Adrenal Fatigue is a condition that occurs when your adrenal glands are functioning below their normal capacity. It's characterised by a collection of different signs and symptoms and is a condition that lies between the two extremes of adrenal dysfunction - Addison's Disease, (a rare endocrine disorder where a person cannot produce enough steroid hormones), and Cushing's Disease, (a disorder resulting in excess cortisol, often caused by a pituitary tumour).
Adrenal Fatigue most often occurs when someone has been living with chronic or intense stress. It can also occur after a prolonged illness.
There are 4 stages of Adrenal Fatigue:
Stage 1: Alarm reaction
Stage 2: Resistance phase
Stage 3: Adrenal exhaustion
Stage 4: Adrenal failure
During this stage, the body reacts to the stressors and cortisol and adrenaline are released. You may be feeling more tired than usual but still able to function normally.
The resistance phase has no set time frame. Cortisol levels begin to decline and other signs and symptoms start to show up such as insomnia, anxiety, PMS, and recurring infections.
Occasional mild fatigue may be starting to occur which is remedied by extra sleep or time off.
During this phase, cortisol production is reduced and the body can't keep up with demand. The symptoms experienced in the first and second stage now become chronic, the condition worsens, and imbalances occur in the endocrine system. As the condition progresses, severe fatigue now becomes the normal condition, and other symptoms and imbalances manifest in the form of sugar imbalances, low blood pressure, anxiety, heart palpitations and adrenaline surges. Thoughts can provoke a physiological response causing more adrenaline to flood the body.
Hormone levels may continue to fall to levels that are needed for only the most essential bodily functions. Extreme low energy and the inability to get out of bed to perform even the most basic of daily tasks are charactistic of this part of stage 3. Professional help is required in this serious phase.
This is the most severe stage of Adrenal Fatigue and requires immediate attention. If left unattended, the condition may progress to be fatal.