Signs and symptoms of adrenal imbalance
by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Every day a variety of stressors signal our adrenal glands to produce stress hormones. A wide range of physical and psychological demands like a stressful job, family responsibilities, relationship dynamics, lack of sleep, financial concerns, dieting and emotional distress trigger our adrenals to provide relatively small blasts of strength in the form of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. From waking us up with a little burst of energy in the morning, to keeping us awake, alert, and focused throughout the rest of the day, our adrenals are crucial to our health.
When our adrenal glands are constantly required to sustain high cortisol levels, they eventually become impaired in their ability to respond appropriately. The resulting dysfunction not only affects our short-term response to stress, but it also impairs our adrenals’ ability to produce and balance other hormones which are important to our long-term health and well-being: DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Symptoms of adrenal imbalance — an “aggravating pattern”
Symptoms are your body’s way of informing you that it’s not receiving the support it needs. While none of these features has a direct causal relationship with adrenal dysfunction on its own, a distinct “aggravating pattern” emerges when all these factors are taken into consideration. See if you recognize these tendencies in yourself:
Symptoms to look for:
- Blood pressure: High or low blood pressure, low blood pressure can often have the symptom of light headedness that is associated with it.
- Food cravings and weight changes: Abnormal weight gain in the abdomen and thighs. Do you have cravings for salty or sugary foods, sometimes feeling uncontrollable?
- Energy: Unable to stop, always on speed forward, ongoing fatigue, lack of stamina, feeling tired and wired much of the time. Lack of get up and go.
- Emotions and coping ability: Inability to deal with day to day stress, feeling overwhelmed much of the time, struggling to get through the day, driven , very short fuse, anxiety attacks Unable to reframe ones thinking.
- Thinking: Mentally foggy, fuzzy thinking, inability to stay focused on one task, chronic racing thoughts.
- Immune response: Frequent infections, longer time than others to recover from illness or infections or trauma.
- Sleep: Inability to fall asleep or fall asleep well but wake up nightly, Sleep soundly but wake up exhausted.
- Hormones/Libido: Worsening of Perimenopausal symptoms, low libido, severe PMS.
- Many other conditions can overlap the above noted signs and a symptom so know that adrenal imbalance is not always the root cause.
Adrenal imbalance can however be a contributing factor in a wide range of medical conditions, many of which may seem unrelated, including the following:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Depression and anxiety
- IBS or chronic digestive problems
- Premature menopause
- Chronic anxiety
- Rage attacks
In addition, so many health conditions and drugs used to treat them can predispose an individual toward adrenal insufficiency.
The great news is, when addressed early and with proper support, you can heal adrenal imbalances and reverse the toxic effects of chronic stress. To learn more, see our article on the natural approach to adrenal health.