This is a well organized short synopsis for the layperson to understand and be able to ask questions of those they seek for their healing. There are certain signs and symptoms that one should look for to see if low cortisol levels are developing. Keep in mind that at first the continuous, high cortisol levels are also dangerous to our well-being as I wrote about in my blog: What is Adrenal Fatigue.The physician also should have the following in their diagnostic differentiation because there are many illnesses with similar signs and symptoms so that diagnostic conclusions must be done carefully and by experienced healers. A person does not need to have all the listed symptoms and signs, only some to begin to think about stress and adrenal fatigue.
But first let us see what are the functions of cortisol.
At healthy levels cortisol influences, regulates and moderates:
- Blood sugar levels
- Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism
- Anti-inflammatory mechanisms (our immune system)
- blood pressure
- The central nervous system
- Thyroid functioning
Elevated cortisol levels cause:
- Impaired cognitive functioning
- low thyroid and eventual hypothyroidism
- Decreased bone density
- Decreased muscle mass
- Elevated blood pressure
- Slower wound healing
- Increased fat deposition which can lead to cardiovascular problems
Low cortisol levels cause
- Foggy brain
- Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia
- Low blood pressure
- Decreased immune function
- Increased inflammation
The following are clues Adrenal Fatigue
1-morning fatigue where the person does not awaken easily and stays groggy until about 10AM.
2-from 10-12 feels awake especially after lunch,
3-starts getting a low about 2-4PM and then picks up again around 6PM,
4-with this burst they are tired again by 9-10 but if they remain up they get another energy burst until abut 1-2AM
5-best sleep is between 7-9AM,
6-during the day they need a lot of caffeine to keep going and
they often crave salt and hyperventilate [frequent sighing and breaths]
7-liver spots [chloasma],
8-frequent colds and allergies
9-feelings of helplessness which causes more stress.
Clinical tests for adrenal fatigue:
- Blood pressure drops >10mm/hg when going from supine to upright position.
- The pupils cannot hold contraction when light is shone in the eyes.
- Sergant’s sign=a line drawn on the abdomen remains white instead of turning red after a few minutes.
Rogoff’s sign= pain or tenderness over the adrenals when pressed. The adrenals are found below the posterior 12th rib. Just put the thumbs over them and let the patient breathe in and out.
Changes occur in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system and sex drive. So this can lead to the below symptoms and signs. Listed also are some of the illnesses. Notice that so many of them are related to the depletion of hormones because without the proper carbohydrates, fats and protein (amino acids) the hormones cannot be made. Low cortisol also causes the intestine to promote leaky gut syndrome which does not allow normal nutrient absorption. This metabolic interference because of the adrenal influence of changing the carbohydrate, protein, fat metabolism and absorption can lead to other signs and symptoms that give clues to adrenal fatigue. But some of these can also go along with other pathologies, for example low thyroid (hypothyroidism). Low thyroid and adrenal fatigue very often comorbidities (they come on together). Hypothyroidism since the stomach cannot break down protein to amino acids so that the amino acid tyrosine cannot be made. Tyrosine hooks up with iodine to make T4. Also cortisone sensitizes the cell receptors to take in T3.
Additional Potential Problems of Adrenal Fatigue
Feeling tired despite sufficient hours of sleep, always fatigued
Reliance on stimulants like caffeine
Cravings for carbohydrates or sugars, hypoglycemia
Cravings for salt
Poor immune function
Intolerance to cold
Chronic fatigue Immune Disease Syndrome (CFIDS)