Why Choose Functional Medicine for Adrenal Fatigue Recovery?
If you’re like 76% of Americans, you are feeling not only stress but also the negative health impacts of it. Vague symptoms including fatigue, headaches, and anxiety plague those suffering from extreme stress. Some stress levels are normal and healthy, but your body isn’t designed to battle this repeatedly. Adrenal fatigue results from your body losing this fight. Many don’t recognize the need for adrenal fatigue recovery until it’s too late.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Your adrenal glands are two small organs sitting above your kidneys. They are an essential part of your endocrine system and produce more than 50 hormones vital to your overall well-being.
Your adrenal glands are responsible for the “fight or flight” response experienced during stress. When facing pressure, your adrenals release cortisol and other hormones to dampen body processes that aren’t necessary for immediate survival, including your immune and digestive systems.
You lose your appetite or experience colds and other infections more frequently when stressed. That’s because your adrenal glands are responding to your situation. If your stress is short-lived, your body responds appropriately, and all normal functions resume.
But when your adrenals lose their ability to switch off or produce enough stress-fighting chemicals, you experience adrenal fatigue. A reduction of DHEA complicates the situation. DHEA is often called the “parent hormone” because it creates many hormones your body needs to function correctly.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is caused by repeated emotional stress, such as fights with co-workers, and prolonged stress following events such as a divorce, the death of a loved one, or a move.
Physical stressors can cause the condition, such as lack of sleep, food sensitivities, poor diet, chronic health conditions, or autoimmune disorders.
Adrenal Insufficiency versus Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal insufficiency and adrenal fatigue are related but not quite the same.
Digestive issues, sweating, blood sugar disruptions, and headaches mark adrenal insufficiency. There are three types of adrenal insufficiency:
- Primary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and unable to produce enough cortisol (Addison’s disease).
- Secondary adrenal insufficiency is a physical problem within the pituitary gland.
- Tertiary adrenal insufficiency begins in the hypothalamus.
Treatments for adrenal insufficiency require replacing the hormones that your body cannot produce naturally.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenals are overworked and can no longer produce enough cortisol to maintain healthy anti-stress levels. This condition evolves, worsening to the point that it affects your entire body’s interwoven network of systems.
Adrenal Fatigue Recovery: Recognizing Stages of Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue recovery requires first recognizing when your adrenals are out of balance. Instead of happening overnight, it evolves throughout four stages, each progressively harder to ignore.
Stage 1: Fight or Flight Alarm
During stage 1, your body responds appropriately. You continue to function but may notice you feel slightly more tired than usual. You turn to stimulants such as caffeine or high-carb/high-sugar foods to boost your energy. Still, other than feeling a bit tired and a little irritable, you don’t see significant change in your productivity or overall well-being.
At this point, your adrenal glands are still working correctly.
Stage 2: Resistance
At this stage, your adrenals continue to function somewhat normally but are beginning to struggle to keep up with your stress. You notice you are noticeably more tired and suffer sleep disturbances such as insomnia or frequent nighttime awakenings. You are more susceptible to colds and other infections and begin feeling anxious or depressed.
While your symptoms are somewhat vague, you feel something isn’t right.
Stage 3: Adrenal Exhaustion
During stage 3 of adrenal fatigue, your body has entered survival mode and slowed down all processes deemed unnecessary for immediate survival. Digestion is affected, toxins back up within the body, reproductive issues arise, and weight gain occurs.
You feel markedly exhausted and experience extreme brain fog, severe depression and anxiety, flare-ups of chronic conditions, and systemic failures marked by high blood pressure, blood sugar issues, constipation, and other digestive issues. You can no longer deny that something is negatively impacting your health.
During stage 3, many people cannot get out of bed and function. Energy levels are short-lived and quickly depleted. You can no longer deny that something is negatively impacting your health.
It’s vital to seek adrenal fatigue recovery treatment before your condition worsens.
Stage 4: Adrenal Failure
If adrenal fatigue recovery treatment hasn’t occurred before stage 4, the condition worsens to a life-threatening crisis. Your adrenal glands are no longer functioning effectively, and many serious health complications, including cardiovascular collapse, arise.
Signs that you have reached stage 4 include
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Low blood pressure
- Severe pain in the legs, lower back, or abdomen
Eventually, stage 4 can lead to loss of consciousness, coma, and even death. The signs of adrenal failure are similar to those seen in an Addisonian crisis and indicate a medical emergency needing immediate intervention.
Is It Adrenal Fatigue?
In the beginning, it’s easy to ignore your symptoms. You recognize you’re stressed, but you can still cope. As the condition progresses, symptoms become harder to fix on your own. You may not realize your symptoms are your body’s deteriorating ability to respond to daily stress.
Some signs that you need adrenal fatigue recovery include
- Aches and pains
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Thinning hair
- Weight fluctuations
- Low blood pressure
- Sleep disturbances
- Nervousness, anxiety, depression
- Digestive issues
- Reliance on stimulants such as caffeine and sugar
- Feeling “wired and tired”
- Reproductive disorders
Conventional medicine may not recognize adrenal fatigue as the cause of your symptoms because the signs are vague. Your symptoms are diagnosed as other conditions, such as depression, menopause, or thyroid issues.
Even worse, conventional doctors may look at your symptoms and decide they are “all in your head,” a term known as medical gaslighting.
The Functional Medicine Approach to Adrenal Fatigue Recovery
A functional medicine doctor knows this disorder’s early stages and understands that recovery is far more accessible when caught early.
The need for adrenal fatigue recovery isn’t commonly diagnosed and is uncovered only through thorough testing, including extensive bloodwork and imaging. These tests are performed to rule out other conditions before confirming adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue isn’t a standalone condition, and uncovering the root cause of your condition is essential to your diagnosis.
It’s important to remember that you didn’t get here overnight, and experiencing full adrenal fatigue recovery won’t happen overnight either. Each person’s journey back to balance is different based on many factors, including environment, genetics, stress levels, and lifestyle.
Adrenal fatigue recovery can take weeks, months, or years, depending on when you seek treatment. That’s why the earlier your diagnosis, the better it will be for your recovery.
Five Journeys Specializes in Adrenal Fatigue Recovery
It’s possible to beat stress and feel better. Five Journeys, your premier functional medicine practice in Boston, understands the importance of uncovering the causes of adrenal fatigue and getting you started on your path to complete adrenal fatigue recovery.
Did you know that one call can change your life? Find out how to stop “coping” with stress and get started on your path back to wellness. Contact us for more information.