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Four Stages of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is pervasive in modern society because we are not meant for the type of chronic stress we are all facing. It happens in four stages and the first one is surprises everyone.

Adrenal fatigue is a purvasive problem in modern society. We are faced with constant triggers toward fight or flight, no actual fighting or fleeing to help physically rebalance the stress hormones, and an ever-increasing need for cortisol to help maintain the balance. It is absolutely no wonder that everyone is exhausted all the time and getting more exhausted by the day.

In order to keep your adrenals healthy, it is imperative that you recognize the warning signs of adrenal fatigue, which means understanding what stage of adrenal fatigue you’re in when it is happening to you. Everyone knows when they’re completely burned out, but recognizing the warnings before that can help you restore your adrenal health before it all hits rock bottom.

So let’s look at adrenal fatigue in terms of four stages. You might even recognize which phase you’re in by the Dr. Amy version of the names of the stages of adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal Fatigue Stage One – Crushing It!

This stage of adrenal fatigue is the hardest to spot, mostly because you feel like you are absolutely killing it at life. You can work long hours, be highly productive, still have energy for your own hobbies and social life because you are a rockstar.

The reason you feel like a rockstar right now is that your adrenals have gone into a high-cortisol mode. Your adrenals are reacting as though you’re in a long-term siege-warfare situation and you’ve got to get through it or your life is at stake. You can still sleep, but you can push through without so much sleep as well because let’s face it – you’re getting up at 5:00 am just to get that extra work in and you don’t want to miss out on social time at night.

In this phase, your cortisol is probably within the normal range and often at the high end of the normal range and if you look at your cortisol curve it’s still mostly-normal shaped, although sometimes there is an early morning spike to help you with that early morning extra work situation.

This phase feels awesome – you’re living your dreams. Too bad it’s going to end in tears.

Adrenal Fatigue Stage Two – Tired but Wired

This stage of adrenal fatigue is the best warning sign we have, because absolutely no one is worried about their adrenals when they’re crushing it, but it starts to become apparent that there’s an issue when you’re feeling tired but wired.

In this stage of adrenal fatigue the actual fatigue part is kicking in. You’re tired and you can tell you’re tired, but you’re also so jacked up from months or years of overperforming that you can’t quite slow down.

In this phase you’re keeping up, maybe even feeling a bit jittery or jumpy or like you can’t slow down even if you try. Mental feelings of anxiety could be rising and sleep could be more of a problem than usual. You’re tired, you want to slow down, you might even feel a bit hollowed-out, but you can’t seem to make yourself stop.

This is the best place to catch adrenal fatigue, and if you stop it here before it gets desperate, then it’s easier to restore your health. In this stage of adrenal fatigueyour cortisol is still mostly within normal limits, but the curve is getting flatter. The morning wake-up high isn’t as high and even worse, the night-time drop isn’t as low. Even overnight you’re feeling a little bit “on.”

Adrenal Fatigue Stage Three – Burning Down

By the time you hit the burning down phase of adrenal fatigue you know something is going wrong. You just keep getting more tired, less focused, more anxious, and ironically your sleep is even worse. It is really hard to get out of bed and get going in the morning. You start noticing that you’re getting sick more often, you don’t have the resilliance you used to have and if you have a really high-stress day, it feels like the next day has to be compeltely about recovery – you’re just not functional in the way you used to be.

This is usually where people start to look around for a health care practitioner, or go to their primary care doc to say something is wrong. As it happens, something is wrong and it’s been wrong for a while.

In this phase, your cortisol curve is even flatter than before and the whole thing is sinking, as your adrenals keep trying and failing to keep up. Morning cortisol, when it is supposed to be the highest so you can wake up and function, is low so waking up is just awful. Night-time cortisol, when it is supposed to be low so you get refreshing sleep, is medium to high and so sleep isn’t great, anxiety is high overnight, and it just gets worse and worse.

four stages of adrenal fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue Stage Four – Burned Out

This is often when you actually get enough medical opinions to find out you have true adrenal fatigue. You feel like you’re never fully awake and never fully asleep because let’s face it – your adrenals are the things that help you actually feel differently during those times.

In this phase it is difficult or impossible to keep up with normal life. If you can work, you’re hanging on by your fingernails and often you have to take a medical leave or just quit your job at this point. If you do have to push yourself hard for a day, and keep in mind that pushing yourself hard at this point might look like having a meeting AND going to the grocery store, it flattens you and it can take you days to recover.

You might be getting sick all the time, it’s pretty hard to tell because any time you push yourself you feel sick anyway. This is the hardest and slowest place to crawl back from.

Knowing where you are in the process can help you begin to back out and heal your adrenals because once you get too far in it becomes so much harder. Thanks for listening today, don’t forget to like, subscribe, download, thumbs-up or do whatever you’re supposed to do, and next episode we’ll talk about nourishing and healing your adrenals.

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MTHFR is a common genetic mutation that can contribute to anxiety, depression, fatigue, chronic pain, infertility, and more serious conditions like breast implant illness, heart attack, stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, and some types of cancer. If you know or suspect you have an MTHFR variant, schedule a free 15-minute meet-and-greet appointment with MTHFR expert Dr. Amy today.

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Amy Neuzil
Amy Neuzil

Dr. Amy Neuzil, N.D. is a leading expert in MTHFR and epigenetics, and she is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness for their genetic picture. She has helped thousands of people overcome health challenges using a simple, step-by-step approach that starts with where they are today. Dr. Neuzil's unique approach to wellness has helped countless people improve their energy levels, lose weight, and feel better mentally and emotionally. If you're looking for a way to feel your best, Dr. Amy Neuzil can help. Contact her today to learn more about how she can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

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