More and more women are suffering from fatigue, mood swings, and a lack of zest for life these days. And while this is super common, it is not normal. In this article, I’m diving into the key symptoms of adrenal fatigue. It’s my goal to make you feel like you’re not alone and that healing is possible. Trust me. I’ve done it. Let’s dive in.
Primary Adrenal Insufficiency vs. Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency
When you go to the doctors with complaints of debilitating exhaustion, among other symptoms, you’ll either be dismissed or get lab testing done.
When you go to the doctors with complaints of debilitating exhaustion (among other symptoms), one of two things is most likely to happen.
- You are dismissed and told it’s normal
- You get lab testing done
The second is much better, but lab testing doesn’t actually recognize “adrenal fatigue.” No lab test says positive or negative, so chances are, even after your labs come back, your doctors will still say nothing is wrong. But you know your body better than anyone, and you know something is wrong.
There is, however, lab testing that recognizes Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency or a complete deficiency of the hormones made in the adrenals. Someone with Addison’s disease lacks hormone production due to physical destruction of the gland.
If you don’t have Addison’s, then you’re often chalked up to be completely fine. Sometimes, you will be told you have secondary adrenal insufficiency, which is when the glands are “fine,” but there is a suppression of hormone production from the pituitary gland, which signals adrenal hormone production. Anything that impacts the pituitary gland will impact the adrenals thanks to our HPA axis or internal stress system.
But here’s the thing: if you aren’t diagnosed with primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency, then why are you so tired!? You may have even been told it’s normal! If you continue on this way, your symptoms will only get worse, and eventually, you’ll end up in adrenal insufficiency.
Our goal here at Elevays is to help you get started on your healing journey ASAP, at any level. If you are diagnosed with adrenal fatigue (or are told it’s not a real thing), then your initial reaction may be serious confusion and overwhelm. I’m here to help you feel empowered and inspired to heal.
Let’s dive into the key symptoms of adrenal fatigue, and then I’ll tell you how you can get started feeling alive.
10 Key Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
1 – You’re Still Tired Even After a Full Night’s Sleep
Despite going to bed at 10 and waking up at 7 uninterrupted, you are still exhausted. Being tired even after a full night’s sleep is one of the key symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Until 10am comes around, you’re sluggish and not even a second cup of coffee helps.
This is a sign that you are in dire need of deep, restful sleep—and you’ve got to get it in when you can. That means mid-day, maybe even mid-morning naps. Sleeping whenever I could was something I prioritized when I was healing from adrenal fatigue.
For some women, a full night’s sleep isn’t even possible. Another key sign of adrenal fatigue is insomnia or consistent sleep disruptions. This often comes when you stay up past the point of being tired. Once you stay up past that point, you may feel tired but wired.
Prioritizing sleep and going to bed as early as possible every night is essential for healing.
2 – You Crave Salty Foods
Another symptom of adrenal fatigue is salty food cravings. If you feel like you need a bag of potato chips, salted nuts, or a whole charcuterie board at any time during the day, then you may have adrenal fatigue.
This is mainly due to the hormone aldosterone (one of the hormones regulated by adrenals), which regulates sodium and potassium levels in the body. When you suffer from adrenal fatigue, this hormone is imbalanced, thus causing you to crave salty foods.
Additionally, when we are exhausted, it’s often because we’re dehydrated. Craving salty foods is a sign of dehydration. For the adrenals and your hormone system to function properly, you need to be getting adequate amounts of electrolytes. Next time you feel a salty food craving kicking in, drink water first. To make sure you are getting proper cellular hydration, you can try our delicious Hydration Superfood Powder. I wish I had this during my healing journey. It would have been a game-changer.
3 – You Experience an Afternoon Slump Daily
When 2-3pm comes around, you feel like you could fall asleep for the night. You’re completely exhausted and crave coffee or an energy drink. Unfortunately, not even that third latte or Monster X can help you.
