Chronic Fatigue

The Four Stages of Adrenal Fatigue

Learn the 4 stages of adrenal fatigue in this article.

Have you ever woken up feeling tired or irritable?

If so, you probably didn’t think much about it. After all, being tired is an extremely common feeling, especially for those who work long hours or handle intense responsibilities. But have you ever stopped to consider how often you might be experiencing these feelings? What most people are unaware of is that being constantly exhausted from morning to night is actually not a normal occurrence. Additionally, it can even be a sign of serious underlying conditions such as:

  • cancer
  • hypothyroidism
  • autoimmune disease
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • adrenal fatigue

Out of all of these, adrenal fatigue is the least recognized condition by traditional medical doctors.

Adrenal fatigue occurs after extended exposure to stressful situations. The responsibility of the adrenal glands is to handle different stressors by releasing anti-stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and DHEA into the body. If stress happens periodically, the extra hormones perform their essential duties before hormonal levels return to normal. However, if stress becomes chronic, the adrenal glands continuously produce these anti-stress hormones, thus causing a hormonal imbalance. Subsequently, the constant release of cortisol will eventually burn out the adrenals and reduce the amount that is produced. This will cause an individual to become weak, tired, crave salty foods, and depend on caffeine for a source of energy.

Patients that visit LifeWorks Wellness Center with low energy or fatigue often don’t realize they have adrenal fatigue until they receive their test results. Interestingly, there are four stages of this condition that appear extremely discrete and hard to recognize. To help our patients notice these stages, we want to provide these warning signs so that they can be proactive with their health in the future. Listed below are the four stages of adrenal fatigue and symptoms of each.

The one notable sign of early adrenal fatigue is the cravings for caffeine, sugar, carbohydrates, or energy drinks to help boost energy levels.

Stage 1: The Alarm/Alert Reaction

This stage can happen as soon as someone encounters a stressful situation. It’s known as the “alarm reaction” because it represents the body’s immediate response to what the brain considers an alarming event. This can be anything from:

  • a life-threatening situation
  • an upcoming test
  • job interview
  • breakup
  • death in the family

Different events can influence the intensity of the stress level that one is attempting to handle. The body responds to stress by releasing a significant amount of hormones such as DHEA, adrenaline and cortisol into the system to help the person adapt to the situation. The fatigue that one may experience during this stage will be fairly mild and seem like usual tiredness. No physical or neurological symptoms will be seen or experienced, and test results won’t reveal significant hormonal imbalances. The one notable sign of early adrenal fatigue is the cravings for caffeine, sugar, carbohydrates, or energy drinks to help boost energy levels.

People may still be alert during the day, but slowly burn out as the day progresses.

Stage 2: The Resistance/Dismay Response

Those who don’t continuously encounter stressful situations may be able to return to normal hormone levels without the need for treatment. However, those who deal with chronic stress within their occupation or personal lives may graduate to stage two. If the body continues to be placed into a panic mode due to the constant release of cortisol, an individual’s DHEA levels will gradually decrease. At this point, the adrenal glands are growing overwhelmed and begin to wear out. Other hormonal production throughout the body slowly becomes impacted. For example, sex hormones become depleted due to an increase in stress hormones. Additionally, the thyroid may become vulnerable to autoimmunity or hypothyroidism. Symptoms such as body aches, infections, anxiety, menstrual irregularities, hyperventilation and hypertension may occur while one will increasingly feel weak and tired day-by-day. People may still be alert during the day, but slowly burn out as the day progresses.

Stage 4 involves continuously show low motivation, low libido, struggle to get out of bed, and develop chronic fibromyalgia.

Stage 3: The Exhaustion Phase

While many may think that stage 2 reveals obvious symptoms, unfortunately, many adrenal fatigue patients make it to stage 3 due to a misdiagnosis by their conventional doctors who don’t recognize it as a true illness. Additionally, many of these patients are unable to calm their nerves or deal with the issues causing their stress, which makes the condition progress further. As the body continues to release cortisol, the adrenals cannot function normally and fail to keep up with the high stress demand. This will lead to an eventual collapse of certain bodily functions in order to conserve energy. More physical symptoms will be revealed such as:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • digestion issues
  • deteriorating muscle tissue

The body does this to help it restore energy that has been drained. Furthermore, one may notice neurological dysfunctions such as brain fog and memory lapses occurring more frequently. One will also continuously show low motivation, low libido, struggle to get out of bed, and develop chronic fibromyalgia.

There are various severe consequences of untreated adrenal fatigue such as chronic depression, adrenal failure, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular issues and, in rare cases, death.

Stage 4: The Burnout

There are various severe consequences of untreated adrenal fatigue such as chronic depression, adrenal failure, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular issues and, in rare cases, death. By this point, most people will recognize fatigue symptoms and seek some form of treatment to prevent this stage. However, an adrenal burnout is still attainable for those who don’t seek treatment or are misinformed by their symptoms. One of the most common risks of continuous adrenal fatigue is the development of Addison’s disease; a chronic disease resulting in adrenal insufficiency that completely halts the production of cortisol. Patients will experience:

  • low blood pressure
  • dehydration
  • fainting
  • severe diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • pain throughout the body

Take Action Against Your Adrenal Fatigue

Since this condition is not recognized among various conventional doctors, most patients are prescribed antidepressants, advised to seek therapy, or given hormonal replacement therapy. Sadly, these methods often fail and can cause other chronic illnesses to develop over time.

At LifeWorks Wellness Center, not only do we recognize adrenal fatigue as an official condition, but we also provide natural treatment methods to restore energy levels, relax anxiety and reduce stress. Patients will be required to see a LifeWorks practitioner to discuss all symptoms or previous conditions prior to proceeding through the testing process. From there, the practitioner will create a thorough treatment plan involving dietary changes, supplementation, peptides, hydrocortisone, intravenous therapies and/or detoxification methods.

If you or someone that you know are experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue, please call to schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners at 727-466-6789.

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About Dr. Minkoff

Dr. David Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then completed both a Pediatric Residency and a Fellowship in Infectious Disease at the University of California at San Diego. He worked at the University of California and Children’s Hospitals in San Diego as an attending physician in infectious disease while conducting original research on Ribaviron, a broad spectrum anti-viral agent to fight disease. He also co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine. In 1992, Dr. Minkoff’s attended a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, widely considered the father of functional medicine, during which he had a eureka moment, and began pursuing the alternative health field with a vengeance, studying under the most accomplished thought leaders on natural & integrative healing. In 1997 Dr. Minkoff and his wife set up a small clinic to help friends with their medical problems. What began as an experiment blossomed into LifeWorks Wellness Center, one of the most successful clinics for complementary medicine in the United States.