Why do weakened adrenals cause so many problems? What mechanisms are involved and how does this lead to so many major health issues? In this article we’ll look at some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and how low adrenal function is the cause.
Insomnia and Sleep Issues
Almost every sleep issue is an adrenal issue. At bedtime cortisol is normally low. But when cortisol is high, as can happen with adrenal fatigue, the body to go into fight/flight. The last thing you can do when in fight/flight is to sleep, so of course you can’t get to sleep.
Being able to get to sleep, but not being able to stay asleep is another sleep disturbance issue. The cause is low blood sugar waking you up, even though you may not feel hungry. Late at night, after food is digested, the blood sugar will start to drop. The adrenals, if they have the strength, release a little cortisol to keep the blood sugar steady so we can continue to sleep undisturbed. If your blood sugar is low, you will either wake up or your sleep will be restless.
With adrenal fatigue, night time cortisol levels are backwards from what is normal: high when trying to sleep and too low when sleeping.
Menopause and PMS
Menopause and PMS symptoms are quite common, but they are not normal. Both happen because of an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone.
Healthy adrenals produce hormones that are converted to some of the sex hormones, both male and female. When the adrenals start to weaken, they go into compensation for not being able to do all that is demanded of them. The first compensation is to stop producing sex hormone precursors. Sex hormones get out of balance, and symptoms ensue.
The adrenals take over production of female sex hormones when the ovaries stop. The transition is natural, and the body is designed to do this without complications. However, with adrenal fatigue the adrenals don’t do their job and the common menopause symptoms appear due to the hormone imbalance.
Depression, Anxiety Attacks and Irritability
Depression and anxiety are major problems in the US and other countries. The primary cause starts with low adrenal function which progresses to an imbalance in brain chemicals.
The endocrine system is intricately interconnected. The glands in the body all communicate with each other directly, indirectly or both. One important area of direct communication is between the hypothalamus, pituitary and the adrenal glands called the HPA axis. The hypothalamus receives emotional impute, and it tells the adrenals to produce stress hormones.
Stress, whether it is from processed foods, emotions, toxicity or some other factor, causes the adrenals to put out stress hormones. The same stress factors as well as the excess stress hormones cause the hypothalamus to tell the adrenals to put out more stress hormones. This is a major imbalance that is hard to correct without supplements and/or herbs.
The HPA imbalance will eventually affect brain chemistry because of its connection with the brain through the hypothalamus. Brain chemistry imbalances are what cause mood issues like depression, anxiety and irritability. The main imbalance involves serotonin and dopamine. This is why antidepressants are designed to increase the availability of serotonin.
Libido relates to sex drive and a lust for life. One of the groups of hormones that the adrenals produce are sex hormone precursors. As mentioned above, the adrenals go into compensation when they have too much demand put on them.
The first stage of adrenal compensation is normal: they produce sex and stress hormones in response to stress. If this happens often enough and long enough they will go into phase two compensation. That is, to keep up with the demand for stress hormones they skimp on the production of the sex hormone precursors. Without sex hormones there is little or no interest in sex.
As you can see from the above examples, adrenal stress and adrenal fatigue can be a vicious cycle. Stress causes the adrenals to put out stress hormones which creates a stress situation and even more stress hormones…It can just keep going. Avoiding the stress of processed foods, toxins and strong emotions is the first step in getting past these issues. In the next week or two I will tell you about some herbs and supplements that can help heal the situation.
I have been reading your blogs for sometime Kalidassa and am very interested in finding out what your thoughts are about my health situation. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s – am on desiccated thyroid (only 1 and 3/4 grains right now) and am still experiencing problems (I know I may need to go much higher on the desiccated, but you have to increase gradually) My main symptoms are edema (eyelid, hands, calves, ankles, feet – all of which are very uncomfortable) Sleep problems, waking with a racing heart and hotflashes, emotional, cry at the drop of a hat etc etc. (Am post menopausal, on no hormone replacement for that although the Dr wants to put me on Bioidenticals – I wanted to wait until I got further along with the desiccated thyroid, one thing at a time you know?) I am seeing a holistic MD – she has me taking Gaia Herbs Adrenal Support (did the saliva test, cortisol was screwed up) and she said if the Herbs didn’t take care of it that we would look at taking a small to medium dose of hydrocortisone for the adrenal problem. The problem is she charges $250.00 per hour and I just can’t afford that (does not take insurance) I really like her, but I can’t afford it, it’s just that simple. What do you think of the hydrocortisone as a short term solution for the adrenals? I understand that the desiccated thyroid hormone replacement may not work properly if the adrenals are still malfunctioning. Meanwhile, even though I am almost at 2 grains of desiccated thyroid replacement, I am experiencing all these very unpleasant symptoms. (I also know that 2 grains may not be enough for me while it works just fine for someone else) Thank you so much for your time.
The cortisol could be okay short term, but there are other things you might want to do first. You don’t say what test indicates Hashimoto’s, I’m assuming TSH levels which isn’t the best indicator. However, it would be a good idea for you to take some selenium if you aren’t already. 400 mcg is the max dosage unless you do something to mitigate the toxicity higher dosages cause. The enzyme that converts T4 to T3 is selenium dependent.
Another thing to try first is Licorice root, it extends the half life of cortisol. 4ml of licorice high grade that Standard Process carries is ideal.
Let me know how it goes.
I have been had problems staying asleep. Waking up with hot flashes. I do crave for dried friuts, get very tired easlily. I have very low sex drive. I have found it has been hard to contreate. I always blame the drugs I take to control the epilespy. I have faith to be believe I will beat this problem. I am 64. Could you help me please how to eat the right diet or is there a natural tablet I can take to build my sugar levels up. Thank you Marion Lacey
@Marion, Most likely it’s adrenal fatigue. The first thing is to stop all sugar including dried fruit, and all ground up grains. This is a good adrenal fatigue protocol, and there is a lot more information in my adrenal fatigue book.