Updated: March 2023
Through the years, I have worked with many patients to help them become healthier. One common occurrence is that most patients have multiple problems going on with multiple internal body systems all at the same time.
The reason for this is that the body is a “homeostatic” organism. Homeostasis means balanced.
The word homeostasis is of Greek and English origin. Homoios means “like” and stasis is “static”. Therefore, the body likes a static environment.
If there is a change in the body that creates an imbalance, other changes take place to counteract any deviations and make corrections. This process is going on continuously in your body every second of every minute, day and night.
What is an Example of Homeostasis?
An example of this would be when your blood sugar levels drop, your adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone made in the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are small glands that sit right on top of the kidneys and play a critical role in helping regulate blood sugar and also the stress response in the body.
A rise in cortisol causes the body to break down fats, etc… to get you some glucose (sugar), quick. Cortisol also suppresses the immune system.
After many years of blood sugar dysregulation as seen with both Type 2 Diabetes and hypoglycemia, the adrenal glands can become fatigued or even exhausted.
This can also occur in people who don’t have a condition such as diabetes or hypoglycemia and can be related to the peaks and valleys of blood sugar dysregulation.
Is Inflammation the Culprit?
Immune system suppression can make you more likely to get fatigued and develop sickness. Chronic pain and inflammation is another cause of adrenal fatigue and/or exhaustion.
Interestingly enough, adrenal fatigue can cause chronic pain and inflammation. It can go both ways. Forward and reverse.
Inflammation can produce adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue can cause more inflammation that can cause more and more chronic pain.
So, you may be wondering how adrenal gland fatigue could be tied in with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). 70-80% of your immune system is in your digestive tract.
When cortisol is high, your immune system is suppressed. When cortisol is low, your immune system will be overactive.
People with IBS and SIBO have chronic activation of the fight or flight response and an overactive response of the sympathetic nervous system (SANS) that keeps them in a state of “fight or flight”.
This is the exact opposite of the “rest and digest” response that is seen with good digestion, good health and calm/proper functioning adrenals.
When you are in a chronic fight or flight state, your blood moves from your digestive tract and goes out to your arms and legs so you can fight or run. That is why some women who are stuck in this chronic stressed state will sweat more than normal.
When your blood has moved to your arms and legs after a meal instead of your digestive tract, you can’t absorb nutrients from your food and become malnourished.
This chronic back and forth state of malnutrition is what can make it seem like an impossibility for many people to lose weight.
I work with my patients to identify possible challenges affecting their inability to lose weight (such as methods for decreasing the fight or flight response) and help them be successful with their weight loss goals.
What are Signs of Adrenal Gland Dysfunction?
Hyper-excitability, Light Sensitivities, Depression, Irritability, Increased appetite, Decreased libido, Poor memory/cognitive reserve loss, Crave salt, Blood Pressure drops when going from sitting to standing, Dizziness when standing up from either sitting or lying position, Low or high blood pressure, Bloated after eating even a small meal, Brittle fingernails, Chronic sinus issues, Chronic bladder infections, Thirsty even when well hydrated, Fungal nails, Have to have coffee and/or other morning stimulants to get going, Sleep issues – hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, Reactive hypoglycemia/insulin resistance.
How is Sleep Related to Cortisol?
Sleep/awake cycles are also directly related to cortisol levels in the body and the circadian rhythm. Cortisol is supposed to be at its highest level in the early morning hours. As the day goes on, cortisol is supposed to gradually decrease.
When the adrenal glands are not regulating the proper levels of cortisol, you can have spikes or dips in cortisol at different times of the day or night which can cause a break in your circadian rhythm.
If you have abnormal sleep patterns or even a tendency to get really, really tired at a certain time of the day (a sapped and drained feeling of overwhelming tiredness) you very well could have some cortisol suppression.
Common Symptoms Associated with Adrenal Fatigue/Exhaustion
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Non Refreshing Sleep, Low Libido, Lowered Immune Function, High Tendency of Getting Flu or other Respiratory Conditions, Brain Fog, Loss of Concentration, Neck and Shoulder Pain
What can be Done about Adrenal Gland Problems?
It is important to understand that since the body is a homeostatic organism, it will make the changes (as I discussed above) to keep a balance.
It is also important to recognize that the adrenal glands send out signals of dysfunction such as the symptoms listed above, but the real problem is usually somewhere else in the body.
Are Adrenal Glandulars the Answer?
Oftentimes, a nutritionist or physician will look at the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and prescribe an adrenal glandular or medication that is going to act directly on the adrenal glands to cover up the symptoms.
The issues with that knee jerk response are that by the time the adrenal glands are having symptoms, other body systems are usually in a deficient state as well.
Those other areas of deficit could be what is actually causing the adrenal gland dysfunction to begin with. Examples would be liver or thyroid issues that have thrown the body out of balance and the adrenal glands are in overdrive and becoming exhausted.
How Can You Tell That My Adrenal Glands that are the Problem?
It is only by looking at lab tests and troubleshooting where the greater problem is, that we can help the adrenal glands function in a grand way.
I have a test called the Adrenal Salivary Index (ASI) that will show cortisol levels in the body at various points during the day. It doesn’t hurt and is easy to do.
The ASI in not done through the blood, but instead uses your saliva to track cortisol levels throughout the day and night. This test will show us when your cortisol levels are dipping and then we can counter it nutritionally to keep those dips from occurring.
Where Should I Begin?
If you are having any of the symptoms related to Adrenal Fatigue, I would also strongly encourage you to ask me about my 14 Day Blood Sugar Boot Camp Program because it is the starting point.
Most people who go through my Boot Camp lose between 10-22 pounds during the 2 week program. Keep in mind, our goal here is healthy weight loss.
The dietary guidelines included in my program are built around helping preserve lean muscle while cleansing the liver and reducing inflammation. Many patients have continued on past the 2 weeks and some have lost 50 plus pounds over time by sticking with the dietary guidelines of the program.
I will create an individualized treatment plan to help you build better health and reduce inflammation as quickly as possible. The goal is to get your internal body systems regulated. This will make you feel better and help you become much healthier. In turn, you will become more “homeostatic” or balanced.