The adrenal glands are very complex parts of the endocrine system producing glucocorticoids (cortisol is the most important), mineralocorticoids (aldosterone), epinephrine, norepinephrine and even sex hormones.
Adrenal fatigue affects every part of the body and every aspect of life.
Cortisol and aldosterone are two of the most important hormones the body makes. Excesses or deficiencies of these hormones result in important clinical problems. Cortisol, a glucocorticoid, is the stress hormone and is involved in weight control, infection fighting, quality of skin and bones, and heart function. Its levels are the highest in the morning, and are increased by stress and severe illness.
Too much cortisol from any cause leads to Cushing's syndrome; the symptoms and signs of which include redistribution of fat to the face, upper back and abdomen, weight gain, stretch marks, bruising, extra hair growth, irregular periods in women, loss of muscle, trouble sleeping and emotional problems, such as depression. Too little cortisol is part of the syndrome called Addison's disease, often marked by low energy, joint and abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea, fever, and electrolyte disturbances. If the adrenals are making too little cortisol, the pituitary compensates and makes more of the hormone, ACTH. If the pituitary is not working, both ACTH and cortisol levels may be low.
Aldosterone is the salt-retaining hormone and is a mineralocorticoid. Excesses of aldosterone leads to high blood pressure and low potassium. Deficiencies of aldosterone are much less appreciated than deficiencies of cortisol, and lead to low blood pressure and high pulse, especially on standing, the desire to eat salt (salt-craving), dizziness or lightheadedness on standing, and palpitations. Severe cases may lead to high potassium and low sodium in blood tests. When the adrenal is not making aldosterone, renin, a kidney hormone, increases. Excesses of cortisol and aldosterone may occur independently, that is a patient may have only excess aldosterone, only excess cortisol, or excesses of both. Similarly, deficiencies of cortisol and aldosterone deficiencies may be independent.
Many patients with symptoms of fatigue and often salt-craving, "cognitive fuzziness", dizziness or lightheadedness on standing, or palpitations have low blood levels of aldosterone. The connection between low aldosterone levels and fatigue is as follows: with low aldosterone, the kidney loses salt, leading to low blood volume. This coupled with the idea that the leg veins don't constrict properly, leads to lower blood volume to the brain and fatigue and other symptoms. These patients often have a drop in their
blood pressure and an increase in their pulse when standing. They may also have decreased blood flow to the brain when measured by SPECT scan. Aldosterone deficiency may be made worse if patients restrict their salt intake.
Saliva testing is the most accurate test because it shows the rhythm of cortisol production and because it shows how much cortisol is present that the body can actually use. Blood tests only show bound cortisol which gives no indication if that cortisol is actually available to enter the tissues.
Many people test "normal" on blood cortisol yet very low on saliva.
Of course if you live in the UK, the chances of receiving a saliva test via the NHS are slim. VERY slim! Unfortunately, if we want an accurate account of what is going on we will have to pay a private doctor or lab to test us!
I recently discovered (after HOURS) of brainstorming and speaking to others, that when there isn't enough cortisol in a person's system, vasodilation (opening of the arteries) occurs.
This is also what happens when a person gets a Migraine. So, all of those that have been diagnosed with "MAV" or "MdDS" - that makes complete sense to me.
Low cortisol > vasodilation > migraine > inflammation >DIZZINESS/VERTIGO.
Instead of calling it what it is....low cortisol, they "skip" that step and call it MAV or MdDS.
I have always questioned what caused the migraine in the first place, considering that I have no family history of migraine!
One of the questions that I have been asked is: "If this is true, then why do I feel better with the MAV diet?"
My response: The adrenal hormone cortisol plays a role in responding to allergens, so when you are constantly exposing yourself to foods you are allergic to, your adrenal glands are constantly working to respond. When the offending allergen is something as common as wheat, your adrenals are always on some level of "alert",
and you may not even realize that a food allergy is the source of this stress.
Another question: "Why do I feel worse during certain types of weather?"
My response: Cortisol levels are lower at high barometric pressures! FACT!
And another question: "If I have adrenal fatigue, why do I have photophobia?"
My response: Migraines can cause photophobia. So if there is a problem with adrenals or hormones, that causes the migraine, migraine produces inflammation, photophobia and the dizziness.
It is like a chain reaction. I also have BAD photophobia. People with lighter-colored eyes, cataracts and those who suffer from migraine headaches are more likely to notice sensitivity to light and glare.
Why do we get heart palpitations or a racing heart sensation?
Low levels of cortisol cause vasodilation and low aldosterone causes a decrease of blood volume. BOTH lower blood pressure.
Low blood pressure is compensated for by an increase in heart rate.
As the hormone cortisol increases in our body continually, sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone decrease.
When these hormones are out of balance, many of the symptoms associated with women's health present.
These include PMS, weight gain, acne, abnormal menstrual cycles, hot flashes, mood swings, bone loss, osteoporosis, infertility and more.
Here is a list of symptoms:
shaky hands; shakiness
higher heart rate
feeling of panic
inability to handle stress
inability to handle interactions with others
inability to focus
rage or sudden angry outbursts
emotionally hyper sensitive
feeling paranoid about people or things
exacerbated reactions to daily stress
mild to severe hypoglycemic episodes
nausea in the face of stress
taking days to recover from even minor stress
taking days to recover from a dental visit
all over body ache
clumsy (drop things, bump into things)
suddenly feel extremely hungry
low back pain
cloud-filled head (happens when this patient is due for a next cortisol dose)
coffee putting patient to sleep
vomiting even running up the slightest incline
almost passing out every time patient gets up
dark circles under my eyes
waking up in the middle of the night for several hours
difficulty falling asleep