Stress can be a necessary tool your body uses to protect you from threatening situations. In small doses, it can push you to accomplish goals or persevere through challenging situations. However, your body doesn’t know the difference between the stress of paying the bills and the stress of avoiding predators. Your body reacts to stressors such as work, carpool, and traffic as if you are under attack.
Adrenal glands are responsible for the body’s stress response, mainly through the production of cortisol and adrenalin. Some health care practitioners believe that long-term stress can cause the adrenal glands to become overworked and unable to keep up with hormone demands, ultimately leading to adrenal fatigue. Because cortisol also plays a vital role in keeping your body healthy and balanced, adrenal fatigue and weight loss sometimes go hand in hand.
Adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped glands positioned on top of the kidneys. Each adrenal gland consists of a center, called the medulla, and an outer layer, called the adrenal cortex. Adipose, or fat, tissue envelopes the entire gland for protection. The innermost part, the adrenal medulla, is the portion of the adrenal gland responsible for producing what is commonly known as “the stress hormones,” with cortisol being the primary one.
Through hormone production, adrenal glands assist in regulating immune function, blood pressure, metabolism, and physiological reactions to stress. They malfunction by producing too much or not enough of specific hormones. Adrenal gland hormones, particularly cortisol, affect many of the body’s systems, meaning adrenal dysfunction can have substantial effects, like weight loss or weight gain.
Cortisol released into the blood stimulates glucose production while also decreasing the sensitivity of cells to insulin, thereby preventing cells from taking in the excess glucose. The overall result is an increase in circulating glucose. Excess glucose is the body’s way of ensuring plenty of energy to escape from predators. However, in today’s life, the additional glucose does not get used up by a high-energy fight or flight response and instead leads to increased blood sugar or hyperglycemia. Chronic high blood sugar can lead to weight gain.
Some physicians hypothesize that, after excessive amounts of chronic stress, adrenal glands cannot produce adequate amounts of hormones, leading to a decrease in cortisol and an overall state of fatigue. When cortisol is no longer available to stimulate glucose production, the result is a decrease in blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Chronic low blood sugar from adrenal fatigue may result in weight loss.
Chronic stress has many negative impacts on the body, both physically and mentally. If you find yourself exhausted upon waking up or unable to sleep at bedtime, you might be suffering from prolonged stress. If it has been affecting you for a long time and you have begun to notice unintentional weight loss or cognitive decline, adrenal fatigue might be part of your differential diagnosis.
With so many generalized symptoms, tying a craving for salty foods and brain fog back to your adrenal glands can be complex. We are here to help. Let our staff be the ones to recognize that your adrenal fatigue and weight loss might be one snapshot of a larger image. We care about your whole body, from proper diet to stress reduction, because we know your overall health is more than a quick diagnosis.