Adrenal Fatigue

Before we talk about adrenal fatigue, I would like to make a few points about adrenal glands in general so that what we say about adrenal fatigue makes a bit of sense.

The adrenal glands are two bean-shaped glands which lie over the top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands, like the pituitary are, structurally and functionally, two organs in one. The adrenal glands consist of the glandular part—the adrenal cortex, and neural tissue located in the medulla.

When the body is (or perceive itself to be) under attack physically or emotionally, the sympathetic nervous system sends “fight or “flight” signals to the adrenal medulla. The adrenal medulla responds by pumping its hormones—epinephrine (more commonly known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline)—into the bloodstream in an attempt to enhance and prolong the effects of the neurotransmitters being sent out by the sympathetic nervous system.

These adrenal hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels and dilate the small passageways of the lungs. The result is more oxygen and glucose in the blood and more rapid circulation to the body organs—especially to the brain, the muscles, and the heart. The body is, very quickly, better able to respond to a short-term stressor. The body now has the necessary energy to fight harder, fun faster, be more alert and able to think more quickly and effectively, and even develop an anti-inflammatory response should an injury occur.

The hormones secreted by the adrenal medulla are meant to aid us in coping with short-term stresses.

The hormones produced in the adrenal cortex are important in helping us cope with prolonged or ongoing types of stress, such as the death of a loved one or a traumatic injury or surgery. If these hormones do their job well enough, the situation will be resolved without lasting damage to the body or the mind. However, if the stress—or our perception of intense stress—continues on and on, the adrenal cortex may simply “burn out”. There are degrees of adrenal “burn out”. Total failure is totally fatal.

Other hormones produced by the adrenal cortex:
~ aid in the regulation of blood pressure
~ facilitate the absorption or excretion of trace minerals
~ affects the breakdown of fats
~ plays a part in the production of glucose and increases blood glucose levels in response to stress
~ release amino acids from the body when their work is done
~ strengthen the contractions of the cardiac muscle
~ increase water retention to prevent dehydration
~ stimulate various anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic responses in the body- in other words, down-regulates the immune system
~ enhances muscle mass and stimulates cell growth,
~ manages the development of some sex characteristics during puberty

Managing the stressors in our lives and our responses to them is absolutely critical to our health.

The hormones secreted by the adrenal glands can help us manage stress or they can just make us hyper and a bit crazy. Our insistence on living in fear, rather than in faith, can damage our adrenals to the point that they are not helping us, but are struggling, malfunctioning, and making matters worse.
4 stages of Adrenal Fatigue

It seems that most of the time when we talk about Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome we are talking about the last stage – the just plain tired, weak, overwhelmed by life stage. It is the symptoms of this stage that we usually hear and talk about.

It is important to realize, I think, that Adrenal Fatigue starts long before that and is often diagnosed, in the early stages, as some type of hyper-active behavioral disorder. A little later in the first stage there may be talk of bi-polar disorder,  as energy levels surge and then plummet.

Please note that the first three stages of Adrenal Fatigue according to this very accurate little cartoon are all about the nervous system being wired and ready for action even though the rest of the system (in the middle two stages) is almost too tired to breathe.
1st stage of Adrenal Fatigue
STAGE 1:  This first stage of Adrenal issues can be an amazing place to live, in many ways. Mountains of energy and good ideas popping into your head. Life is run, run, run with energy to burn for new projects. Exhausting for the person’s spouse (I can tell you this first hand) and for the people they work with but kind of fun to be part of, too! At this stage the person is quick thinking with dynamite reflexes and willing to try (and, usually, succeed at) everything.

The thing about this stage is that it doesn’t last forever. In fact, the “high” part of this stage usually doesn’t last very long at all.

Later in this first stage, the early, not too drastic crashes in energy begin to appear. Often there are blood sugar issues as well and the sufferer has a tendency to turn to caffeine and sugar fixes to maintain the energy levels he has become used to enjoying. Burnout of the adrenal gland is inevitable unless something is done to strengthen the adrenal cortex.

HELPS FOR THE FIRST STAGE: First, support the endocrine and nervous systems with really good nutrition. Learn to relax! Take up a hobby that you enjoy and take time to enjoy it. Remember, the adrenals have both an endocrine and nervous system part and both are firing at top speed. The high cortisol being produced in the endocrine part – the adrenal cortex- and the high neuro-transmitters being produced and sent to the brain by the nervous system part – the Medulla – together create this “wired for sound” lifestyle.

