According to endocrinologists, there are 4 stages of adrenal fatigue and each are characterized by a hormone profile measured through the blood.
The second stage is known as the “Continual Alarm Phase”, in which the stressor is around for a longer period of time and the demand for stress hormone is sustained. At this time, blood work would likely show a higher level of cortisol, but a declining level of DHEA and testosterone. All resources are shifted towards making cortisol, which means the production of sex hormones become less of a priority. Someone in this stage of adrenal health may notice they are very focused and alert during the day, but as soon as they are finished work or a difficult task, they crash and can barely function the rest of the day. These people are often “tired but wired” and struggle through the rest of the day, or turn to energy drinks for support.
The fourth and final stage of fatigue is known as the “Burnout” phase. We often throw this word around when discussing students writing exams, individuals going through divorce, or parents with young children. However, blood work at this time will show a whole different level of burnout, which includes very low levels of all hormones produced by the adrenal glands. This includes cortisol levels, adrenaline, testosterone, DHEA and aldosterone. At this point, the body has run out of resources, can no longer meet the demands placed on it, and has begun to crash. Depression, anxiety, irritability, weight loss, apathy, absent sex drive, poor sleep, and frequent infections plague a burned out individual in ways so severe that they are nearly nonfunctional. Needless to say, this stage should be fairly obvious to the individual, but even then people struggle to step back from their day to day lives and recover.
As with all chronic conditions, the Burnout Phase is not cured overnight and can take months of dedicated treatment, paired with permanent lifestyle changes to see a full recovery. Burnout is a very real phenomenon and is not to be taken lightly. If you or someone you know is on the road to fatigue, please consult a Naturopathic Doctor for the best diet, herbal and lifestyle support for your adrenal glands.
Dr. DeSouza shares new research and discoveries along her journey.