In this video, Dr. Tina Marcantel discusses some of the causes and symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Q: What is adrenal fatigue and what are some symptoms that you look for?
Dr. Marcantel: Okay, first let me explain what the adrenals are.
So, the anatomy of the adrenals:
The adrenals sit on the north pole of the kidneys, in the back, and they release cortisol for long-term stress and epinephrine, or cortisol, for short-term stress.
When the adrenal glands are producing a lot of cortisol, it’s a sensation of being “wired” and irritable and having insomnia. And then what happens is that the adrenal glands, they get tired, so we then feel like it’s hare to concentrate on our work or our everyday tasks, and we want to sleep a lot more.
A lot of times, patients come in with a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, ADD, and fibromyalgia. So these are symptoms given, but the root cause, we find a lot of times, is from the adrenals, from these symptoms that we just mentioned.
I’m going to give you an example of the adrenal glands releasing a lot of cortisol and then going into a state of being fatigued.
So, when I was in medical school, at the beginning of medical school I was releasing a lot of cortisol–staying up long hours studying–what most medical students do. So my cortisol levels were real high. In the middle of medical school, I was still studying [and under stress] but my adrenal glands were starting to decrease the amount of cortisol and I was getting fatigued. And at the end of medical school the cortisol levels were low most of the time when we took it [with lab tests], because I was then in a full state of adrenal fatigue.
All it is is an imbalance, you know? It’s the adrenals being pushed to the limits and then they get tired.
Q: Like burnout?
Dr. Marcantel: Like burnout. Exactly. I guess where people get confused sometimes is they say, “Well, my adrenals are fatigued–why is my cortisol so high?” But that’s how you get to the adrenal fatigue phase, and they can be happening both at once, where you’re releasing a lot of cortisol and you’re wired and irritable, and insomnia, and then you go into a place of being tired.
You know, the adrenals decrease their amount of cortisol production.
Adrenal Fatigue video series, part 2: Testing for Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue video series, part 3: How Stress Causes Adrenal Fatigue