I. am. exhausted. Second cup of coffee in the morning, and I’m barely able to drag myself around doing my everyday activities. (Regular fatigue? Or adrenal fatigue? That is the question.)
Why? Well, here’s the thing: there’s no big reason in particular. I didn’t run a marathon yesterday. I didn’t exert myself in physical labour, and I didn’t stay up all night with a newborn. I’m just always tired. Always dragging. Never energetic.
I actually don’t remember a time in recent past that I have felt refreshed and full of energy like I have in years past. I now feel like a half-deflated birthday balloon most of the time. And it’s just tiredness. Every mama of young children is tired, right?
Nope. It’s more than that. I have been experiencing other symptoms as well, like extreme salt cravings, brain fog, decreased immune system, cortisol spikes in the evening, irregular periods, low blood pressure, and more.
Lately I’ve been reading up on adrenal fatigue, and it fits so perfectly that it’s a bit scary. I didn’t actually put the pieces together until this past fall when I was feeling quite unlike myself with “blah/gray” feelings – almost to the point where I wondered if I was depressed.
Thinking back on the months prior led me to realize that there was an event that kickstarted the adrenal fatigue for me.
In the spring of 2014, our family went through a personal crisis. I alluded to it a time or two here on the blog but never really talked about it much because there were potential legal implications. I’m still not sure how much I should say about it, but I can’t avoid the fact that it’s a big part of this story.
The living situation (we rented a house) that we were in became unsafe for our family. With serious concerns for our safety, we packed up and vacated the premises within 48 hours of “the last straw” with police involvement, and placed most of our belongings in storage. We took our suitcases and a few boxes and stayed with family while looking for a new place to live. Thankfully, we were able to purchase our first home and moved in two and a half months later, but the stress of those months took an immeasurable toll on our family.
Adrenal fatigue is a hugely under-diagnosed syndrome that occurs when the body’s ability to compensate and recover from stress is overextended (it’s not surprising that it’s termed “the 21st century stress syndrome”.)
The adrenal glands are located on each kidney. They secrete cortisol, the hormone responsible for regulating the effects of stress on our bodies (all kinds – physical, emotional, psychological, environmental, and/or infectious).
When these glands are overworked, they cease to function optimally, which effects all of the major physiological systems in the body.
This includes how your body handles nutrition, weight gain/loss, immune system response, moods, sex drive, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function, blood sugar regulation, energy levels, and sleep patterns, and tons more.
There are a number of factors that can lead to adrenal fatigue, but it is often one stressful event that can function as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The adrenals simply get “burnt out” after too much.
In my case, I can trace a stressful lifestyle pattern all the way back about fifteen years, but it was definitely the crisis of last spring that changed everything.
I have not felt the same since then.
Next Steps: Planning for Recovery
I will be writing more about adrenal fatigue as my journey with it continues on. I plan to elaborate further on the signs and symptoms, as well as the road to recovery, and some resources for further research. It’s way too big of a topic to tackle in one post, and I still have more to learn myself.
I do want to note, however, that the conclusions I’ve come to are not widely accepted by the medical community. Adrenal fatigue is not a recognized condition – many say it doesn’t exist, that it’s “all in your head”. I will be writing a post to address these dissenting views.
Here’s the book that I’ve found most helpful:
The Adrenal Fatigue Solution by Fawne Hanson & Dr. Eric Wood.
Get your instant digital copy here. It’s excellently researched and written, thorough, and super helpful!
Soon I will be sharing my full plan for recovery, including diet, supplements, lifestyle changes (goodbye, caffeine… goodbye, staying up late. Eek!)
UPDATE: How I Quit Coffee (with Practically Zero Withdrawal Symptoms) & Happy Adrenal Power Smoothie.
I kicked my stay-up-too-late habit to the curb (you can read about that here), and created a FREE 21-day Go-to-Bed Challenge, with daily emails to help you create a new habit of going to bed on time and getting the rest you deserve! It has been completely life-changing for me.
