15 Nov 2012

Adrenals Misbehaving? How to Tell Frazzled from Fine

Every day, a wide range of physical and psychological stressors — a demanding job, raising a family, relationship dynamics, lack of sleep, financial pressures, suboptimal nutrition, dieting, unresolved emotional distress — signal the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol).

This is helpful up to a point (because it helps us get our to-do lists done), but when our adrenal glands are required to chronically crank out cortisol, they eventually become impaired in their ability to respond. The resulting adrenal imbalance not only zaps your mojo in a big way, but also affects your body’s ability to produce and balance other feel-good hormones like DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Red Flags A Wavin’

When symptoms develop, it’s your body’s way of waving a red flag and letting you know that it is not receiving the support it needs. Ignoring what’s going on WON’T make it better….this is not a situation you want to just “power through”.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms that can indicate adrenal imbalance. See if you recognize these tendencies in yourself:

Adrenal overactivity in response to stress (hyper) Adrenal underactivity in response to stress (hypo)

  • Difficulty winding down
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the AM
  • Sleep is not refreshing

  • Always running
  • “Wired and tired”
  • Constant fatigue
  • Weariness
  • Lethargic
  • No energy
Coping style

  • Anxious
  • Panic attacks
  • Short-tempered
  • “Driven”
  • Inability to handle everyday stress
  • Overwhelmed by little things
  • Mild depression
  • Struggling to get through the day
  • Avoid conflict
What Your Mind is Doing

  • Racing
  • Scattered and splattered thoughts
  • Can’t focus
  • Foggy
  • Fuzzy thinking

  • Abdominal weight gain
  • Eating more at night
  • Carb cravings
  • Caffeine is your best friend

There is a lot of overlap of the signs and symptoms listed above with sex hormone imbalances or other illnesses, so adrenal imbalance may not always be the root cause. Saliva testing can identify which imbalance is the actual problem, allowing you and your provider to target treatment appropriately and get your mojo back on the right track.

The good news is, when addressed in time with proper support you can heal adrenal imbalance and reverse the damaging effects of chronic stress.

Dr. Anna Garrett


  1. Jeanne Andrus Says: November 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Anna, There’s a LOT of great stuff here. Adrenal exhaustion is really common especially during peri-menopause when there’s a lot of stress going on in your body anyway. Overdoing exercise and dieting can often contribute to these stressors, and adrenal exhaustion is part of the reason diet plateaus happen. Without getting the metabolism working right, it’s very difficult to get your weight regulated in a range that feels right to you!

    Many times when we get in to this situation, we think “more is better” – we cut the calories and pound away at the gym, when the true solution is to be gentle with ourselves, to exercise in a way that makes our bodies happy and eat in a way that satisfies our needs and convinces our physical systems that we aren’t in a famine, to develop a mental practice that supports clearing stress, and, in some cases, by seeking support for our hormonal systems.

    Thanks for a great article!
    Jeanne Andrus

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