What is Adrenal Burnout?

A. Pasbjerg

Adrenal burnout is a decline in the function of the adrenal glands. The syndrome is similar to Addison's disease, where the adrenals have extremely low or no activity, but it is a much milder version. Sometimes referred to as adrenal exhaustion or adrenal insufficiency, it is a fairly common condition among adults.

An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.

Those suffering from adrenal burnout may experience a variety of symptoms. Patients typically experience fatigue or even exhaustion, even if they are getting enough rest. They may feel depressed or irritable. Pain in the muscles, joints, or in the lower back may be present. Some people experience a craving for sweet, sugary foods. The syndrome can also lead to low blood pressure.

Stress coupled with worrying can exacerbate adrenal burnout.
Stress coupled with worrying can exacerbate adrenal burnout.

One of the most common causes of adrenal burnout is excessive stress. The main function of the adrenal glands is to secrete hormones that help the body cope with stress, such as adrenalin, cortisone, and cortisol. High stress levels over a long period of time may tax the adrenals to the point that their function decreases, leading to burnout. Poor response to stress, such as worrying and anger, can exacerbate the problem further.

Several other issues may also lead to adrenal burnout. Chronic infection may stress the body, leading to overexertion and exhaustion of the adrenal glands. Poor diets that are high in carbohydrates and lacking in protein and nutrients, especially in combination with high stress levels, may play a role. Certain toxins, such as chemicals or heavy metals, may build up in the body, damaging the adrenals; this issue may become cyclical, for as the adrenal activity declines, the body's ability to clear out the toxins declines as well, leading to more buildup. The cyclical use of stimulants such as caffeine may also be an issue, since stimulants overexcite the adrenals, causing damage, but are also a way that patients may mask the tiredness they are experiencing.

Addressing the underlying issues causing one's adrenal burnout is necessary to treat and recover from the issue. Since most burnout is caused by stress, reduction of stress is the best course of action; if it is not possible to escape stressful situations completely, developing strategies to cope with it effectively are necessary. Improving one's diet by increasing protein, reducing carbs, and getting enough nutrients either through food or supplements is important. Patients suffering from chronic infections or toxin buildup should seek medical attention to address those problems.

The symptoms of adrenal burnout often include chronic fatigue as well as joint and muscle pain.
The symptoms of adrenal burnout often include chronic fatigue as well as joint and muscle pain.

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