The dreaded afternoon slump is a primary symptom of adrenal fatigue! The persistent feeling of exhaustion is due to an imbalance in cortisol levels. Support your adrenals during this time by drinking a lot of water and taking a nap if you are able to.
4 – No Sex Drive or Low Sex Drive
At the root of adrenal fatigue is HPA axis dysregulation caused by chronic stress. Have you ever noticed that the last thing you think about when you’re stressed is having sex? Low libido is a telling sign of adrenal fatigue. What most people don’t know is that adrenals play an important role in sex hormones (like testosterone!) production. If your adrenals glands are suffering, then there’s a good chance your libido is too. Regulating stress levels is necessary for supporting adrenals and having a healthy sex drive.
5 – Inability to Handle Stress
Adrenal fatigue is a vicious cycle of stress that causes more stress that causes more stress. What happens when you can’t handle stress? You become more stressed.
The adrenals are responsible for producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. When adrenaline and cortisol levels are out of balance, it becomes harder for you to deal with daily stressors.. This can look like the tiniest inconvenience leading to a breakdown at work or home.
If you find that you can’t handle stressful situations like you used to, you may have adrenal fatigue. For healing, it’s critical that you implement a stress-management technique to help reduce stress.
6 – Slow Healing Time
When you suffer from adrenal fatigue, healing takes much longer. If you used to get over the common cold in a few days, but now it takes a few weeks to “function” again, you may be struggling with healthy adrenal function. This is because adrenal hormone production is directly related to immunity function.
Your immune system lives in your gut, and your gut and hormones (especially adrenal hormones) are closely tied together. When you are stressed, your stress system releases hormones, and digestion is no longer prioritized, compromising gut health. When gut health falls on the back burner, so does immune health.
Your adrenals are also in charge of helping your body return to homeostasis after you get sick. When you’re in adrenal fatigue or have HPA axis dysfunction, then they can’t do their job.
7 – Mood Struggle
Adrenal fatigue directly impacts mental health. Feelings of low motivation, hopelessness, anxiety, and sadness are key symptoms of adrenal dysfunction. This is because at the root of adrenal fatigue is HPA axis dysfunction.
You can think of your HPA axis as your body’s internal stress system. When you are under chronic stress for too long, your pituitary gland will tell your adrenals to slow down hormone production. When adrenal hormones production is down, it impacts the rest of your endocrine system, including important mood-regulating hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Enter feelings of blah, numbness, and sadness.
Check out the top 15 foods that help boost mood and support healthy hormones and adrenals here.
8 – Increased PMS Symptoms
Another key symptom of adrenal fatigue is increased PMS symptoms. An increase in mood swings, cramps, bloating, headaches and fatigue before and during your period is very common with adrenal dysfunction. Again this has a lot to do with stress hormones being out of balance, impacting sex hormone production, mood hormones, and gut health.
Check out the best foods to support PMS hormone imbalance here.
9 – Dependence on Stimulants
If you find that you wake up, drink a couple cups of coffee and then midday rolls around and you need a stimulant to wake you up, that’s a sign of adrenal fatigue. If you can’t make it through the day without caffeine, energy drinks, or sugar, you need to support your adrenals!
You can work to bypass stimulants by hydrating properly and trying caffeine alternatives like our Hydration Superfood Energy and adrenal-supportive herbs like nettles.
10 – Lack of Mental Clarity
Do you feel like you can’t think like you used to? Do you lose your train of thought easily?
If you suffer from a lack of concentration and brain fog, your adrenals need some love. Prolonged stress can lead to poor brain health and function. Supporting mental clarity with hydration and minimizing stress with adaptogens like ashwagandha will be helpful in healing.
If any of these symptoms resonate with you, I want you to know that you’re not alone. To know for sure, take our quiz Why Am I So Tired to see if you are struggling with adrenal fatigue and what to do next.
Healing is possible. If you want to feel like the best, most vibrant version of yourself, then you need support! I am launching a Group Coaching Program this spring that will help you feel alive again. Get on the waitlist here.