Sign up for the free email challenge here: 21-Day Go-to-Bed Challenge.
Gut Health Update:
I’ve been learning a ton about the root causes behind adrenal fatigue, and while I know it’s still a factor, there’s a bigger picture that’s important to talk about too. This post dives into that: Why I Stopped Treating My Adrenal Fatigue.
My friend Erin and I have experienced similar health journeys with adrenal fatigue, and have been supporting one another as we’ve discovered the diagnosis, and what all it means. We’ll be keeping each other accountable as we work toward health and wellness this year! She also wrote a post today about her journey to adrenal fatigue over on her blog.
Adrenalfatigue.org – this is Dr. Wilson’s site (the author of one of the books I listed above). The information is excellent, and there is a questionnaire you can go through to determine if adrenal fatigue may be at play for you.
Adrenalfatiguesolution.com – I’m not as familiar with this site, but it has tons of articles, and what I’ve read has been super helpful. (UPDATE 2/2016: this site is now the one I’d recommend most highly.)
I hate to hear that you are struggling with adrenal fatigue. I, too, got that diagnosis. Was later diagnosed with dysautonomia/POTS. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out. It may be what is causing your adrenal fatigue.
Thanks for sharing, Katerina. I will definitely look into those things!
I have POTs, EDSIII and adrenal fatigue from being on steroids for a long time. Please can you explain how these conditions go hand in hand also what did you do to get over the exhaustion
Many Thanks Sarah
I experienced adrenal fatigue about 8 years ago. Fortunately I had a very proactive doctor who put me on a regimen of vitamins and supplements. It took about 3-4 months for me to start feeling better but eventually I began to feel normal. Ashwaganda, DHA and sea kelp were life savers. Good luck navigating this medical issue.
I began experiencing thyroid issues (hereditary) about the same time I started peri-menopause but consistently had other symptoms I couldnt explain. It got so bad I have been taking Nuvigil which is for shift work disorder (to wake up) for several years. I have never experienced anything like the sleepiness that I did before I began taking meds. It wasnt really a sleepy like normal sleepy…it was an I cant hold my eyes open feeling and I could barely drive, use a computer and sometimes get out of bed. About a year ago I ran across Dr. Wilsons info in Adrenal Fatigue and I could not believe how many of my symptoms were in that list. Things you would never think were symptoms too. The brain fog, not being able to think of a specific word when you need to, having more energy in the evenings…etc.
I will be following your blog in hopes I will find a way to combat this with something other than all the meds I take daily. Thank you for putting the information out there. We need to bring this ill ess to the forefront because I think there are so many people on drugs for depression and other things that are really suffering from Adrenal Fatigue.
I began reading ‘with interest ‘ about breaking the staying up too late habit, and connected on through to your blog! Fireworks, let me tell you. My mom suffers from Adison’s disease (not sure spelling ), which is pretty much adrenal death march! And I have severe Fibromialgia and Chronic Fatigue. Your blog is a God send. I am going to read the books, and pick your brain! TY
Love your blog! I’ve had severe adrenal fatigue as well. What really helped me was having a biofeedback session in which I found the supplements to help me most. I took adrenal bovine pills and a supplement called “Energy Boost” by Morningstar Minerals – super helpful! Also taking melatonin at night for awhile helped me get my sleep patterns back to normal. Check out this post: Get to Sleep Faster – Naturally!
Hope this helps! Just started my own blog now that I’m feeling better : simplynatureplusnurture.com
Thanks for sharing that link! And your blog looks great – glad to see another healthy living blogger sharing info. 🙂
Thanks for checking out my blog! I love reading yours!
