herbs that are adaptogens, also called adaptogenic herbs, may be beneficial. The use of herbs for stress is a good natural health approach that has been used to aid adrenal fatigue.
Specific adaptogenic herbs can be used for treating adrenal fatigue.
Specific herbs to use include codonopsis, licorice, panax ginseng, eleuthero root, rhodiola rosea root, schizandra, cordyceps, holy basil aka Tulsi, astragalus and ashwagandha.