90-95% of patients have some degree of adrenal dysfunction. We can't live without adrenals and we can't live very well when the adrenals are depleted.
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Adrenal fatigue is adrenal depletion. The adrenal glands secrete hormones such as cortisol, DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone that are essential to health and vitality and significantly affect total body function. After mid-life, the adrenal glands gradually produce less and become the major endogenous source of sex hormones in both men and women. Intense or prolonged physical or emotional stress commonly associated with modern lifestyles or chronic illness can lead to adrenal fatigue, which is an important contributing factor in health conditions ranging from obesity to allergies.
Common symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue are:
- mild depression
- decreased ability to handle stress
- muscular weakness
- decreased libido
- swollen ankles, worse in PM
- syncope or lightheadedness when rising rapidly (orthostatic hypotention)
- chronic fatigue
- frequent sighing
- immune dysfunction
- cravings for salt and salty foods
- High concentrations of abdominal fat.
80% of patients with adrenal dysfunction have thyroid dysfunction and vice versa, tired all day or some increase in energy as the day progresses, can’t lose weight with diet and exercise. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant adrenal hormones like cortisol help to minimize allergic and other negative reactions, such as auto-immune disorders. These hormones closely affect the utilization of carbohydrates and fats. They also promote the conversion of proteins and fats into energy, and gastrointestinal and cardiovascular function. Proper adrenal support is essential to complete the hormonal pathway to optimal health, and includes getting plenty of sleep, proper nutrition, stress management, regular moderate exercise, slowing down to regain proper perspective on life, and replacement of deficient hormones.
The goal of both Regenerative and Anti-Aging Medicine is to optimize both longevity and to enhance the quality of life.
Adrenal insufficiency is very common in patients with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia syndromes and is often the cause of a serious fatigue. A sophisticated test is required for accurate diagnosis. Proper supplementation can often have profound positive effects. However if only the adrenal deficiency is treated without addressing deficiencies of other hormones, results will be disappointing. And, if poor adrenal function is undiagnosed, it can mean the difference between treatment success and failure. Adrenal function can influence both.
Cortisol and DHEA influence:
- anti-inflammatory response
- resistance to stress
- thyroid function
Changing the amounts of cortisol and DHEA can profoundly affect:
- energy levels
- resistance to disease
- emotional states
- general sense of well-being
Many of the cortisol’s physiological actions are geared toward the mobilization of reserves. Cortisol is released in large amounts in response to physical, physiological, and/or psychological stress. When stressors persist, the secretion of these substances can be prolonged, leading to maladaptation of the adrenals. Excess cortisol can adversely affect:
- bone and muscle tissue
- cardiovascular function
- thyroid function
- immune system
- glucose regulation
- weight control
DHEA, in contrast to cortisol, exerts mostly anabolic actions and balances the body’s stress response. DHEA mostly functions in order to:
- provide substrate for the synthesis of sex hormones
- guard against degenerative conditions associated with aging
- affect insulin sensitivity, protein synthesis, thyroid function, and others
Imbalances of DHEA have been associated with:
- depression and anxiety
- low mood
- poor erections
- poor resistance to stress
- poor resistance to noise
- joint pains
- dry, droopy hair
- dry skin
- muscle atrophy
- dry eyes
- poor armpit and pubic hair
- impaired immunity
- Alzheimer’s disease
- insulin resistance (diabetes)
- low sex drive (libido)
- panic disorder
- cardiovascular disease
The adrenals are two small glands that are located above the kidneys. Cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline are the three main adrenal stress hormones. The human adrenal gland does not secrete its steroid hormones at a constant level throughout the day. The hormones are released in a cycle with a highest value in the morning and the lowest value at night. This 24-hour cycle is called the circadian rhythm.
