There are so many daily stressors that send our adrenal glands a message to produce stress hormones. A wide range of physical and psychological demands like a stressful job, family responsibilities, relationship dynamics, lack of sleep, financial concerns, dieting, and emotional distress trigger our adrenals to provide relatively small blasts of strength in the form of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. From waking us up with a little burst of energy in the morning, to keeping us awake, alert, and focused throughout the rest of the day, our adrenals are crucial to our health.
When our adrenal glands are constantly required to sustain high cortisol levels, they eventually become impaired in their ability to respond appropriately. The resulting dysfunction not only affects our short-term response to stress, but it also impairs our adrenals’ ability to produce and balance other hormones – DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone – which are important to our long-term health and well-being.
Symptoms of adrenal imbalance — an “aggravating pattern”
Symptoms are your body’s way of informing you that it’s not receiving the support it needs. While none of these issues have a direct causal relationship with adrenal dysfunction by themselves, a distinct “aggravating pattern” emerges when all these factors are taken into consideration. See if you recognize these tendencies in yourself.
Symptoms to look for:
- Blood pressure: High or low blood pressure is an indication that something isn’t right. Low blood pressure can often have the symptom of lightheadedness associated with it.
- Food cravings and weight changes: Changes in cravings and/or your weight can signal a problem. This particularly includes abnormal weight gain in the abdomen and thighs, and cravings for salty or sugary foods that sometimes feel uncontrollable.
- Energy: Are you unable to stop, always on speed forward? Or do you have ongoing fatigue, lack of stamina, and feel “tired and wired” much of the time? Do you lack “get up and go?” If your energy levels are all over the place, it’s time to pay attention.
- Emotions and coping ability: Emotional challenges might include an inability to deal with day to day stress, feeling overwhelmed much of the time, struggling to get through the day, being too driven, having a very “short fuse,” anxiety attacks, and/or an inability to reframe your thinking.
- Thinking: Intellectual signs to watch out for include being mentally foggy, having fuzzy thinking, an inability to stay focused on one task, and chronic racing thoughts.
- Immune response: Is your body fighting off frequent infections? Does it take you longer than others to recover from illness, infections, or trauma? Compromised immune function can signify an issue with your adrenal glands.
- Sleep: Sleep issues may include an inability to fall asleep, falling asleep easily but waking up nightly, and sleeping soundly but waking up exhausted.
- Hormones/Libido: You may notice hormonal difficulties such as worsening of perimenopausal symptoms, low libido, or severe PMS.
While these issues can indicate adrenal dysfunction, it’s important to note that there are many other conditions that exhibit the same symptoms. You can’t assume that adrenal imbalance is the root cause, but you shouldn’t ignore the possibility.
Adrenal imbalance can, however, be a contributing factor in a wide range of medical conditions, many of which may seem unrelated, including the following:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Depression and anxiety
- IBS or chronic digestive problems
- Premature menopause
- Chronic anxiety
- Rage attacks
And there are many health conditions, as well as the drugs used to treat them, which can predispose an individual toward adrenal insufficiency.
The great news is, when addressed early and with proper support, you can heal adrenal imbalances and reverse the toxic effects of chronic stress. To learn more, see our articles on the natural approach to adrenal health.
Click here to take our Adrenal Health Quiz to check your symptoms.