Adrenal Fatigue and its Downstream Effects

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Yesterday was our introduction to adrenal fatigue.  We talked all about the lethargy, decreased vitality, and the other common symptoms of adrenal fatigue.  But did you know that untreated adrenal fatigue can lead to other chronic conditions as well?  As if getting your energy back isn’t motivation enough to make some changes, avoiding these conditions definitely is!

Chronic lung diseases

Did you know that without adequate levels of cortisol in utero, babies lungs don’t develop normally?  If you’re pregnant or considering getting pregnant, treating adrenal fatigue will have a huge impact on the health of your baby.  Respiratory distress is one of the most common problems in the first days of a newborn’s life, and one of the biggest reasons for admission to the NICU.  But adrenal fatigue doesn’t just impact babies’ lungs.  Adults with adrenal fatigue are more prone to developing bronchitis and pneumonia, allergies and the flu, and even exacerbating their asthma.  When you have adrenal fatigue you’re run down, your immune system is compromised, and you’re more prone to get sick.  Not only that, but it’ll take longer to recover.

Alcoholism

This one is a bit of a chicken and egg question, we’re not really sure what came first.  People with adrenal fatigue are prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and in some people, their response is to turn to alcohol to bring up their blood sugar.  Other people who are already alcoholics cause their adrenals to fatigue, which leads to more hypoglycemia, and the circle goes round and round.  Either way, adrenal fatigue and alcohol don’t mix.

Osteoporosis

Cortisol is intimately linked to calcium deposition in the bones.  When you’re under stress and have high cortisol levels, calcium doesn’t get deposited in your bones.  Then when your adrenals start to fatigue and your cortisol levels drop, the same problem occurs.  The danger gets even worse if you continue to supplement with calcium through this cycle, as it may get deposited in your blood vessels rather than your bones, leading to atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart disease.

Autoimmune diseases

Chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to immune system depression, and chronically low levels lead to immune system excitation.  This is often when people will start to develop autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogrens syndrome.  Getting your cortisol levels back up will help down-regulate your immune system and get autoimmune conditions back under control.

Loss of Libido and Imbalanced Sex Hormones

The building blocks for cortisol have to come from somewhere.  As your demands increase and your adrenals weaken, your body will start to steal from your reproductive system.  Your libido will drop, and you may experience infertility or even miscarriage.  Progesterone is especially targeted, so women may experience estrogen dominance, and men may experience testosterone dominance.  Either way, it’ll leave you feeling irritable, aggressive, and possibly even violent.  Women who have imbalanced estrogen and progesterone are prone to developing PMS, uterine fibroids and heavy menstrual cycles, and even have an increased risk of uterine and breast cancer.

Don’t let all this get you down.  The good news is that you can treat your adrenal fatigue with some lifestyle and dietary changes that you can implement on your own or with the help of a practitioner.  Check back tomorrow!

This post is part of Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist.

References:

Wilson, J. Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Smart Publications, 2001.

Harding, P. The Adrenal Glands, Their Function in Health and Aging. Published by the Nutrition for Optimal Health Association, Inc.

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One thought on “Adrenal Fatigue and its Downstream Effects

  1. Pingback: Adrenal Fatigue: What to Do About It | owningwellness

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