Adrenal fatigue is thought to be one of the many health issues that can be attributed to our high-stress lifestyles.
Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can't sleep?
These symptoms can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. The adrenal glands produce hormones in response to any type of stress so that we can respond appropriately. Adrenal fatigue or “HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) Axis Dysregulation,” is a popular topic due to the ever-increasing stressors in our lives.
The adrenal glands look like walnuts that are located on top of the kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including the stress hormones, Cortisol, DHEA and Adrenaline to name a few.
Adrenaline and Cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known “adrenaline rush”. This feeling is known as your body's "fight or flight" response. The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body's normal reaction to stress. Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you to swerve your car and prevent a crash. Once the stress is removed or resolved, the fight or flight response dissipates and your body goes back to normal.
Unfortunately, for many people the stressors do not get resolved and they often become chronic. The adrenal glands do not differentiate between “types” of stress. They respond equally to all forms of stress including mental and emotional stress as well as pain, inflammation, blood sugar imbalances, environmental, digestive and toxic stress.
Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue?
Your adrenal glands can become depleted from over-secreting stress hormones on such a regular basis and dysfunction can occur. In the case of adrenal fatigue, the level of Cortisol that is produced is much less than optimal. Many symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight gain, joint pain, allergies, anxiety, sugar cravings, frequent infections such as colds and flus are signs that your adrenals are overworked. The following questionnaire will help to determine your adrenal health status.
Adrenal Health Questionnaire1
The following questionnaire will help to determine your level of adrenal fatigue.
Read each statement and decide its degree of severity based on the ranking system below.
0 = Never
1 = Occasionally (1-4 times per month)
2 = Moderate in severity and occurs moderately frequently (1-4 times per week)
3 = Intense in severity and occurs frequently (more than 4 times per week)
- I get dizzy or see spots when standing up rapidly from a sitting or lying position.
- I urinate more frequently than others and may need to get up at night.
- I feel as though I might faint or black out.
- I have chronic fatigue.
- I have mitral valve prolapse or get heart palpitations.
- I often have to force myself to keep going.
- I have difficulty getting up in the morning.
- I have low energy before the noon meal -approximately 11:00 a.m.
- I have low energy in the late afternoon between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
- I usually feel better after 6:00 p.m.
- I often feel best late at night because I get a “second wind.”
- I have trouble getting to sleep.
- I tend to wake early (approximately 3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.) and have trouble getting back to sleep.
- I have vague feelings of being generally unwell for no apparent reason.
- I get swelling in the extremities such as the ankles.
- I need to rest after times of mental, physical or emotional stress.
- I feel more tired after exercise or physical activity either soon after or the next day.
- My muscles feel weak and heavy more that I think they should.
- I have chronic tenderness in my back area near the bottom of my rib cage.
- I have a weak back and/or weak knees.
- I have restless extremities.
- I am allergic to many things such as foods, animals and pollens.
- My allergies are getting worse.
- I get bags or dark circles under my eyes which may be worse in the morning.
- I have multiple chemical sensitivities.
- I have asthma or get regular bouts of bronchitis, pneumonia or other respiratory infections.
- I have dermatographism (a white line appears on my skin if I run my fingernail over it and the line persists for one minute).
- I have an area of pale skin around my lips.
- The skin on the palms of my hands and soles of my feet tend to be red/orange in color.
- I tend to have dry skin.
- I tend to get headaches and a sore neck and shoulders.
- I am sensitive to bright light.
- I frequently feel colder than others around me.
- I have decreased tolerance to cold.
- I have Raynaud’s syndrome (extremely cold hands/feet).
- My temperature tends to be below normal when measured with a thermometer.
- My temperature tends to fluctuate during the day.
- I have low blood pressure.
- I become hungry, confused or shaky if I miss a meal.
- I crave sugar, sweets or desserts.
- I use stimulants such as tea or coffee to get started in the morning.
- I crave food high in fat and feel better with high-fat foods.
- I need caffeine (chocolate, tea, coffee, colas) to get me through the day.
- I often crave salt and/or foods high in salt such as potato chips.
- I feel worse if I eat sweets and no protein for breakfast.
- I do not eat regular meals.
- I eat fast food often.
- I am sensitive to pharmaceutical or nutritional supplements.
- I have taken steroid medications for a long term or at a high dose.
- I have symptoms that improve after I eat.
- I tend to be thin and find it difficult to put weight on.
- I have feelings of hopelessness and despair or have been diagnosed with depression.
- I lack motivation because I do not feel I have the energy to get things done.
- I have decreased tolerance toward other people and tend to get irritated by them.
- I get more than two colds per year.
- It takes me a long time to recover from illness.
- I get rashes, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis or other skin conditions.
- I have an autoimmune disease.
- I have fibromyalgia.
- I have had mononucleosis or been diagnosed with Epstein Barr virus.
- I do not exercise regularly.
- I have a history of large amounts of stress in my life.
- I tend to be perfectionist.
- My health is negatively affected by stress.
- I tend to avoid stressful situations for the sake of my health.
- I am less productive at work that I used to be.
- My ability to focus mentally is generally impaired.
- Stressful situations hinder my ability to focus.
- Stress causes me to become overly anxious.
- I startle easily.
- It can take me days or weeks to recover from a stressful event.
- I tend to get digestive disturbances when tense.
- I tend to get unexplained fears and phobias.
- My sex drive is very low or non-existent.
- My relationships at work and or home tend to be strained.
- My life contains insufficient time for fun and enjoyable activities.
- I have little control over my life and I feel “stuck.”
- I tend to get addicted easily to drugs, alcohol or foods.
- I suffer from post-traumatic distress disorder.
- I have or have had an eating disorder.
- I have gum disease and/or tooth infections or abscesses.
- I have symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)- for women only
- My periods are irregular and/or affected by stress- for women only
Under 40: Very slight or no adrenal fatigue
41-80: Mild adrenal fatigue
81-120: Moderate adrenal fatigue
Above 120: Severe adrenal fatigue
1Fundamentals of Naturopathic Endocrinology Michael Friedman, MD pg. 218-220.
The following action steps are essential for achieving optimal adrenal health and stress management:
Action Steps for Optimal Adrenal Health
- Get tested - Salivary Adrenal testing will help to determine your level of adrenal fatigue. Purchase your Adrenal Stress Kit here.
- Find an outlet for your stress - exercise, dance, art, music etc.
- Recognize your stress - learn to identify your stress before it consumes you.
- List all your stress and eliminate the stress that you can change.
- Balance your blood sugar by eating every 3-4 hours. Download one of my healthy eating menu plans here.
- Eliminate the top dietary stressors - gluten, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and dairy.
- Get adequate rest, sleep and gentle exercise - walking, stretching, swimming etc.
- Take adrenal restoring herbs like Licorice root, Ashwagandha, Relora, Rhodiola, Siberian ginseng and Schisandra - Adrenomend, Exhilarin
- Take supportive nutrients such as Vitamin B-complex, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Fish Oils and Vitamin D3.
- Take adrenal cell extracts to boost adrenal function - Cortrex, Adrenplus 300