The Adrenal glands are small glands located just above the kidneys. They produce a number of hormones and are vital to normal function.
The adrenals have an outer layer (cortex) that produces mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and sex hormones.
The inner layer (medulla) produces catecholamines (epinephrine, norepinephrine).
Glucocorticoids (one of the primary glucocorticoids is Cortisol) are essential for numerous functions.
The adrenal glands work on a ‘use it or lose it’ fashion. This means that if you are getting steroid injections or oral steroids then your adrenal glands will decrease their production. When you stop getting the steroids (pills or injections) your adrenals may take some time to ramp up production enough to be able to meet demands. While there is no evidence, this MAY make you more susceptible to adrenal fatigue after stopping the medications.
The adrenal glands help regulate your body’s response to various types of stress whether it be from physical, emotional, or psychological sources. When the adrenal glands can no longer adequately meet the demands of these stressors adrenal fatigue results.
Adrenal fatigue can result from a major surgery, severe illness, lack of sleep, etc. (physical stress). It can result from an emotional crisis such as a loss of a job, house, loved-one, etc. (emotional stress). Any type of constant stress require a response from the adrenal glands.
Adrenal fatigue is the inability of your body to respond to these multiple and repeated stressors. They are typically functioning and responding but inappropriately or inadequately. If you think about weight lifting, you may be able to lift a certain amount of weight 20 times with no problem but you may really start to slow down at 50 reps.
Some symptoms of adrenal fatigue are:
- Tired or fatigued for no apparent reason
- Trouble getting out of bed even though you had an adequate amount of rest/sleep
- Feeling tired, rundown, or overwhelmed
- Difficulty bouncing back from an illness or other stress
- Craving salty or sweet snacks
- Feeling more alert & energetic after 6pm than you felt all day
- Feeling better after working out but then crashing
- There is a website (www.adrenalfatigue.org) that has a pretty good ‘quiz’ that you can take to help you determine if adrenal stress is a problem for you. You can click here to do the quiz.
Most standard cortisol tests are done in the medical lab by drawing blood. The problem is that it only gives you a one-time serum level of cortisol.
I use Diagnos-Techs for my adrenal testing. The cost of this test, if you go straight through them, is $120. I will be offering this test through my office soon.
Some insurances cover the test but some do not. You have two options for payment to the lab:
- Payment in full when you send in your kit. They will send an itemized bill and you can send this to your insurance to see if they will reimburse. This is my preferred method.
- Send the front and back of your insurance card and they will file it through your insurance.
Another option for testing is the Optimal Health Network. They use the same lab (Diagnos-Techs) as above but also provide a 30 minute consultation to discuss symptoms and make recommendations. They are not physicians so they prescribe no medications. I have spoken with them and they seem nice but I have not seen the results of their work so I can’t necessarily recommend them.
Here is an article on the 7 Stages of Adrenal Fatigue.