Herbal Tinctures: Any of the nervine tinctures, BBL, NV, NT, NS or NVC, remembering to take an additional dose at bedtime to address the nutrients that the nervous system needs, is important.

The AD tincture should be taken faithfully and, if the sufferer is male, MH (Men’s Herbs) is a good preventative for further trouble. KNA and BHM will help supply needed minerals. Late first stage Adrenal Fatigue is often characterized by hypoglycemia, insomnia, the beginning of the irritability that will be seen full-blown later on. Anxiety levels are beginning to climb and the “highs” are not as productive and the “lows” are deeper and harder to recover from!

I was looking at a study on Sandalwood and 3 other essential oils as they affect anxiety levels. This study involved rats and the brains of the poor little rats. I did not conduct the study; I only read the results and it was conducted in a foreign country so please direct any outrage overseas.

Returning to the study. The study clearly showed that, upon inhalation of either sandalwood, clary sage, lavender, or sweet orange, (the oils being studied) levels of high stress neurotransmitters in the brain decreased rapidly. In layman’s terms, the oil was passing over the olfactory bulb into the brain which then sent down-regulating signals to the adrenal glands and everything—brain and adrenal glands together—calmed right down. The kidneys, by way of the urine, immediately began to show increased levels of these same neurotransmitters as they exited the body because they were no longer needed!

Butterfly Essential Oils: Essential oils containing sandalwood, lavender, and sweet orange are too numerous to mention but for the wired stages of Adrenal burnout my favorite blend is LeLettingGo with LeGoodNite as a close second. LeGoodNite contains sweet orange and cedarwood (no sandalwood) but the cedarwood, being a conifer settles the energy very nicely – especially in the evening hours.

LeEndoRelief is a must. As one endocrine organ, the adrenals, struggles, others will fall like a row of dominoes. Support the entire endocrine system!
2nd Stage Adrenal Fatigue
STAGE 2:  Second Stage is the beginning of serious difficulties. The “fight or flight” mechanism is still in full swing. Cortisol levels are high. What does that mean to your health? Cortisol increases sugars in the blood and increases the availability of substances that would repair wounds should you happen to be injured in whatever stressful circumstances your adrenal glands think they see coming. Repair of tissues sounds good except that these hormones can turn nasty if not used up or discarded properly and this down-regulation doesn’t happen when we are constantly on high alert.

Cortisol curbs functions that would be non-essential if you were fighting or running away from a fight. It alters the immune response, suppresses the digestive system, pretty much shuts down anything related to reproductive functions, and stops growth processes. Cortisol also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation to create and succeed, and increases the levels of fear and anxiety felt so that you will take action against the threat when a real threat is REALLY present.

The physical result of cortisol is a hyped-up immune system, seeing threats everywhere. This is a recipe for allergies to all kinds of things that appear (and are) non-threatening to other people and every little sliver or cut gets infected as the immune system over-reacts to everything. Wired, tired, allergic, and infected is a very good description of this stage of problems in the Adrenal system.

HELPS FOR THE SECOND STAGE: Once again, refrain from artificial stimulants like caffeine and sugar. Eat regular and nutritious meals. Supplement minerals as needed.

Herbal Tinctures: Keep up the AD (Adrenal Toner) and the MH (if male) tinctures. – NEVER forget. They contain whopping amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals!

Butterfly Essential Oils:  Still LeLettingGo  and LeEndoRelief but from here on out LeRevitalize is my favorite oil for anytime the energy crashes and blood sugar levels become erratic. My favorite way to use this oil on my husband’s feet is to sit at his feet, put LeRevitalize  oil on my palms and on my thumbs, cross my hands and take hold of his feet. Another oil that seems to help, used in the same fashion, is LeMillenia.

LeInsideOut and LeJulia will be useful for the digestive issues brought on by high cortisol levels. LeAspire and LeBreezey for relief of allergy symptoms. Here is an odd tip LeExhilaration, applied down the sternum, can be helpful to raise energy levels in the Solar Plexus and moderate allergic responses.

