The adrenal glands are located on the top of each kidney, and they secrete hormones that are responsible for a wide range of metabolic processes. When the adrenal glands become overactive or underactive, hormone level changes can cause a number of potentially serious and widespread symptoms throughout the body. Since they produce so many essential hormones, the adrenal glands are responsible for many of the functions we need to stay alive and healthy. This includes carbohydrate, protein, and fat conversion to blood glucose for energy, fluid and electrolyte balance, and fat storage.

One hormone the adrenals produce in particular, cortisol is extremely important for keeping our body systems in balance, as well as protecting our cells. It normalizes blood sugar and regulates blood pressure. Have you observed how in periods of prolonged stress you are more susceptible to catch a cold or flu? A major contributing factor is that cortisol helps control the strength of the immune system: too much cortisol weakens the immune system, setting the motions for increased susceptibility to infections and cancer. But what happens when there are depleted levels of cortisol in the body? Too little cortisol leads to an overactive immune system and autoimmune disease.

What are the actual symptoms of adrenal dysfunction?

The symptoms of adrenal fatigue usually begin gradually. The most common symptoms are chronic, worsening fatigue, muscle weakness, decreased sex drive, and decreased ability to handle stress.

Low levels of adrenal cortisol can also result in the following: hypoglycemia, sugar or salt craving, waking up in the mid-portion of the night and unable to fall asleep, moodiness, and food sensitivities. You may also experience allergies, recurrent infections, dizziness when standing, low blood pressure, “brain fog”, swollen ankles that are worse at night, being wiped out with exercise, and the inability to tolerate thyroid replacement.

Because the symptoms progress slowly, they are often ignored until a stressful event like an illness or accident causes them to worsen. Sudden, severe worsening of symptoms is called an Addisonian crisis, or acute adrenal insufficiency. In most cases, symptoms of adrenal insufficiency become serious enough that people seek medical treatment before a crisis occurs.

The stress caused by hormone imbalance, like in perimenopause and menopause for women, is a huge contributor to adrenal fatigue. Bioidentical hormone therapy balances your hormones, including the hormones released during stress, with customized prescriptions that fit your body chemistry.

The easy, relaxed lifestyle experienced by our ancestors no longer exists, and we are not even aware of how much stress we are under. The reality is that our lifestyles have changed, but our bodies haven’t.

Adrenal insufficiency affects a high number of women and men living in a modern society and many times it cannot be addressed with a healthy diet and exercise alone. Bethany Sharp, Mrs Tennessee 2012, describes in this video the symptoms and treatment for adrenal fatigue she follows after she consulted with Holtorf Medical Group experts. It literally changed her life for the better!

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