When we are young and filled with energy the blood stream is optimally packed with sex hormones that deliver robust emails to genes inside cells that tell cells what to do. Younger folks have the cellular messages and thus the energy to run, think, focus, make love and enjoy it, and to also have the delicious mojo to approach any task with focus and force. When our hormones are robust we feel that the world is our oyster.

As we age, the sex organs put out less sex hormones. Subsequently, the job of delivering life’s critical emails to cells to tell them what to do leans more on our adrenal glands. But due to our 24/7 societies, the adrenal glands can get over taxed and worn out. Also, if we endured significant family of origin stresses before the age of 5, MRI studies now show that this emotional history affects our adrenal health especially as we start to age. There is no doubt about it, our physiology leans heavily upon our psychology (everything’s connected).

So what are the symptoms that adrenal dysregulation or adrenal fatigue may be part of your health problems? I attended the impressive 26 hour MedLink Menopause/Andropause meeting last month (May 2013) in Salt Lake City with integrative medical thought leaders Drs. Jonathan Wright and David Rosensweet.

At this seminar, the doctors summarized the leading and often unrecognized symptoms of adrenal dysregulation. PS Adrenal fatigue is more common in women than men. Women produce more stress hormones in response to perceived stress, compared to men, and take longer to bring these levels back into balance. Yes, women are physiologically set up to have more stress hormone issues, darn it!


Adrenal Dysregulation Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Fatigue on rising after a night’s sleep
  • Exercise intolerance – feels worse any time within an hour of exercise to the next day
  • Sexual intolerance – feels worse within several hours or the next day after orgasm, similar to exercise intolerance (this has been a clinical observation with many of my patients)
  • Postural hypotension – blood pressure lowers upon standing so prone to dizzy/faint/lightheaded sensations upon standing from a seated or lying position
  • Generalize muscle weakness
  • Wanting to lie down any chance you get
  • Slightly underweight or the opposite, hard to lose overweight even though you are doing everything right
  • Salt craving
  • Low blood sugar symptoms as insulin brings blood sugar down but we need cortisol to bring it back up – so often there are dangerous low dips throughout the day, of levels of cortisol or flat lined excessively low-levels throughout the entire day
  • Sexual dysfunction especially in ladies as much of male hormones—needed for women to have robust orgasms—are manufactured in adrenal glands
  • Myalgias and arthralgias (muscle and joint pains)
  • * Most frequently presenting symptoms are neurologic and psychological – tendencies to anxiety, depression, irritability, and increased pain
  • Feel hopeless, identify with being a victim – ‘poor me’ thinking
  • Insomnia – especially waking up during the night and not being able to fall back asleep because cortisol levels are excessively high
  • Glaucoma (half of cases may be due to adrenal insufficiency which causes decreased blood flow to the eye while sleeping as the adrenal glands regulate fluid flows throughout the body – Joseph Emanuel MD)
  • * I have found that a very suspicious set of symptoms is feeling like you don’t have the same drive to do your work, close that deal, face a project; and you feel much more easily overwhelmed than you did in the past. Life seems arduous rather than all things possible and joyful. But, the body is designed to heal, and you can get all these great upbeat feelings back once again.

Adrenal insufficiency symptoms were first described by Dr. John Tintera, one of the endocrinologic pioneers in adrenocortical dysfunction. Dr. Tintera emphasized that the most common symptoms are psychological and that women tend to have weaker adrenal health than men. NY State Journal of Functional Medicine 1955

Adrenal health can be improved. But, depending on how low their function has diminished (which can vary greatly) and how long this issue has been brewing, all make a difference. Some people may have improvement within 3-4 months and others may take 1 to 2 years. But the strategic use of diet, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole adrenal glandulars, and sometimes adrenal hormone replacement at physiologic dosages, along with allergy identification and avoidance and digestive optimization, are very effective. Fortunately, the improvement of adrenal functioning, over time, boosts overall health and assists in the healing of many other conditions. Many health issues are due to local excessive inflammatory changes and improving adrenal health normalizes inflammatory processes, as the adrenal glands are our natural anti-inflammatory agents (that’s why cortisone is such a powerful anti-inflammatory drug, as cortisol is a major natural adrenal hormone though of course in lower dosages than what occurs with the medication).

I work in a clinic part-time with an internist who sleuths out and diagnoses adrenal dysfunction in certain patients (Dr. Jerome Block Tulsa, OK). I have witnessed many patients come back in and say that their energy, life, hope and drive is now given back to them. Of course, each protocol is individualized. Focus on optimization of diet, with astute identification of allergens is critical, as food and environmental allergies can continually wallop adrenal health (allergies create inflammatory storms and the adrenals glands are called upon to try to tamp down and heal these physiologic tornadoes).

I have seen and personally experienced that the body is designed to heal. But you have to know what to get out and what to put in, and you must make sure that the mighty adrenals are ‘watching your physiologic back’ in a healthy way!