An abnormal rhythm can influence many functions of the body, like:
- energy production (abnormal adrenal function can alter the ability of cells to produce energy for activities of daily living; people who have hard time rising in the morning, or who suffer from a low energy level during the day, often have abnormal adrenal rhythms and poor blood sugar regulation; this test measures stress hormones and insulin, that may be responsible for food cravings, obesity and fatigue)
- immune health (the immune system trafficking follows the cortisol cycle; so if the cycle is disrupted, especially at night, then the immune system is adversely affected; short and long-term stress is known to suppress the immune response on the surfaces of our body as in lungs, throat, urinary and intestinal tracts, reducing the natural resistance to infection and allergies)
- thyroid function (cortisol controls thyroid hormone production; often symptoms such as fatigue and low body temperature are due to adrenal maladaptation)
- muscle and joint function (abnormal adrenal rhythms compromise tissue healing; reduced tissue repair and increased tissue breakdown can lead to chronic pain or discomfort)
- bone health (the adrenal rhythm determines the bone build up; if the night cortisol level is elevated and the morning level is abnormal, our bones get osteoporotic; stress is the enemy of the bones; in postmenopausal women, the effect of stress worsens due to the female hormone imbalances)
- skin regeneration (human skin regenerates mostly during the night, so that normal cortisol rhythm is essential for skin health)
- sleep quality (the ability to enter regenerative sleep is interrupted by high cortisol values at night and in the morning causing reduction of the mental vitality and vigor inducing depression)
Customized treatment and preventive measures may include diet and lifestyle changes, hormones, supplements and vitamins. With blood or urine testing, a number of borderline adrenal conditions are missed due to the lack of sufficient sensitivity.
The adrenal stress test should be performed for individuals that suffer from:
- chronic stress and hence related health problems
- low body temperature
- migraine headaches
- poor memory
- sleep problems
- muscle and joint pain
- low resistance to infection
- low allergy threshold
- hypoglycemic episodes
- stress maladaptation
- lack of vitality and energy
- low sex drive
- alcohol intolerance
With this valuable tool, assessing chronic complaints takes on a new dimension and allows a very targeted therapeutic approach. People in today’s society tend to lead hectic, unbalanced lifestyles. Commonly, individuals experience continuous stress, not only from emotional stressors (e.g. martial, financial, and occupational) but also from physical stressors (e.g. sleep deprivation, caffeine consumption, pain, extreme exercise) without adequate recovery. Chronic exposure to these stressors often causes elevations in adrenal hormone levels, leading to disorders ranging from anxiety to infertility. While many individuals are able to cope, the adrenal glands may over time, start to have an impaired response to stressors, which in turn reduces adrenal hormone output. The resulting adrenal insufficiency, also known as „adrenal burnout” or „adrenal fatigue”, may present with a constellation of symptoms from chronic fatigue to allergies. While everyone is potentially at risk, the problem is more prevalent in people with high stress professions ( e.g. medical professionals, police officers, executives and teachers).
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- morning and/or evening fatigue
- poor recovery from exercise
- chemical sensitivities
- „burned out” feeling
- depressed mood
- lower attention span
Social effects of an ongoing stressor:
- procrastination, avoiding important work and home responsibilities
- lack of concern for others and resulting deterioration in relationships
- reduced effectiveness in communication, including an inability to listen to others
- emotional hypersensitivity with a tendency to overreact to others, or feelings of isolation and alienation with a tendency to toward suppression of feelings and even withdrawal
- loss of control, quick temper, aggression
- increased risk-taking behavior including gambling
- increased drug use and abuse
Mental effects of an ongoing stressor:
- mental fatigue with a loss of spontaneity and creativity
- confusion, including forgetfulness and difficulty in making decisions
- anxiety, including feelings of panic
- tension, frustration, irritability, anger, and resentment
- lower self-worth
- lower intellectual functioning
Physical effects of a sudden stressor:
- increased blood pressure
- increased heart rate
- increased heart contraction
- increased blood flow to the muscles
- decreased blood flow to the areas not needed for rapid activity such as muscles, kidneys and intestines
- dilated pupils
- dilated bronchial tubes
- increased muscular strength
- release glucose from liver
- increased mental activity
- increased metabolic rate
Stress related illnesses:
- cardiovascular diseases
- angina pectoris
- diabetes mellitus
- rheumatoid arthritis
- muscle related conditions (e.g. tension headaches, body aches and pains)
- allergies (asthma, hives, hay fever)
- frequent common colds
- skin rashes
- loss of hair
- graying of hair
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