Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: Understanding Cortisol Levels & Real Causes ("Adrenal Fatigue")

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Tired All the Time? Adrenal Fatigue: Understanding the Syndrome and How to Combat It
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What are adrenal glands, can they "get tired", and how to combat the so-called adrenal fatigue syndrome.

What causes this syndrome, as well as the role chronic stress and cortisol play in the pathogenesis of this condition.

Ivan Vlasov fitness athlete — shapeexpert
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What are Adrenal Glands?

Endocrine glands are organs that produce hormones. The adrenal glands are one of these glands, along with the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, testes, and so on.

More precisely, adrenal glands are two paired glands located above the upper part of the kidneys. This can be inferred from their name.

The adrenal glands consist of two parts – the medulla and the cortex (commonly referred to as the "adrenal cortex"). The former produces catecholamines adrenaline and noradrenaline, while the latter produces corticosteroids.

However, the cortex doesn't only produce these; it has a special zone called the reticularis that produces androgens – though in small quantities.

We will leave the adrenal medulla and its catecholamines aside and focus on the cortex and corticosteroids.

And not on all of them, but exclusively on the glucocorticoid cortisol, which we are accustomed to calling the "destruction hormone".

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

In fact, the main function of cortisol is to provide the body with energy, and if something has to be destroyed for this, so be it.

Decreased levels of cortisol in the blood can lead to an energy deficit and constant fatigue. It can also cause many other unpleasant issues, such as sleep disturbances, a sharp drop in blood pressure, digestive and joint problems, and even depression.

"Adrenal fatigue" is commonly referred to as the acquired inability of this gland to produce sufficient amounts of cortisol. This term was coined by naturopath James Wilson, who couldn't find a better explanation for the sharp drop in cortisol levels in the blood.

Actually, believing that an endocrine gland can "get tired" and "apply for leave" is a manifestation of blatant ignorance. Endocrine glands cannot suddenly stop producing hormones due to some mythical "fatigue" – they don't operate independently at all.

Endocrine glands receive signals from other glands or directly from the brain and act "according to the received instructions". So, the problem exists, but it is explained by different reasons.

What Actually Happens?

Let me remind you how a person develops type II diabetes. Constantly elevated insulin levels, due to the habit of eating everything without a break, lead to a decrease in tissue sensitivity to this hormone.

This forces the pancreas to produce more insulin. And when there is too much insulin in the blood, a signal is sent to stop its production altogether – hello, diabetes.

With cortisol, it is almost the same. Constantly elevated cortisol levels due to chronic stress can similarly reduce sensitivity to this hormone. As a result, cortisol levels in the blood begin to rise until the brain gives the command "Enough!".

The consequence of this command is a sharp slowdown in cortisol production by the adrenal cortex and a drop in the level of our "destruction hormone" in the blood "below the floor".

However, the cause of this drop can also be trivial disruptions in the functioning of the "hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal glands" chain: the first stops producing sufficient amounts of corticotropin-releasing hormone, in response the second produces less adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). And the adrenal glands reduce cortisol production.

But this state of affairs is explained by problems with the hypothalamus and/or pituitary gland – most often the causes are tumors of one of these glands.

How to Fight Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Ivan Vlasov
Ivan Vlasov comment

This article was written by a sports pharmacology specialist. Therefore, some solutions from the author aimed at combating "adrenal fatigue" syndrome include the use of substances that are related to sports drugs in one way or another.

For this reason, the article was divided into two parts, and the part concerning practical information was published in the section Sports Pharmacology on the page Normalizing Cortisol Levels

Read the continuation of the article

Ivan Vlasov
fitness coach project creator
Fitness, lifestyle, health — three main directions dedicated to this internet resource. I simply love what I do. That's why I created the 2GYM project. Learn more
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