It’s so unfortunate that the medical community overlooks this very real issue. Just the fact that they ignore it, makes me feel crazy… Like maybe I’m a hypochondriac or something, but my symptoms all started when in one year my parents divorced, I had a miscarriage, I deployed to Iraq, I watched my boyfriend get killed in action, my mother attempted suicide, and some other very personal problems arose. With doctors refusing to acknowledge my diagnoses and only treating symptoms with more and more drugs, it’s no wonder things just got worse. Fortunately, I started to do the research Myself and I’m slowly getting better now. There is a light!
As someone who has been diagnosed and in recovery from adrenal fatigue for the last year and a half, i always appreciate anyone who writes about their experiences. so, thank you. one thing that i have learned is that the ‘fix’ is not fast. i have also found that it is very beneficial to find a naturopathic dr. who can help figure out which supplements will work best for your situation and body. its not the kind of thing where everyone benefits from exactly the same vitamin/mineral supports, although the b vitamins, vitamin c and magnesium seem to benefit all.
I may be able to help you regain your health. Please check out my website at http://www.healingelementsllc.com. I was sick for 10 years with no diagnosis, and finally, through a hair test, I found out that I had complete adrenal fatigue. The improvements on the nutritional balancing program for me as well as for my family were so profound that I decided to get my diploma in Nutritional Balancing Science and become a practitioner myself. Many of my ailments other than fatigue also reversed themselves, such as hair loss, tinnitus, TMJ, candida, depression and a number of old chronic infectionsYou can rebuild your body, you just need a thorough plan and scientific approach. The root problem is an imbalanced biochemistry, mineral deficiency, metal toxicity and unbalanced metabolism. Blessings.
Thank you for such a thorough explanation of Adrenal Fatigue as well as tips on how I can begin working to get my life back into normal. xx
Wow, I am not sure how I found your page but am I glad that I did. For many, many years I have been visiting my dr. telling her I am always so tired. Her response? It is all in your head, there is nothing wrong all blood tests come back fine. She treated me for depression and even though several types of pills did not work she still tries to get me to go back on them. Finally I took things in my own hands and started to visit a Nauralpath, she diagnosed me with having adrenal fatigue, tried pills to help, but needed to go back further so at this time I am being treated for low vitamins and will work back up to supplements for the adrenal gland as well as some other treatments. But oh I feel so much better with the vitamins, almost feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. By the way I have felt this tired and it does just get worse, for over 12 years. And yes I was starting to thing maybe it was depression, but vitamins do not fix depression I have had a huge amount of stress in my life for a very long time, yet my medical doctor knew about my stress and still was never able to help me. Always telling me that there is no reason for me to be tired.
I was told I had this a long time ago. For me, I cannot remember a time in my life (since college) where I wasn’t stressed out. It seemed that the minute I got my feet under me, something else happened and I had to start all over. Within 4 yrs, I got married, lost my father, bought a house, had three boys and then lost my job (I was fired). My marriage was on the rocks and I was still trying to keep it all together. I was physically and emotionally drained but had three toddlers to manage. Didn’t have time to be sick. I took my boys to the doctor because I thought they were sick only to find out I had double pleurisy. It was as if my warning system was turned off. Then, a kinesiologist friend told me I was suffering from adrenal fatigue! He told me that I had to slow down and let my system get caught up. And he suggested supplements (that I couldn’t afford) and Vitamins (B’s, C, D and Omegas). I also had major surgeries somewhere in there (tied tubes, hysterectomy, bladder repair, etc…) . It was like I was too busy fighting the alligators to drain the swamp! People don’t realize just how key the adrenal & pituitary systems are, specially in women. People can say what they want, but mothers bear the brunt of it all within families. When a marriage falls apart, she always gets to keep the kids and the worries that go with it. Not enough time and thought is spent addressing the problems of women over extending themselves just to keep the boat afloat. I am glad that you are addressing this issue.
As always, Beth – I so appreciate your candor in writing about such a personal topic. Much of your story actually resonated with my own. About a year ago, my erratic symptoms became more consistent and disruptive to daily life. In retrospect, I definitely feel like a similar “watershed event” in our extended family life really compounded things. After reading a post Stephanie wrote on KOTH, I began researching more about adrenal fatigue.