It is probably time, or past time, to start dealing with the emotional drivers. There will be emotions such as discouragement and depression about the things that are not getting done during the crash stages. Such blends as LeBelieve, LeBeloved, and LeCherish (expensive I know but it contains that wonderful osmanthus) are good choices. LeTranquility or  LeGoodNite to promote sleep.
3rd Stage of Adrenal FatigueSTAGE3: By the third stage things are really starting to get serious and the emotional pattern can get really ugly! Low cortisol levels contribute to such emotional disasters as hypersensitivity to (often only perceived ) slight insults, social anxiety, anxiety and jitters with a complete inability to cope with any type of stress (I have seen the ringing of the phone in the early evening trigger shaking of the legs and hands that lasted for several hours.)

Irritability and anger are off the charts. They seemingly have little control over the outbursts. They feel them coming, they want to stop them, they know they are destructive but before these thoughts get completely formed, they have already spoken.

The physical symptoms of low cortisol levels in this stage will begin to include, possibly, heart palpitations, headaches, inflammation all over the body with accompanying body aches, severe or dull and achy lower back pain, extremely sensitive skin, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, abdominal pain, constant and continual hunger, low bladder capacity and early symptoms of IBS and irregular or non-existent menstrual periods as the thyroid fails and hormones get all messed up.

HELPS FOR THE THIRD STAGE:  Everything that has already been mentioned for the first few stages will most likely need to be continued.  It is essential that you address the emotional issues that triggered the adrenals to go into alarm mode in the first place if you have not done so already. 

Herbal Tinctures: KT may help clear out the bladder. At first it will increase urine function and the need to urinate often; then things should level out. Keep on with anything nutritious – KNA, BHM.  AD is an absolute must. CD for colon health. Sarsaparilla will help with endo toxins spilling from the colon and into the blood stream if there is constipation.

Butterfly Essential Oils:  
LeLettingGo is the best oil for the emotions described above. Wear it, diffuse it, put it in the tub and on the pillow at night. LeUnity is another good oil for this stage of Adrenal Fatigue

LeVitality and LeKey to My Heart for the heart palpitations, LeMygraine for headaches. LeDeeper and LePaine for inflammation and pain, LeInsideOut and LeJulia for abdominal pain and digestive issues, LeReflections and LeSynopsis for Kidneys, LeWomanWise for period irregularity and myrtle for the thyroid.

STAGE 4: Now we come to the fourth stage and the situation is critical – low everything, especially energy.   This is too often the stage where people get alarmed and really serious about fixing things. Unfortunately, from here, it will be a hard fight and a long battle. It is called Adrenal Fatigue but, in reality, the entire endocrine system is down, including those parts that are found in the brain such as the pituitary and the hypothalamus.

Physical symptoms may include muscle weakness, joint weakness, faintness and dizziness, extreme weakness, overwhelming fatigue, clumsiness and confusion, intestinal and digestive issues,  pain and even motion sickness that was never experienced before. At this stage, the slightest emotional or physical stress triggers a complete collapse, physically, and most times, emotionally.

HELPS FOR THE FOURTH STAGE: Part of the difficulty in finding solutions is the person’s sensitivity to nutrients, herbs, many essential oils and even their medications. Complete bed rest is not only essential but, probably, mandatory because they are too weak and tired to function.

At this stage and during stage three, I have found that treating it as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is the best solution. There is a rather involved article on Chronic Fatigue in the Purple Homeopathic Book, Butterfly Miracles with Homeopathic Remedies, II, that lists herbal and nutrition suggestions, mentions essential oils, and covers homeopathic solutions very well. The homeopathic formulas recommended there really are essential and have been proven over and over again through the years. I really believe that homeopathy should play a part in adrenal fatigue all along but is absolutely a must when things have hit this critical stage.

Book Picture
Butterfly Essential Oils: LeRevitalize , once again, is essential. Peppermint, alone or in LePaine, is also helpful. The LePaine blend will increase energy and help with pain and inflammation all at the same time. Rosemary also seems to help a great many people. The blends, LeEnergy or LeCinnamonBear, are also recommended. LePatches essential oil blend, a relative newcomer, is proving to be of great benefit here also.

LeHeartSong is the best for the depression that accompanies this stage. If it doesn’t work miracles, try any of the other oils for depression. The depression is likely severe and scary at this stage.

It is very important to be grateful for the small improvements and trust that God will lead you to the answers if you continue to look for them.  As you get feeling better don’t run faster than you have strength and take time to refuel.

I ran across this interesting article and I would recommend reading.


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