By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE
Adrenal Fatigue can impair quality of life
In our Women’s Health Clinic, some of the most common complaints of our patients include adrenal fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, and depression.
We encourage these women to complete a hormone kit which screens their cortisol levels. Since Hurricane Katrina, 99% suffer impaired function, ranging from significant adrenal stress to complete adrenal exhaustion.
The effects of adrenal dysfunction can be intense including fatigue, weakness, suppression of immune function, muscle and bone loss, moodiness, depression, anxiety, insomnia, hormonal imbalance, skin problems, autoimmune disorders, and dozens of other signs & symptoms.
The adrenal glands are walnut-sized glands located on top of each kidney, and are important control centers for many of the body’s hormones. These glands produce hormones including cortisol, DHEA, estrogen and testosterone. They also produce adrenalin the “fight or flight” hormone so that you can run from a fire.
In our world today, we live with constant stress which ultimately takes its toll on our body. Instead of occasional, acute demands followed by rest, we’re constantly over-worked, under-nourished, victims of excessive worry, etc. This cumulative effect takes its toll on your adrenal glands.
Sustained high cortisol levels destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing and normal cell regeneration, impair digestion, metabolism and mental function, interfere with healthy endocrine function and weaken your immune system.
Adrenal fatigue may be a factor in many related conditions including fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, early menopause, and others. It may also produce a host of other unpleasant symptoms form acne to hair loss.
When the adrenal glands are chronically overworked and straining to maintain high cortisol levels, they lose the capacity to produce DHEA in sufficient amounts. DHEA is a precursor hormone to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and is necessary to moderate the balance of hormones in your body. Insufficient DHEA contributes to fatigue, bone loss, loss of muscle mass, depression, aching joints, decreased sex drive, and impaired immune function.
If you rush to your primary care physician asking to have your Adrenal Gland function checked, you’ll probably be told, “I don’t believe in that” or “Your blood test is within normal”. Conventional medicine will detect only the extremes of these conditions, when damage to the adrenals has already occurred (Cushings disease and Addison’s disease).
Conventional medicine is truly wonderful at treating disease-state conditions. Unfortunately its focus on drugs also tends to suppress early-stage symptoms rather than treat their underlying causes. This can have the effect of delaying treatment until a disease state has developed.
The sad truth however is, many people feel miserable and their symptoms go untreated thereby leading to a decreased quality of life. But by responding to early-stage symptoms of adrenal fatigue we can reverse the developing dysfunction thereby preventing chronic disease.
So you might ask who should get an adrenal test? In general, if you feel happy, well, are full of energy, sleep soundly, maintain a healthy weight without dieting, then your adrenals are probably doing well.
On the other hand, if you suffer from fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, are moody or irritable, crave sweets, these are all red flags indicating adrenal insufficiency.
The first step is to have a full physical exam to rule out disease. Dietary changes to enrich your nutrition, a high quality nutritional supplement, including essential fatty acids from fish oil, reduce high-glycemic carbohydrates. Incorporate stress reduction, including moderate exercise and sufficient rest, and take more time for yourself.
After a full hormone evaluation, other supplements may be recommended including DHEA, Adrenal Re-builders, etc. It is not advised to take these supplements unless you really need them as too much of a good thing is not good.
For those suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, early intervention does make a difference.
Pamela Egan, FNP-C, CDE is a board certified Adult & Family Nurse Practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator & Clinical Specialist in Mental Health. She practices in Women’s Health with Kathy Posey, MD & can be reached at 985-867-1700 or www.pamelaegan.com.