Stages of Adrenal Fatigue
Health practitioners including functional medicine practitioners have outlined three stages of adrenal fatigue syndrome. At each of these adrenal fatigue stages, we often see an increase in severity of symptoms. During the various stages, we also begin to notice a change in not only neurotransmitter levels but also a decline or imbalance in other hormone levels.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue
Over 1 million people in the United States suffer from extreme cases of chronic fatigue your not alone in how you feel and you should also know that you don’t need to suffer, there are solutions to adrenal fatigue.
The symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue make you feel like you are falling off a cliff. You are tired, completely worn out, struggle just to make it through the day. Today we tackle the different stages of adrenal fatigue and the different symptoms you may be experiencing in each stage.
Why Adrenal Fatigue is Often Missed.
Early on, adrenal imbalance/fatigue can be easily missed or attributed to other causes. For older women, the symptoms may be chalked up to menopause. But trouble sleeping, racing minds, anxiety, irritability, depression, brain fog or scattered thought processes and weight gain are often the result of adrenal imbalance and adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal imbalance and fatigue occurs in response to chronic stress. Often, even those who feel they are adequately managing stress are affected because the effects will show up in ways that seem unrelated. Managing to accomplish the tasks of everyday life is different than managing your stress and your body’s response to it.
In addition to adrenal imbalance, many women are often experiencing other hormonal imbalances. Some woman may develop declining levels of estrogen, others may notice an increase or decrease in testosterone and some woman go on to develop estrogen dominance. Its also not uncommon to see problems with blood sugar levels.
What Stage of Adrenal Fatigue Do You Think You Are In?
When we talk about adrenal fatigue and the stages of adrenal fatigue, understanding the amount of cortisol produced over the course of 24 is essential. A blood draw where cortisol is only drawn in the morning is not sufficient to identify this.
The effects of stress show up in ways you may not suspect. Correcting the adrenal fatigue first will often rebalance the other hormonal issues or allow those issues to be corrected more easily. Most women can identify themselves in one of the three adrenal stages:
- Tired and Wired at same time
- Chronically Tired and run down- Feeling burnt out.
If not corrected, you can move through the stages until you reach adrenal exhaustion. Let’s take a look at each stage and see if you can identify yourself in one of these.
Stage One Of Adrenal Fatigue “Wired”
It can be difficult for many to acknowledge that there is a problem because you are still very productive. During stage 1, you may experience fatigue, but this should be fairly mild, usually occurring in the morning and sometime midafternoon. You are responding to your stressors with a near constant flow of stress hormones so you are always ready to go, to meet the next challenge.
Most people in stage one adrenal fatigue often are energy shot, caffeine and sugar junkies. They often use these as a crutch and these routine morning rituals have become a “normal” part of daily life. If you are someone who relies on coffee, energy drinks or a soda in the morning to kick start your day, you already suffer from adrenal fatigue without knowing it.
Symptoms of Stage One Adrenal Fatigue- Alarm/Alert Phase
- Mild fatigue that comes and goes
- Mild Brain Fog/Focus and concentration
- Dependence on Caffeine, energy Drinks or Soda to get started or keep going
- Mild Anxiety
Stage Two Of Adrenal Fatigue “Feeling Wired and Tired”
During this phase, while you can still carry out most of your day to day routine and schedule, your fatigue really kicks in by late afternoon or by the end of the day. You will also likely feel like your body requires more rest than usual to recover. Exercise intolerance is present and you depend on caffeine, and sugar go keep going. Despite having a full night’s rest, you never feel quite refreshed in the morning. Many of my patients will tell me they wake up feeling just as tired in the morning as they were when they went to bed.
A common feeling during this phase is “wired but tired”, where you can maintain alertness during most of the day but crash hard in the evening. That said, you’ll also be more susceptible to anxiety and insomnia, as it will be harder to fall asleep and your quality of sleep will decrease. Because of this, it’s easy to develop an unhealthy reliance on coffee and other stimulants.
Symptoms of Stage Two Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
- Difficulty waking up
- Exhaustion by midafternoon and evening
- Caffeine reliance and dependency
- Night waking with heart racing anxiety
- Continued weight gain
- Digestive difficulties
- Thinning hair
- Low blood pressure,
- Salt cravings
- Decreased resistance to illness
Stage 3 of Adrenal Fatigue- Overwhelmed and Exhausted
During stage 3 of adrenal fatigue, you begin to experience problems with blood sugar which leads to a further inability to handle and mount a proper response to stress. In this stage we also see the signs of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. This is sometimes referred to as “adrenal crash” or “adrenal burnout”. Symptoms will typically interfere with day-to-day activities and will drive the individual to seek professional help and/or medical treatment.
In this stage we also see low levels of cortisol throughout the day and depressed levels of DHEA on a 24 hour Salivary Cortisol Test. At this stage, we also see the effect that cortisol levels have on the development of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism, depression, Insomnia and many other chronic conditions.
Symptoms of Stage Three Adrenal Fatigue
- Feeling exhausted even after a full night’s sleep
- Complete lack of energy
- Intense cravings for salty and sugary foods or processed (refined carbohydrate) foods
- Caffeine dependence
- Continued weight gain that is hard to lose
- Insulin resistance
- Ineffective response to stress
- Persistent depression
- Continued low libido
Do you recognize yourself in any of these stages? Are any of these symptoms affecting your life?
Many of us, especially women, are so committed to being productive that we may not recognize or be willing to acknowledge that there is a problem until it is significantly impacting our lives.
If you feel the effects of stress are beginning to impact your life, Find out about our Stress and Anxiety Recovery Program! Don’t wait until the exhaustion takes you over.
Adrenal Fatigue Testing and Consult
A Great place to start If you have Adrenal Fatigue Is Our Adrenal Fatigue Testing and Consult. Testing can provide many answers as to why you continue struggling with fatigue, anxiety, sleeping problems, chronic pain and Brain Fog. Our office utilizes nutritional supplements, Dietary modifications, Nutritional Counseling, Hormone and endocrine support formula, Dietary assessment, and lifestyle guidance.
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Common Adrenal Adaptogens That Help Chronic Fatigue and Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Adaptogens are herbs that actually adapt to the individual needs of your body, providing the additional essential support your adrenals need.
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- Eleuthero / Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
- Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus)
- Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
- Rhodiola rosea
- Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Omega 3