The Four Stages of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue has 4 stages on the path to adrenal exhaustion. During the four stages our hormones and neurotransmitters can have levels that drastically fluctuate. In each stage with Adrenal fatigue there are a combination of stress hormones and symptoms. Let’s dive deeper into the four stages of adrenal fatigue. 

Stage 1 (Alarm/Alert)

This is the stage in which our body has an immediate reaction to the oncoming aggressive stressor. The stressor could be a threat or something very simple like a hospital visit/job interview. During the first stage of adrenal fatigue our body can create significant numbers of hormones needed for the response. If a lab test were given during this first stage it could show elevated levels of adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), norepinephrine and insulin. At this point fatigue is mild, some will turn to caffeinated drinks, energy shots, sugary or high carb-oriented foods. 

Stage 2 (Dismay Response) 

Our bodies have now been under severe stress and our cortisol levels will continue to elevate while our DHEA levels will decrease. Normal activities can still be carried out, but fatigue hangs wearily on each day more and more. It will take longer to feel recovered or well rested. Our stress response systems will begin to feel overloaded and the effects of overexerting the adrenals. Symptoms will begin in our body such as digestive issues, jitteriness, body aches/pains, irritability, nervousness, sense of sickness, depression, irregular sleep patterns, blood pressure elevated, etc. The term wired but tired comes into play during stage 2 of adrenal fatigue. Many will begin to develop a relationship with caffeinated drinks or coffee. The thyroid gland will become affected during stage 2. 

Stage 3 (Meet the Resistance)

Our endocrine system during this phase will focus more on producing stress hormones. A substantial drop in DHEA will occur. Lack of enthusiasm will follow, regular infections can be common, restlessness, quality of life will dip. Almost simultaneously once in this stage exhaustion and anxiety will appear. Our bodies will try to conserve energy while we are not receiving adequate levels of cortisol. Adrenal exhaustion begins a catabolic phase in which our muscle tissue will break down to produce energy for our body. You will begin to feel the side effects of adrenal crash.  

Stage 4 (Burnout/Crash)

Most never reach this phase of total adrenal gland failure in response to stress. Our adrenal glands have ceased to function, and little can be done to restore our bodies homeostasis. During the final stage of burnout and individual can suffer from lack of sex drive, depression, restlessness, anxiety and little to no interest in surroundings.

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