Can You Identify the Most Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?
We receive calls at the Women to Women Health Care Clinic every day from women insisting they are in the throes of menopause. What else could be causing their inability to focus or concentrate, unexplained weight gain, constantly racing mind, anxiety and extreme irritability? They are sure menopause is the answer, and they are desperate for relief.
Yes, these symptoms look a lot like what many women experience in menopause, but simply being in this transitional phase of life isn’t at the root of the issue. Often, stress-induced adrenal imbalance is what’s really behind these upsetting symptoms. This can be hard for some women to process, especially when they think they’re handing their stress just fine.
It can be particularly alarming for a woman to notice these symptoms when she feels like she’s far too young for menopause, but she doesn’t know there’s another explanation for the symptoms she sees.
Take Carrie, for example. She was in her late twenties, and finishing up course work for a Master’s Degree in public health. She had an active social life, participated in vigorous exercise every day, and in addition to classes, she was working full time. Just a few months before she was due to graduate, she found herself unable to find the energy to get out of bed, never mind hit the gym. She had no idea what was happening to her until she learned about adrenal fatigue. Her body forced her to slow down, and when she took the necessary steps to heal her adrenal glands she was able to finish her degree, re-start her fitness program, and even pack up and move to another state to pursue her dream job. The first step in her journey to healing was recognizing the symptoms as a call for help from her adrenals.
All of the hormones in your body are interconnected, each having an impact on the others. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is commonly recognized as a “major” hormone. What that means is that cortisol may have a bigger detrimental effect on your body’s ability to balance other hormonal functions if it’s out of balance itself. So, you could be seeing signs of stress without even recognizing them.
When women come into the practice experience symptoms of both hormonal imbalance and adrenal dysfunction, I steer them towards addressing the adrenal issues first. When the adrenals have healed, other hormonal imbalances can be more easily corrected.
Three Distinct Stages: Where Do You Fall?
Like with many conditions, adrenal imbalance moves through many phases. Most women with adrenal fatigue will see themselves in one of the three primary stages, identified as “wired,” “wired and tired,” and “tired.” Adrenal imbalance progresses from one to the next until a woman finds herself too exhausted to move.
What Are the Symptoms of Adrenal “Burnout”, Better Known as Adrenal Dysfunction?
Although each stage has distinct symptoms, there is some overlap. You may be in transition from one phase to another, on your way to total dysfunction, “burnout”. Or, you might already be there, barely able to move from one room to the next without a rest. These lists will help you identify where you are on the adrenal fatigue spectrum, which is crucial in determining the best steps for supporting and bringing your adrenals back into balance for optimal functioning.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms: wired
The first stop along the continuum is the “wired” phase. Recognizing these symptoms as an adrenal issue can help prevent you from reaching the final stage of utter exhaustion. But it’s easy to miss in a world where women are conditioned to “do it all.” When it’s your norm to keep so many balls in the air, you may not notice the warning signs until some of those balls have dropped. Look for these subtle signs:
- Consuming a high quantity of calories in the evening
- Weight gain in the abdominal region
- Feeling like you are racing all day long
- High anxiety or panic attacks
- Feelings of anger, depression, or frustration
- Difficulty getting to sleep, or staying asleep
- Focus and concentration difficulty
- PMS, or problems with menstrual periods, perimenopause or menopaus
- Low libido
- Thyroid trouble
Adrenal fatigue symptoms: wired and tired
As women move into this second phase, many of the same symptoms from the “wired” profile are present. The confusing thing is that you’ll also see symptoms that almost contradict your original symptoms. This happens as your adrenal glands can’t keep up, and start producing an insufficient amount of stress hormones. In this phase you can expect to see:
- Dependence on caffeine to keep you going
- Trouble walking up in the morning
- Daytime exhaustion
- Low libido
- Weight gain
- Walking up with extreme anxiety
- Digestive problems
- Thyroid issues
- Frustration, anger or depression
- Thinning hair
- Weakened immune system
- Dizziness or low blood pressure
- Salt cravings
Adrenal fatigue symptoms: tired
If you ignore or fail to recognize all the symptoms that come before, you may find yourself in the final stage of adrenal imbalance. We call it the “tired” phase, but that doesn’t even begin to describe the level of exhaustion you are likely feeling. These symptoms include:
- An absolute lack of energy
- Unexplained weight gain that you can’t get rid of, no matter what you try
- Reliance on caffeine to function
- Insulin resistance
- Extreme cravings for salty or sugary foods, or refined carbohydrates
- Feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep
- Low libido
- Becoming overwhelmed at fairly minor challenge, responding poorly to stress
- Mild depression
- Fuzzy thinking
All of these symptoms can be incredibly difficult to deal with, but they aren’t the only issues that can arise from adrenal imbalance. Left unaddressed too long, improperly functioning adrenal glands can contribute to more serious conditions, including hypothyroidism, severe depression, and fibromyalgia.
Which of the Above Adrenal Fatigue Symptom Lists Do You Identify With?
So many women expect themselves to keep juggling all the balls and be productive and successful in every area of their lives that they might miss the signs of stress and adrenal fatigue altogether. We spend so much time reassuring the people in our lives that we’re “fine” that we almost believe it ourselves until the effects of stress take over and demonstrate clearly that we are, in fact, not fine. But you don’t have to let your stress keep building. Take the time to really look at how you are feeling, and how stress might be influencing your life. My Adrenal Health Quiz can get you started. And after you’ve identified what your adrenals might need for support, I’m here to help. My Feeling Tired Adrenal Program or Feeling Wired Adrenal Program can provide you with the specific supplemental support you need to get you back on track and on with your life!