35 Symptoms of Perimenopause: Adrenal Fatigue

by Magnolia on September 22, 2014

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A common complaint among women in perimenopause is an overwhelming sense of fatigue and exhaustion.  Often described as crashing fatigue.

While many women might chalk it up as the result of sleepless nights associated with night sweats and insomnia, the real culprit is likely adrenal fatigue.

What are the Adrenal Glands and What do they Do?

The adrenal glands are two walnut sized endocrine organs located just above the kidneys. Comprised of the inner-medulla and the outer-cortex, the adrenals work in tandem, playing a key role in our body’s response to stress by releasing three hormones: adrenaline, also called norepinephrine, cortosol, and DHEA.

Commonly known as the “fight or flight” hormone, adrenaline is released by the inner-medulla gland when there is a perceived threat or danger. To prepare us for either a “fight or flight” response, our body releases quick shots of adrenaline.

The adrenaline increases our heart rate, causes blood to rush to our organs and large muscle groups, dilates our pupils, sharpens our mental alertness, and increases our tolerance for pain.

The fight or flight response is engaged many times throughout our day by simple actions such as, swerving to avoid a potential fender bender, or from the anxiety one may feel by getting pulled over by a traffic cop. Ordinary, day to day to day encounters at a stressful job can also engage the fight or flight response as well.

Cortisol and Chronic Stress

When we are under prolonged periods of chronic stress it is the outer-cortex of the adrenal glands that comes to the body’s rescue by releasing cortisol.  Cortisol’s main function is to metabolize fats and proteins into sugars to create and maintain energy.

Cortisol also helps the body adapt to chronic stress by increasing energy levels, stabilizing emotions,a a  and acting as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, among other things.

As with everything, however, too much of a good thing has its downside. If cortisol levels become too high over a long period of time, it can cause a loss of bone density, muscle atrophy, thinning of the skin, kidney damage, blood sugar problems, weight gain, and an increased susceptibility to illness.

DHEA – The Great Equalizer

DHEA is an androgen,  a steroid hormone released by both the adrenal glands and the ovaries. Like adrenaline and cortisol, DHEA also improves the body’s ability to recover from and cope with stress and trauma.

But, it also helps to neutralize some of the damaging effects of high levels of cortisol in the body, namely, the tendency of cortisol to suppress the immune system. As a result, DHEA is useful in helping the body resist sickness and disease.

Estrogen Dominance and Adrenal Fatigue

When women are in perimenopause and experiencing fluctuating progesterone levels, estrogen dominance often occurs.

In addition to the many symptoms of perimenopause that excess estrogen causes, it also causes high levels of cortisol-binding globulins in the blood stream.

The binding actions of the globulins inhibit free movement of cortisol throughout the body, essentially rendering it useless.

So, while a woman may have adequate levels of cortisol in her system, the body is unable to efficiently use it which results in a reduced ability to effectively manage and cope with stress.

Even though the adrenal glands are providing necessary stores of adrenaline, DHEA and cortisol, it is rendered ineffective by the effects of excess estrogen.

Over time, the adrenal glands become fatigued and exhausted, unable to produce the necessary levels of adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA. Factor in chronic insomniamood swings, night sweats and hot flashes and you have the recipe for the relentless, debilitating, crashing fatigue that women complain about during perimenopause.

How to Relieve Adrenal Fatigue

One of the first and most obvious helps to relieve your body of adrenal fatigue is to rest. Western culture is likely the most sleep-deprived culture in the world, and chronic exhaustion associated with adrenal fatigue is one of the by-products of  poor sleep habits.

Eight to ten hours sleep per day is necessary to help your body recover from adrenal fatigue. A  diet rich in low-glycemic index foods is also downloadan excellent remedy for adrenal fatigue, as they help stabilize blood sugar.

Vitamin C (3,000 to 6,000 units) is recommended as a supplement along, with B-complex vitamins, zinc and magnesium for at least three months.

Moderate exercise and exposure to sunlight is also helpful in restoring healthy, adrenal function.

Dr. Christiane Northrup addresses adrenal fatigue, among many other symptoms of perimenopause in her best-selling book The Wisdom of Menopause.  

It is an excellent reference book which covers in great detail, but also very easy to read, all you need to know about the experience of perimenopause and menopause.  

She also gives great tips and advice on how to recover from adrenal fatigue naturally.  It is not a cheap book, but worth the expense to have in your personal library.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Millie Rae October 11, 2014 at 10:37 am

Great information . Thank you. Can low estrogen levels be a problem in premenopausal women?

Reply

Magnolia October 11, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Yes, Millie Rae,

Low estrogen levels and low progesterone levels are both a problem for women in perimenopause. Generally there is a continually fluctuation of both hormones until you eventually reach actual menopause. By then, your body is producing substantially less than it did during your years of menstruation.

Low estrogen is associated with hot flashes and night sweats, depression, vaginal dryness, crashing libido, urinary incontinence, and achy joints and muscles.

Magnolia

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Millie Rae October 11, 2014 at 10:38 am

Peri not Pre..sorry

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Millie Rae October 13, 2014 at 2:32 am

Thank you for your Timely response..I’m glad I found your blog..Yay for me .lol

Reply

Claire Schultz October 13, 2014 at 8:55 am

Hi, I have’nt been well for a year now, have seen a few dr’s who suggested burn out/melt down ect – i do have a very stressful life being a single mum with 3 girls and working full time. About 3 years ago i had a burn out (at least i think) about 2 years ago it happened again, i havent been able to restore my heath and energy levels since. I went on very strong medication for “depression” serdep & epitec after having Valdroxin for a year and previous to that on all sorts – self prescribed or gp. over the past year i resigned from my job as all of a sudden i just cldnt cope, cldnt handle stress at all, became dysfunctional, irrational, emotional, wow i could go on and on. I am in a less stressful job – helps a lil bit, im not on a full cover medical aid so limited in resources, so i google a lot and research myself, i have narrowed my search down to either – Auto immune, (i have been told by a spine specialist that i had burn outmy body is depleted of everything- this was last year, I was told by a gp i had burn out – end of last year) i had some tests they were all negative ie throid, diabetes, a few others, a few years ago i was also told after a urine sample that my body was “eating itself” in a way. I went through so much anxiety about a relationship last year that i cldnt eat for a few months or so hence loosing lots of weight and my health deteriorated. I have self diagnosed IBS & Gluten intol, just this year i started urinating A LOT like everything i drink comes straight through me and i cant hold it very well, i wake up at night (so try not drink anything before i sleep) i have a very bad taste in my mouth (bitter) night sweats – occasionally, very fatigued, moody, brittle hair, sore itchy eyes all the time, wake up early – lack of proper sleep, generally feel like a dead person inside my body like im a slug with no brain, like i hv to run this race and hv nothing in me to do so. Im feeling hopeless and so as i said before – i am self diagnosing with either early menopause? Burn out/Auto immune disease, or a mystery, IBS &Gluten intl. Help please

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Susan Johnson October 26, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Claire I feel the exact same way you feel and I have Lyme Disease. You should definately get tested for Lyme and don’t let drs say no….

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