If you constantly feel run down and can’t seem to find that extra step, you may have what some experts call adrenal fatigue syndrome. Not to be confused with adrenal deficiency syndrome, which is a medically proven condition, the fatigue syndrome can be brought on by prolonged stress and other factors.
However, while medical professionals still debate the existence of adrenal fatigue, it has a name that might already have you thinking that you’ve got some of the associated symptoms. Luckily, there are also some ways to treat those symptoms. Here are 12 signs your adrenal glands, which are located atop your kidneys, may need some assistance…
1. You Feel Excessively Tired
We all have our bouts of being worn out, but adrenal fatigue syndrome (we’ll call it AFS for the purposes of this article) can leave you feeling tired even when you haven’t done anything that requires energy, according to AdrenalFatigue.org.
Being in a constant state of tiredness can make a person feel run down and in desperate need of a nap. You might have trouble getting up in the morning, even after a sufficient sleep. This excessive tiredness will also make small or mundane tasks feel overwhelmingly large because you just don’t seem to have the energy.
2. You Crave Salt
According to LiveStrong, craving salty snacks could be a warning sign from your adrenal glands that they’re tapped out. However, salt can actually be helpful in healing the overworked glands and curbing the symptoms, according to the source.
The reason for salt cravings is low sodium and aldosterone (a steroid hormone) levels in your body, noted LiveStrong. It recommends adding up to a teaspoon of salt of filtered water in the morning to give your system a kickstart.
3. You Get Energetic in the Evening
Those with adrenal fatigue tend to feel more awake in the evening hours, after 6 p.m. The Association of Women for the Advancement of Research and Education (AWARE) explains that there’s an energy pattern with AFS—namely very fatigued in the morning, with more alertness around lunch and a lull in the afternoon.
That’s because there’s a lull in cortisol (stress hormone) production in people with AFS, with a gradual recovery in the evening with another “wall” of fatigue around 9 p.m. The website notes that people with this condition tend to do their best work in the evening.
4. You Feel Dizzy Standing Up
This is a lesser symptom of AFS, but those with the syndrome can feel light-headed just by standing up too fast. You may also experience a loss of balance when standing or walking.
This might be attributed to low blood pressure when returning to a standing position, according to experts. Your blood pressure is supposed to rise when you’re upright; if this doesn’t happen it could mean your adrenal glands are overtaxed.
5. Lack of Tolerance for Stress
Since one of the causes of AFS is prolonged stress, it makes sense that more stress can prove too much for your adrenal glands, which manage your fight-or-flight responses to situations. This could mean it’s more difficult to face daily stresses such as the workplace.
AdrenalFatigue.org suggests that long periods of high cortisol from stress can be followed by a dip in cortisol due to overstimulation, making your body less prepared to deal with stress. This can lead to “burnout” that can decrease your overall tolerance to life events, which can then lead to being withdrawn socially. Adjustments to lifestyle can help you recover, said the source.
6. You Get Sick Easily
Since the stress hormone cortisol is also a natural anti-inflammatory, having an adrenal system that is working overtime can actually raise those cortisol levels too high and block your immune responses, according to AdrenalFatigueSolution.com.
Conversely, if your cortisol levels drop too low, you can also be prone to overreact to pathogens and end up with inflammation or even auto-immune diseases, said the source. You tend to have overly high levels of cortisol early in AFS, and lower levels as the condition drags on.
7. Brain Fog
It shouldn’t be all that surprising that someone who feels excessively tired, isn’t sleeping well, or is incredibly stressed is also probably not performing their best in terms of mental capacity! Adrenal fatigue syndrome creates a feeling that’s described as “brain fog” which mainly affects a person’s memory. It makes it hard for that person to retain and recall information. It can affect their work, school, or even just everyday life.
MindBodyGreen.com says that someone experiencing brain fog due to adrenal fatigue syndrome will begin to forget even the most basic things and will constantly be in a state of confusion which will lead to a decrease in their productivity or even a potentially serious accident.
