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Stress and Adrenal Insufficiency

Most people are quick to admit that they are under stress on a continuous or frequent basis. This can lead to multiple reactions in the body including difficulty maintaining healthy eating habits, life styles and exercise. Cortisol is a hormone with multiple responses in the body and is produced with level varying according to the time of day. It has been dubbed the “stress hormone” because increased levels of cortisol in the body are produced with physical or psychological stress so the normal patterns are altered. The purpose of the adrenal gland which produces cortisol is to allow your body to cope with stress and allow the body to survive through the time of stress. Proper functioning of cortisol is essential in maintaining your energy, endurance, and all life functions. Too much physical or emotional stress can deplete the ability of the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. There is a rare extreme low production of adrenal hormones called Addison’s disease which can be a life threatening condition if left untreated. Adrenal insufficiency or adrenal fatigue is the more common condition with low production of adrenal hormones particularly cortisol.

What are the signs and symptoms of adrenal insufficiency?

The symptoms of adrenal fatigue are varied and do not all occur in the same person. The signs and symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty getting up and getting moving in the morning
  • Increased effort to perform daily tasks
  • Continued fatigue not helped by sleep
  • Food or food additive cravings especially salt or salty foods
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased sexual interest or drive
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight – more likely for weight gain to occur around the abdomen
  • Requirement for long healing time to recover from illnesses
  • Less happiness with one’s life or situations in life
  • Increased PMS
  • Low blood sugars – symptoms may increase if meals are skipped or inadequate
  • Memory difficulties
  • Decreased productivity

What are health risks due to adrenal insufficiency?

The risks to health may vary due to the patterns noted with adrenal fatigue. The weight gain around the abdomen has been associated with increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, and strokes. It has also been associated with increased healing time from illnesses or surgeries. Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic and recurrent respiratory infections have all been associated with low adrenal function. Increased risk of alcoholism has been reported in several studies with low cortisol production.