Well, heading to a local healthcare provider who specializes in hormone therapy proved to be just the right course of action. I braved two weeks of the “Houzz” enhanced medical office, along with two weeks of tests that spanned from hormone to insulin levels. I knew that something needed to change because even though the birth control pill has adequately controlled my horrible PMS symptoms, my weight and blood pressure has continued to climb. And, then there is the underlying exhaustion that I have continued to experience over the last three years. The blame has been placed squarely on aging, mega-stress and “the change.”
Last week I found out that was not true. So, what was my diagnosis? On the plus-side, I didn’t have any thyroid issues and my metabolism is perfect. Seemingly, I have no reason to be overweight. Then came the not so positive news—I have insulin resistance and adrenal failure. I had never heard of adrenal failure, but I’ve always feared insulin resistance. Which if not addressed—leads to diabetes. I admit that I spent a couple of days feeling sorry for myself and frankly, really scared. But, after a chat with Heidi and doing a little research I realized that I am probably lucky I got my diagnosis now. Insulin resistance is reversible and controllable through diet change, potential medication treatment and stepping up my exercise routine. This week, I am going to focus my post on adrenal failure because once I understood what the heck it meant—I was able to make some immediate changes to experience better energy. In fact, I’ve haven’t taken a nap in a week. First time in three years!
Every day a variety of stressors signal our adrenal glands to produce stress hormones. A wide range of physical and psychological demands like a stressful job, family responsibilities, relationship dynamics, lack of sleep, financial concerns, dieting and emotional distress trigger our adrenals to provide relatively small blasts of strength in the form of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. From waking us up with a little burst of energy in the morning, to keeping us awake, alert, and focused throughout the rest of the day, our adrenals are crucial to our health. When our adrenal glands are constantly required to sustain high cortisol levels, they eventually become impaired in their ability to respond appropriately. The resulting dysfunction not only affects our short-term response to stress, but it also impairs our adrenals’ ability to produce and balance other hormones which are important to our long-term health and well-being: DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
The most accurate way to assess adrenal function is through a saliva cortisol and DHEA biopsy. There are other ways however to assess adrenal function, including through blood tests and through Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. These methods won’t give you exact cortisol and DHEA values (blood tests can measure the adrenal hormones but saliva hormones are considered far greater due to the fact that saliva hormones are ‘free-fractioned’) but nonetheless they can give you insight into the 2 basic phases of adrenal imbalance: adrenal hyperfunction and adrenal hypofunction. When I got the results back on my adrenal function, he test showed that I was almost completely depleted of DHEA. Which after looking at the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, my life started to make sense. Here is a list and I’ve bolded the symptoms I have been experiencing (almost all):
- Blood pressure: High or low blood pressure, low blood pressure can often have the symptom of light headedness that is associated with it.
- Food cravings and weight changes: Abnormal weight gain in the abdomen and thighs. Do you have cravings for salty or sugary foods, sometimes feeling uncontrollable?
- Energy: Unable to stop, always on speed forward, ongoing fatigue, lack of stamina, feeling tired and wired much of the time. Lack of get up and go.
- Emotions and coping ability: Inability to deal with day to day stress, feeling overwhelmed much of the time, struggling to get through the day, driven , very short fuse, anxiety attacks Unable to reframe ones thinking.
- Thinking: Mentally foggy, fuzzy thinking, inability to stay focused on one task, chronic racing thoughts.
- Immune response: Frequent infections, longer time than others to recover from illness or infections or trauma.
- Sleep: Inability to fall asleep or fall asleep well but wake up nightly, Sleep soundly but wake up exhausted.
- Hormones/Libido: Worsening of perimenopausal symptoms, low libido, severe PMS.
- Many other conditions can overlap the above noted signs and a symptom so know that adrenal imbalance is not always the root cause.
Adrenal imbalance can however be a contributing factor in a wide range of medical conditions, many of which may seem unrelated, including the following:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Depression and anxiety
- IBS or chronic digestive problems
- Premature menopause
- Chronic anxiety
- Rage attacks
Crazy! was my first response. I was suffering from almost all of the issues related to adrenal fatigue. My current state of health was finally starting to make sense. My healthcare provider put me on a compounded DHEA supplement, asked me to get extra rest and take a nice hot bath for at least 50 minutes (reduces cortisol production). So, far so good. I’ve been going to bed earlier, but able to wake up earlier. And, again – no nap. Next week I’ll talk about my insulin resistance diagnosis and my quest to potentially switch over to bio identical hormones. But, bottom-line—follow my lead and get your hormones checked. Sorry for the long post this week, but I hope you’ll find the information helpful.
P.S. Please don’t ever try to diagnose your own symptoms. Do what I did and consult with a medical provider in your area. I found someone with natural hormone experience.