8. Decreased Sex Drive
A person’s sex drive can be affected by a lot of different things, lack of sleep, stress, hormones, etc. These things can either increase or decrease it and it’s normal for someone to go through different phases or changes on a quite frequent basis. One of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome is a decreased sex drive. According to MindBodyGreen.com it’s because the body is lacking the proper nourishment it needs to be healthy and it hasn’t been able to rest and restore. This is probably due to some of the other symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome like lack of sleep. tolerance for stress, and overuse of stimulants like caffeine. “Stimulants flush away vital minerals necessary for libido, and you’ll need to adopt a nutrient-dense diet to replace them,” says the source.
9. Dark Circles Under the Eyes
We’ve all been there before. Crawl out of bed super early in the morning, still feeling half asleep and no amount of make-up or coffee can hide those dark circles under your eyes. Dark circles under the eyes after a lack of sleep is normal, but for people with adrenal fatigue syndrome can develop them due to “stressors like fatigue, emotional stress, or dehydration (which is tough on the body) disrupt healthy circulation — and that shows through your thin under-eye skin,” writes Well + Good who discussed the topic with Sandra Chiu, a Brooklyn acupuncturist, skin expert, and the founder of Treatment by Lanshin.
Keep a close eye on those dark circles. Chiu notes that if they appear to be sunken or hollowed-out it could mean there’s a bigger problem. Dark circles like that could indicate a problem with the kidneys which requires a trip to the doctor. Her tip for improving and treating these circles? “Do less, and be still more,” says Chiu to Well + Good.
10. Your Cycle is All Out of Whack
This one is more directed toward the ladies, but it can occur in men as well when talking about the thyroid. After talking to Alisa Vitti, the founder of hormone-regulating practice Flo Living and author of WomanCode, Well + Good explains that adrenal fatigue syndrome can affect a person’s thyroid and menstrual cycle. It is all due to the endocrine system which contains the adrenal glands. Vitti says the endocrine system of someone with adrenal fatigue syndrome is facing “unprecedented exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” To back this claim up, Vitti cites a recent study which “showed women put 515 chemicals in their body every day.”
Vitti advises treating a hormonal imbalance with lifestyle changes like eating healthier, stress relief tactics, and more sleep. “You can’t spot-treat your hormones. We’re so accustomed to that in Western medicine — penicillin for an infection, ibuprofen for a headache.” You can change a hormonal balance by re-evaluating your life and taking a closer look at what chemicals you’re putting in your body on a daily basis.
11. Inability to Sleep
Earlier in this article we talked about how someone with adrenal fatigue syndrome experiences a boost in energy in the evenings, they’ll also have trouble falling asleep. Basically their entire sleep schedule will be all out of whack. Well + Good talked to California-based acupuncturist Neka Pasquale, founder of Urban Remedy who said: “In a perfect world, we would get a great night’s sleep every night, wake up feeling refreshed, and move throughout the day with tons of energy.” This is likely due to the fact that most people with this syndrome have hormone levels that are all out of whack. They spend most of their day bouncing around from thing to thing, never getting rest and living in a state of constant stress. This is what makes it hard for them to fall or stay asleep.
The solution that Pasquale provides is to go to sleep before 10 p.m. Yes, we understand that it’s probably going to feel ineffective since you’re having trouble going to sleep, but even if you don’t fall asleep right away or aren’t tired, “lying in bed in a dark room will start your melatonin production, which can help you get into a healthy sleep rhythm.”
12. Digestive Issues
You might be surprised to learn how in tune our gut is with our overall health. You can learn a lot about the state of a person’s health by what their digestive system is doing. “If your body isn’t getting what it needs, or if you’re eating in a way that creates drastic blood sugar fluctuations, it’s ‘punishing to the adrenals,'” writes Well + Good after talking with Sandra Chiu. The digestive system is greatly affected by the food we choose to eat which for someone with adrenal fatigue syndrome, they’ll crave more salty foods. Also, stress can create stomach issues which all lead to bloating, swelling and overall poor digestion.
Chiu tells Well + Good that patients with adrenal fatigue should “cut out processed foods, refined sugar, refined wheat, and gluten products.” Replace all of these foods with more nutritional, well-rounded products like fruits, vegetables, and good fats.