I’m a registered dietitian by training and consider myself fairly open to natural/alternative therapies, etc. But I had to humble myself and recognize that I might need some outside expertise on this one. I began meeting with a holistic nutritionist who pointed to pituitary fatigue with adrenal involvement, in addition to my longstanding hypothyroidism (ah, the tangled web of hormone balance!). I have been nothing short of AMAZED and so very grateful to my nutritionist and to God for pointing me in her direction! I’ve been at it for nearly a year with diet and supplements, and am thrilled to report that my debilitating fatigue is gone, my cycles are very near normal, my skin is beginning to glow again and I just generally feel like I’m coming back to life! It’s so wonderful!
I pray God clearly leads you along the path to healing as well, and directs you to just the right resources for your own body! Thanks for bringing attention to this important condition that I believe is the underlying issue for so many “tired moms”!!
Oh hooray! So glad you are talking about this! I’ve struggled with this for years, never knowing what it was, and did get some help for the worst of it. This fall it has really come back to bite me, and have been researching and trying to find ways to feel better. So glad you are going to document your journey- I have a feeling you will be helping a lot of people!
Hi Beth, I just had to comment on your story. I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue 5 years ago. My first doctors told me it was just “anxiety” which I did not fully believe as I was feeling sicker everyday. It took a panic attack during church, and my associate pastor referring me to a psychiatrist, who referred me to therapist who dealt with anxiety patients. She recognized that I had symptoms of anxiety but knew something else was wrong. She referred me to a doctor who sat with me for an hour listening to my story. My doctor practices integrative medicine as well as being an internal medicine doctor. She did the saliva testing on me and found that my adrenals were working so low I should have been hospitalized…..but through supplements and some lifestyle changes I was able to fully recover. I still have to be careful and not let myself get to exhausted or stressed, but when I do I have the tools I need to heal.
So, yes, Adrenal Fatigue does exist….and there are doctors who recognize it. I am so thankful I found the right one.
The book is a great resource as well. My dietician recommended Dr. Wilson’s book.
So, that is part of my story…..I would be happy to share more if you’d like…..such as why I had to give up gluten to get healthy….best of luck.
Did you do the saliva cortisol test? I am guessing you did… as it is a true indicator of adrenal issues. My cortisol levels spike at night, which makes for a very bad night of sleep… every night!
And I don’t drink coffee or beverages with caffeine as caffeine is pretty bad for you… 🙁 so it is miserable being awake during the day, and if given the opportunity, I am unable to take naps even! I am in stage 3 adrenal fatigue and I don’t know how to fix it. My COMT/MAO genetic mutations make it so that my body is in fight or flight mode 24/7 and I cannot chill out. So instead of addressing the symptoms (adrenal fatigue), I want to address the CAUSE (genetic mutations) but am at a loss as to how to do that.
Hi Rebecca 🙂
i too am in stage 3 adrenal fatigue and have poor sleep. When you mentioned being unable to take naps – I just had to leave a reply to connect. I am the same way. No matter how exhausted I am from poor sleep at night, napping is such a struggle.
I know very little about your genetic mutations, but was wondering if it was anything like methylation issues or MTHFR? Dr. Ben Lynch is very knowledgable in that area. You can google his name to find the website. Just sharing in case it could be of help to you! Good luck and best wishes!
a diagnosis is usually made with clinical findings, blood work etc. but as a health care professional i believe your body can have symptoms that don’t reflect in clinical findings, and it is your body communicating with you before there is permanent damage done that will show up in tests. good for everyone for listening to their bodies! i though do think doctors do the best that they can with what they have to work with.
Wow. I’d heard of Adrenal Fatigue before, but I never expected to read this post and come away convinced that it’s something I’m currently going through! I’m definitely going to look into some of the books and sites you’ve mentioned. Thanks for writing this!