Your adrenal glands are small glands that sit on top of your kidneys and produce vital hormones for the regulation of your body. The outer layer of the gland, called the adrenal cortex, produces three types of steroid hormones that are responsible for things like blood pressure, electrolyte balance, and metabolism and immune system suppression, as well as production of androgens which turn into sex hormones inside the gonads. In some people (5 out of every 100,00) the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones, known as Addison’s Disease. Addison’s can be deadly if not regulated with hormone injections and lead to hypovolemic shock. Tumors on the adrenal gland can also cause dysfunction and the underproduction of key hormones.
Some people believe that the adrenal glands can under-produce key hormones due to constant stress. They believe that a constant arousal of the fight-or-flight response can stress the adrenal glands and cause them to produce slightly fewer amounts of the three hormones the adrenal glands are responsible for. Adrenal insufficiency and “adrenal fatigue” share some similar symptoms.
8 Signs Of Adrenal Fatigue Most People Ignore
Chronic fatigue is actually a symptom in a number of diseases and syndromes, from fibromyalgia to depression. When you feel tired, no matter how much sleep you get or restful your time awake is, this is chronic fatigue and can be crippling. If you feel this kind of fatigue, see a doctor immediately.
2. Craving Salt and Sugar
If you crave salt or sugar a lot, you might have adrenal fatigue. Your body is a large bag of salt, water, sugar and a few other chemicals and minerals. When your body is out of balance, it will cause cravings for things like salt or sugar. As an extreme example, a man lost at sea and afloat on a life raft for months found he was craving strange things like the eyes and internal organs of the fish he caught instead of the meat. It was his body trying to replenish key minerals and vitamins that he wasn’t getting from eating the filets. Adrenal insufficiency is an imbalance of your body’s key hormones, and because the adrenal glands manage the body’s metabolism, it could cause intense cravings for salty or sugary foods.
3. Low Blood Pressure and/or Fainting
Since the adrenal glands regulate the body’s blood pressure, an insufficiency of mineralocorticoids could cause a drop in blood pressure, which could cause fainting. Anytime you have ongoing dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting spells that do not go away in a few minutes, you should see your doctor.
4. Unintentional Weight Loss
If you drop more than 5% of your normal body weight within six months, you should see your doctor for a checkup and some blood work. Weight loss is a symptom of a number of diseases and illnesses, including Addison’s disease. So if you drop weight that you didn’t intend to, get a check up just to be safe.
5. Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain that does not go away within a day should be checked out by a doctor, as it can be a symptom of a number of things. It is related to adrenal insufficiency in that the adrenal gland is producing fewer glucocorticoids, which aid in the digestion of food and the conversion of food into energy. If that tummyache stays with you for more than a day, go see a doctor.
6. Body Aches
The adrenal gland produces hormones that help regulate the body’s immune and inflammatory response. If the adrenal gland is producing an insufficient amount of hormones like glucocorticoid, it could lead to an immune response and general inflammation in the muscles and joints, similar to what you feel during the flu.
7. Nausea, Diarrhea or Vomiting
These symptoms pair with abdominal pain in that glucocoticoids regulate the conversion of food into energy. If your body isn’t getting enough of these hormones, it could cause difficulty digesting food, which could lead to nausea and vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms could also be associated with many other things, but if they persist for more than a day or two, then go see your doctor immediately, as it may be a sign of something more serious.
8. Irritability or Depression
Since adrenal insufficiency is messing with your hormone levels, it could lead to swings in mood or long-term changes in mood. So, if you feel down all the time (probably from the chronic fatigue and general malaise) or unusually grumpy (because your blood sugar is off and your body hurts), then you should get checked out by a doctor.
Adrenal insufficiency is a real disease with a number of causes and can be fatal if left untreated. While it is very rare, you should definitely get checked out by a doctor if you feel that these symptoms apply to you. Adrenal fatigue is not recognized by any medical association and is not a real disease, but is instead a collection of symptoms. The symptoms are real and should be evaluated by a licensed medical professional who can run some blood tests to rule out Addison’s Disease, as well as a host of other diseases that share some of these common symptoms.