The adrenal glands and the nervous system control the “fight or flight” response. Your adrenal glands act as shock absorbers that allow you to respond to the conditions of your daily life. Adrenal fatigue happens when the stress response system breaks down, usually after periods of chronic stress. Stress can be physical, psychological, and related to nutrition and lifestyle.
Cortisol is a life sustaining adrenal hormone essential to maintain balance throughout the body. This “stress hormone” affects many functions including blood sugar levels, fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, bone and muscle health, heart health, blood pressure control, immune responses, sleep, and central nervous system activation. A cortisol level that is too high or too low is detrimental to your health. Levels of cortisol should follow your circadian rhythm for optimal function.
DHEA is the balancing hormone to cortisol. Also made by the adrenal glands, DHEA improves immune function, muscle mass, energy, vitality, sleep quality, and mental clarity. It helps provide protection against bone loss and heart attacks.
Pregnenolone is another hormone critical in the adrenal pathway. Pregnenolone aids in stress reduction, resistance to stress, improvement in mood and energy, reduction of PMS, improvement in immunity, and maintenance of memory.
There are 3 stages of Adrenal Fatigue.
Stage 1 – Alarm Phase: The early stage of adrenal fatigue. The adrenals continuously make cortisol in response to chronic stress, putting you in a constant state of “fight or flight.” Symptoms include irritability and anxiety, high levels of stress, and poor sleep, but only a little fatigue.
Stage 2 – Resistance Phase: The adrenal glands start to slow production of hormones due to their inability to recover. The DHEA and cortisol levels begin to drop. This leads to feelings of fatigue, depression, anxiety, mental exhaustion, irritability, and difficulty losing weight.
Stage 3 – Exhaustion Phase: As chronic stress continues, the adrenals reach complete exhaustion. Both cortisol and DHEA levels are depleted. Symptoms include exhaustion, extreme afternoon and evening fatigue, poor sleep, worsening of emotional issues, and increase in feelings of pain.
To further evaluate for adrenal fatigue, we must evaluate your cortisol and DHEA levels over a 24 hour period. This in depth analysis provides the information needed to best correct your adrenal function. To proceed with testing, you will need to purchase a Functional Adrenal Stress Profile kit from the office, collect 4 saliva samples over the course of 1 day at home, and mail the kit directly to the lab once completed. It is important to measure your baseline adrenal function, so be sure to stop your DHEA supplementation 3 days prior to your test. Avoid alcohol and caffeine completely, but only on the day of test. We will schedule a review of the test results about 2 – 3 weeks after your test completion to provide a thorough review of the results and treatment plan.