Stress has become a common denominator in our everyday lives. Rather than serving its original purpose to help us in moments where fight-or-flight reactions are required, it has taken permanent residence in our bodies.
When your body is in a constant state of producing stress hormones, this condition is known as adrenal fatigue or what some call the 21st Century Stress Syndrome. It is actually a milder form of Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency), which is defined by the body’s inability to adequately produce one or more of the hormones supplied by the adrenal glands.
Adrenal fatigue is characterized by a series of life-altering symptoms that include:
- difficulty getting up in the morning
- continual fatigue
- decreased sex drive
- caffeine dependency
- decreased productivity
- increased time needed to recover from injury, trauma, and stress
- low blood pressure
- cravings for salt and sugar
All of these can potentially lead to infertility, gastrointestinal (GI) issues, mood disorders, and more.
Cortisol and adrenaline are the two biggest stress hormones that our adrenal glands produce. Our adrenals can instantly increase our senses, speed up our heart rate and blood pressure, release stored energy, and slow secondary functions to ensure a successful escape. When we have several tiny stressors throughout any given day, the adrenal glands become overworked and depleted causing adrenal fatigue or inadequacy.
Treating adrenal fatigue requires a whole-body approach to replace missing hormones, repair damage, reduce stress, and bring the body back into balance. A reputable medical practitioner will first carefully examine you and test your hormone levels to determine if your body is producing the correct amount of hormones and chemicals needed for optimal function before diagnosing adrenal fatigue and making any recommendations or providing prescriptions.
If adrenal fatigue is the issue, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is among the most promising treatments for adrenal fatigue. Unlike traditional hormone replacement therapy, bioidentical hormones are safe, plant-based hormones provided in amounts similar to those required by the body, rather than artificially manufactured pharmaceuticals (dosages of which are often higher than the body’s normal supply and can suppress and even shut down adrenal function).
One example is Cortef®, otherwise known as hydrocortisone. It is a bioidentical form of cortisol, the only hormone that is absolutely essential to life. It’s found in every pharmacy but is rarely prescribed for this purpose due to a lack of knowledge. It can be very effective at replenishing cortisol levels and treating adrenal fatigue, without the potentially serious side effects that come with traditional corticosteroids.
It is often recommended that along with evaluating your adrenal hormones, you also test your neurotransmitter levels as these two systems work harmoniously.