When we talk about adrenal fatigue, we use a general term for all the different stages the body goes through as it progresses to adrenal exhaustion. Most of the patients recover in the first and the second stage even with minimal diagnosis. As the condition progresses, the neurotransmitter and hormone levels continue to fluctuate.
Here are the four basic stages of the adrenal exhaustion process.
The first stage: The start of the ‘alarm’ phase
This phase begins when the body reacts to a stressor. The reaction is usually immediate. The stressor could be a presentation in waiting or some other physical threat.
To enable the body to respond, the adrenal glands make small amounts hormones such as cortisol, insulin, DHEA, norepinephrine and adrenalin. The person in question may become increasingly alert and aroused. On the other hand, one may experience intermittent alertness and problems getting sleepy. Normally, we all go through this phase when reacting to different stressors.
The second stage: Continuation of the alarm phase
The body reaction to the stressor does not end. The endocrine system gets prepared for more hormones. However, there is lower production of the sex hormones as well as DHEA as their resources are used to develop stress hormones like cortisol.
The patient starts to feel the effects of adrenals over-exertion. One feels wired but still tired when trying to stay alert only to crash in the evening.
The third phase: The resistance
The endocrine system at this stage continues creating stress hormones and lowering the production of sex hormones. This is because material for sex hormones such as DHEA and testosterone is used to create stress hormones. The patient experiences regular tiredness, lack of enthusiasm, low sex drive, and regular infections
The fourth phase: The ‘burnout’
After continuous production of the stress hormones, the body runs out of material. Now that the sex hormones are also low, the neurotransmitters also get low. This stage is called the burnout and happens when we crash after lengthy period of dealing with stress. The common symptoms include lack of sex drive, irritability, anxiety, depression, apathy, weight loss, extreme tiredness, and general disinterest. The hormonal insufficiency affects nearly all parts of the body. Recovering from this stage takes long and often calls for a complete overhaul of the lifestyle.